Week 9 Snaps: Westside, Parker surge, district titles, streaks and more
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We're finally there. Two weeks remain in the regular season. A few playoff spots have been wrapped up and plenty remain up for grabs. Let's hop right in to Snaps.
• The matchup we've been talking about for three weeks has held true and is nearly here.
Parker and Westside, (yes, the Braves and the Wolverines!) will face off for the District 3-5A championship on Oct. 25. That is not a misprint.
One of these teams will be in the state playoffs. That's a fact. There's a chance both could wind up in the postseason, although that's probably more likely if Parker wins the district and Westside qualifies as one of the 5-8 seeds.
For those with a knowledge of area football history, this is a not a matchup that typically screams, "high stakes," or "must-see." Parker and Westside have been in the same district since 2015 and never a threat to play in a game that meant anything more than just bragging rights.
I've touched on these teams multiple times this season in Snaps, and deservedly so. Parker has played very well, even in its two losses, and has ripped off five straight victories to get to 5-2. Westside knocked off rival White 35-24 on Thursday night to end a 10-game losing streak in the long-running Westside rivalry and is now 7-1.
And that sets the table for the biggest game for either of these teams since any of the current players were alive.
Parker hasn't been to the state playoffs since 2000. Its last playoff win (one of only two) was in 1996. Westside has made the postseason once under coach Rodney DuBose, going in 2014 as a district runner-up after edging Ribault in OT of a district tiebreaker and then losing to Bishop Kenny in the district championship quarter.
Now, it's one game for all the district marbles, and a home playoff game in Round 1 of the state playoffs.
DuBose says that he's fortunate that he and the staff have been afforded serious patience from the school's administration to build from the ground up. Not often do coaches with three one-win seasons on their resume get so many opportunities to keep building.
"As our principal says, we are trying to break the myth about Westside High School. Westside, in general is not doing the things that people think we're doing. It didn't show in the win-loss column, but last year, we sent seven kids off to college football. Before that, we had five more kids [sign]. Our kids are getting great educations. Things we're doing now are starting to manifest themselves outside the building and showcase these great things that we're doing. It should say to parents, ‘you don't have to go somewhere else to get something you need for your child.' I'd never sell you a Chevy and drive a Ford. My son walked these hallways. My daughter's a science teacher here. My wife is the cheerleading coach. We are fully bought in here."
Westside was 6-4 and reached the 2002 playoffs as a wildcard team. It was 5-5 and a district runner-up in 2007. Its best season came in 1999 under coach Rob Jennis. The Wolverines, then the Forrest Rebels, finished the regular season 7-3 and won the only playoff game in program history. Current Lee head coach O.J. Small was a senior on that team and one heck of an athlete if you had a chance to see him play.
Parker has looked sharp every time that I've seen the Braves in person and coach Char-ron Dorsey has gotten this team to believe it can beat anyone it lines up against. Of course, a coach giving a team a sales pitch only goes so far. The players have to produce and Parker has done that, muscling up in an OT win over Atlantic Coast and bagging must-win district games on the road against White and Baker County.
"The biggest difference is we're more focused and more of a team than we were last season," said Braves quarterback William Wyche. "Different athletes from different parts of town, we didn't have that brotherhood bond yet, we weren't all on the same page chasing the same goal. This season, we really carry ourselves like we're brothers and sister. We're all on the same page after the same goal which is winning state together."
Dorsey, a former star at Bolles, later at Florida State and an NFL draft pick by Dallas, said a large part of the process has been drilling into his players' minds that they could enjoy success that they'd seen so many other teams have. They'd have to sacrifice for it and put in the work, of course, but Dorsey said the results would come.
"Turning a program around surely doesn't happen overnight and the whole coaching staff has instilled that in us," Wyche said. "But we work and work and nobody in the state outworks us. They have definitely told us to leave our legacy, it has been 20 years since Parker has done anything or even won five games. We are making history
They have, and continue to.
