Week 4 Snaps: Bartram's defense shines; Parker takes a big step forward

Sandalwood quarterback Jeff Sims carries the ball during Friday's 44-19 win over Nease. Sims, a Florida State commit, had four rushing touchdowns. (Ralph D. Priddy, For News4Jax)
Sandalwood quarterback Jeff Sims carries the ball during Friday's 44-19 win over Nease. Sims, a Florida State commit, had four rushing touchdowns. (Ralph D. Priddy, For News4Jax)

Week 4 of high school football is in the books and we look back in this week's Snaps.

• It doesn't feel like it, but we're closing in on the halfway point of the regular season. Amazing how quickly the season goes by once it starts. 

• Parker has been chipping away all season long and finally got the tree to fall on Friday night in a thunderous 46-7 blowout of Bishop Kenny. The Braves trailed by a touchdown and then reeled off the final 46. 

I mentioned before in Snaps about the Braves' growth in games that I'd seen them in and Friday was when it all came together. 

After years of treading water just to stay afloat, can the Braves do something with it? 
Parker's last four-win season came in 2012. Its last season over .500 was in 2008. Its last playoff appearance? All the way back in 2000. 

It has cycled through coaches since Fred Pickard retired after a 11-1 season in 1993. Pickard, a former Florida State player, spent a combined 21 years at Parker in two separate stretches. He's in the Parker hall of fame and the best coach in Braves history.

I went to Parker as a sophomore and junior and those Braves teams, powered by quarterback Ryan Dellacrosse and running back Steve Mosley, were something to watch. They posted regular seasons of 7-3, 10-0 and 10-0 from 1991-93. But that was a long, long time ago. 

Parker put Will Wyche at quarterback and spread its playmakers all over the field. According to the Florida Times-Union, Jujuan Turner had a 94-yard TD run and Tyrone Williams had a 68-yard scoring pass from Wyche. Defensive coordinator Michael Holloway's unit forced seven turnovers.

Keeping things in perspective, the Braves have a long way to go, and winning District 3-5A is a lofty goal. But that district is certainly a realistic one. I know District 1-8A has drawn much of the preseason coverage, but 3-5A has become a sneaky good district.

Baker County probably remains at the forefront of that pack, but a 2-1 White and a 3-1 Westside can't be discounted. And maybe, just maybe, a certain team from Arlington can turn back the clock and get in the mix, too.

• Trinity Christian's brutal schedule has it at 1-3 as the halfway point of the season approaches after a 31-17 loss to Plantation American Heritage on Friday night.

The Conquerors have been solid in three of those games, the only struggle a Week 1 blowout loss to Columbia (38-7). They should probably be 2-2 now, with a Week 3 double OT loss to Venice being the one that got away.

As we've talked about from the spring onward, there just aren't lulls in this schedule. Ribault was the easiest game there and Trinity replaced the Trojans with 7A Venice due to Hurricane Dorian. If there are games considered that I'd consider breathers on Trinity's schedule, those come on Sept. 27 (Pahokee) and Oct. 17 (Lee). Yes, those are the easiest games.

From a state perspective, Trinity's schedule is what I'd consider an IMG Academy Lite kind of gauntlet. Miami Carol City is up next for Trinity. 

• Rough week on the predictions side, a 22-10 record. Worst miss of the week, Bishop Kenny over Parker 28-20. The Braves won 46-7.

• What a catch from Orange Park's Sean Dixon. 

• Was Bartram Trail's 32-7 rout of Mandarin an upset? Depends on what school of thought you subscribe to.

From everything on paper, absolutely. The Mustangs had won seven straight games, five of those in the Class 8A state playoffs in 2018, including the state championship. It had reigning Mr. Football Carson Beck under center. The Mustangs were ranked No. 2 in the News4Jax Super 10 and No. 2 in the Class 8A state poll.

On the other sideline, the Bears, coming off of a 7-3 season, missed the playoffs and brought back a quarterback coming off of an ACL injury (Chad Dodson) and, as I've mentioned on air and online numerous times this year, a defense that has had difficulty slowing opponents down. Thus far, the Bears have been better than advertised. Dodson has looked sharp and has spread the ball around carefully, the bulk to five different pass catchers. RB AJ Jones is going strong. 

"Throughout the spring and summer, it [missing the playoffs] was something we used as motivation for sure. We have a great team this year and can't wait to see what this season has in store," Dodson said.
Mandarin coach Bobby Ramsay started saying it last spring and has said numerous times that any talk of defending the state championship wasn't the talk around the locker room. The Mustangs are a different team and it's a rugged path through District 1-8A.

We saw Bartram pound Lee 48-20 in the Bold City Showcase, although the glass-half-empty guy could say it was Week 1 and Lee was trotting out a young and inexperienced offense. Fair enough.

Weeks 2 included a trip to Georgia and a 24-7 win over Brunswick.

Week 3 was a 28-14 rivalry win over Creekside.

And Week 4 was Bartram's most convincing win of the season, and no doubt the most gratifying for the Bears. It was the district opener and every 1-8A game is going to be a monster. The Bears held Mandarin out of the end zone for two and a half quarters before Cameron Daniels scored on a 5-yard run. 

"Really the thing I've been so excited about is they are genuinely playing the way they're practicing," Bartram coach Darrell Sutherland said. "They really get after it every day in practice and help their offense get better. I love the way they're practicing. It's just the way they compete.

"We have a turnover goal in practice. We keep score in every drill. One of the things I really like is there's a lot of things we can do to get better. There's no entitlement or, ‘hey, we've arrived.' There's a genuine pursuit of excellence. On Monday, we'll ask ‘what's something you can do better.' Pick one thing you can do a little better than you did last Monday."

Sutherland said the defensive coaching staff, Brion Anderson, Paul Belcik, Josh Bratovich, Keith Cromwell, Rob Muley, Tim Staats and Tyler Thomas, has no ego. It's all about putting players in the position to get better. 

Oakleaf may be the best team in 1-8A at this point, but I think Bartram is a lot closer to that spot than it was when this season began. The Bears have St. Augustine next week and Ponte Vedra on Oct. 4 before three straight district games in October — Nease (Oct. 4), at Oakleaf (Oct. 18) and at Sandalwood (Oct. 25).  

• I've said this from Week 1 and I'll say it again after seeing Sandalwood for the third time this season on Friday night.

As long as quarterback Jeff Sims continues to produce out of the pocket better than he has in it, the Saints are going to be a difficult team to figure out offensively.

Entering the Nease game, Sims had passed for 175 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 235 yards and four TDs. According to the St. Augustine Record, Sims rushed for 145 yards and four TDs, and passed for 106 and two TDs. Package that with RB Jeremiah Huntley, who is putting up numbers week after week, and this has quickly become a very diverse offense. 

• Episcopal closed strong, a 16-0 run in the final five minutes of the game to surge back and clip Englewood 28-14. Great throw by Tucker Tomberlin and a better catch by Corey Scott on a 36-yarder with 5:26 to play. And a stout effort by Englewood in that game, too.

• Wolfson hasn't won more than three games in a season since going 5-5 in 2008. Since then, it's been a laundry list of one-win (2014, '16-17), two-win (2009-11, '13, '18) and three-win seasons (2012). The Wolfpack went 0-10 in 2015. 

But coach Dennis Bettinger's team has a realistic shot at eclipsing that five-win mark this season. The biggest obstacles in that remaining slate are Jackson (Sept. 20), a 3-1 Interlachen (Oct. 11) and the rivalry game with Englewood (Oct. 31). If Wolfson can win one of those three, then it should be enough to reach that six-win mark. 

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