"The kids understand what it takes to win now. These kids really work hard. They were not used to dealing with this [success]. They were used to an environment of not winning, walking around and trying to hold your head up [through the struggles]. It'd been going on so long. I take my hats off to my kids. They deal with a lot of situations and they don't realize how much they're doing. And the big thing is to stay humble. At the end of the day, I really appreciate the group. They're doing a lot for me. People are not used to seeing Parker like this."
Next week, fans will, in one of the most anticipated city games in quite some time.
• Three district champions were crowned in Week 9.
Raines knocked off Yulee 40-0 to win the District 4-5A crown.
Fleming Island routed Gainesville Buchholz 42-19 to wrap up the 2-7A title.
Bartram Trail beat Oakleaf 31-24 to win the 1-8A title.
Nuggets on each of those teams.
Raines is right there again, qualifying for the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons under coach Deran Wiley, who has quietly moved up the coaching victories list. He's three wins short of 100 (97-30) and has never finished a season with fewer than seven wins.
The playoff path towards a three-peat is going to be challenging, probably as early as the second round this year. I know we've got some excellent defensive backs (Derek Bermudez, Miles Brooks, Fred Davis, Jahquez Robinson, basically the entire Lee secondary), but man is Raines' Treyvon Hobbs fun to watch. He had a pair of pick-6s in the win over Yulee. Hobbs' pick-6 in the Northwest Classic was a potential season saver.
Fleming Island's district title is its first since 2013, and first for fourth-year head coach Damenyum Springs. I've always likened Fleming to Bartram Trail because those programs seldom have down years. Springs took over on an interim role for Frank Hall midway through 2015, going 4-1, before being promoted to the top job the following year. He is 33-11 in that span. The Golden Eagles had a 10-0 regular season in 2013.
As consistent as Bartram Trail has been since opening in 2000, one thing it has never done is finish unbeaten (St. Augustine was always the annual kiss of death until last year). The Bears are nearly there, moving to 8-0 following a comeback win over Oakleaf.
• Carson Beck had five touchdown passes on Friday night in a 34-27 comeback win over Sandalwood in a game that was televised on ESPNU. The Mustangs have had no margin for error since a 3-3 start and have since won games over Oakleaf (34-33) and the Saints. If the Mustangs qualify for the playoffs, it will be as a lower seed. But with Beck heating up, that's a dangerous assignment even for a 1 seed in Week 1 of the playoffs. We could even be in position for a Mandarin-Bartram Trail playoff game if they Mustangs are a 7-8 seed.
• Sandalwood (3-4) hasn't finished a season under .500 since 2008 when the Saints finished 1-9 in one season under coach Bob Withrow.
Adam Geis, who coached the Saints from 2003-07 before stepping down for a season, returned in 2009 and has been in charge since.
A notable streak is that Geis has not had a finish under .500 in 16 combined seasons at Sandalwood. That's 10 consecutive seasons of .500 or better for the Saints, which ranks third in the Gateway Conference. Raines just notched its 11th straight season at .500 or better, while Fletcher has done it for a Gateway-leading 13 straight seasons.
The Saints had a nine-game schedule to begin with and saw it knocked down to eight with a Hurricane Dorian cancellation. It will take an upset of Bartram Trail next week to keep that streak going.
• Week 11 game to watch could determine a playoff spot: Fletcher at Mandarin. The Senators (5-3) beat Creekside 45-10 on Friday behind another strong rushing game by Myles Montgomery (190 yards, according to the Florida Times-Union).
Fletcher should beat First Coast in Week 10 and set up a clash against Mandarin in the finale. There's a very good shot for both teams to make the playoffs should they win out (Fletcher is ninth in RPI in Region 1-7A; Mandarin is 10th by a sliver in 1-8A. Spot Nos. 8-10 in 1-8A are separated by .03.
Speaking of Montgomery, he needs roughly 200 yards to reach 2,000 for the season. He'd be the first Fletcher RB to hit that mark since Jamari Smith rushed for 2,178 yards during his junior season in 2011.
• Continue to be impressed with University Christian. The Christians knocked off a 7-1 Baldwin on Friday night (41-31). Not only did the UC defense force three interceptions of a hot-handed passer Bryce Tompkins, it was dominant running the ball behind Max McClendon, Ray Arthur and Joseph Carter. This is going to be a very difficult team to bounce in the 2A playoffs, and quite possibly add a 10th state championship to its resume come December.
• Another Gateway team in the midst of a revival is Wolfson.
After a 38-10 win over Bishop Snyder on Thursday night, the Wolfpack are 6-2, their best record since reaching the state playoffs and finishing 7-4 in 2004. The schedule was conducive to success, although Wolfson had a somewhat favorable setup in 2018 and went just 2-8. The Wolfpack have more wins this season than they've had in the previous five combined (5-44).
With one-win teams Pine Ridge and rival Englewood remaining, it's not out of the realm of reality that Wolfson finishes 8-2. While it's probably a stretch, especially if Trinity Christian wins next week to finish 5-5, Wolfson is flirting with a state playoff berth through Week 9. That's a remarkable turnaround.
• Trinity Christian got a much-needed victory on Thursday night, scoring all 21 points in a high-powered second quarter to top Lee 21-12. Sitting on the playoff cut line in the No. 6 spot, the Conquerors absolutely needed a win.
It won't, but just for clarity's sake, let's assume the top seeds in Region 1-3A entering this week hold true.
Pensacola Catholic and Baldwin would sit 1-2, respectively, and get first-round byes. Episcopal, Florida High, Ocala Trinity Catholic and Trinity Christian would get seeds 3-6. That would set up a (6) Trinity Christian at (3) Episcopal playoff opener, with the winner facing No. 2 seed Baldwin in the second round.
No disrespect to the Region 1-3A playoff field, but that path — should Trinity Christian qualify — has the potential to be one running clock game after another for the Conquerors.
• I mentioned on Twitter Thursday night an interesting stat.
Trinity entered the Lee game having faced 15 Duval County Public School programs over the last 15 seasons; Ribault (five times), (Baldwin (four), Parker and Westside (twice apiece), First Coast and Sandalwood (once apiece).
The record in that span — 14-1, with the lone loss a 13-7 overtime game to First Coast in 2007. The nine-point win over Lee was Trinity's closest against a Duval public school since a 13-7 win over Sandalwood in 2013.
In the 12 other games (a win over Parker in 2017 came by forfeit), Trinity has averaged 40.5 points and allowed just 3.9 against public schools from Duval.
• Condolences to the family and friends of current White High athlete and former Baldwin player Raymond Hill. The senior was in a car that was shot at in an incident Tuesday night. Hill was removed from life support Thursday. Two communities and countless friends and family are affected once again by a senseless and lasting act of violence. We see it too often. We say the same things every time a tragic incident happens. And it never changes.
Baldwin honored Hill prior to its Friday game with University Christian with players holding up his old No. 5 jersey number and slowly walking out with it. Commanders running back Ray McArthur wore Hill's No. 4 in Thursday's game against Westside and scored a touchdown and three two-point conversion runs.
• What a Week 10 up ahead.
We've got straight-up district championship showdowns in three games below. A fourth, District 2-6A, has a district title at stake, although it would take an upset by one-win Gainesville and/or an upset by two-win Middleburg over Columbia, to throw this one into chaos.
If Lee wins, the likely scenario, the Generals get the 2-6A title. If Gainesville wins and Columbia wins, we'll get a three-team RPI tiebreaker (between Columbia, Gainesville and Lee) to determine the district champ. If Middleburg wins and Gainesville wins, the Purple Hurricanes would be district champs due to a head-to-head win over Lee.
For the 5-5A title: Menendez (5-2, 3-0) at Orange Park (5-3, 3-0)
For the 3-5A title: Westside (7-1, 3-0) at Parker (5-2, 3-0)
For the 3-6A title: St. Augustine (5-3, 2-0) at Ponte Vedra (6-1, 2-0)
The 2-6A title at stake: Lee (5-3, 2-0) at Gainesville (1-7, 1-1)
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