High school football playoffs: Area teams eye berths in 3rd round
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The second round of the Florida high school football state playoffs, and first round of the Georgia state playoffs are Friday night. A look at the matchups involving area teams. All games at 7:30 p.m. unless indicated.
(3) Apopka (9-1) at (2) Bartram Trail (11-0)
Last week: Apopka d. Flagler Palm Coast, 42-25; Bartram d. Spruce Creek, 42-0.
Winner gets: (1) Seminole or (4) Timber Creek in the regional final. Bartram would host Timber Creek, but travel to Seminole.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Bartram (6-0), Apopka (4-1).
A tricky game for the Bears, who get a shot to try and slow down the Blue Darters and their high-powered offense. Apopka has won three state championships and finished state runner-up once, all of those accomplishments under former coach Rick Darlington. The Bears have been very good in second round games under coach Darrell Sutherland, going 7-1. And this may very well be the best team in Bears' history (the 2017 team played for a title) by the time this season is all said and done. A much-improved defense is a major reason for the uptick this season. A DE (Phillip Burnett) leads the team in tackles (60). The Bears have 29 takeaways, with safety Craig Sinclair responsible for seven of those (6 INTs, FR). That has given depth to a team that already had a very, very good offense. QB Chad Dodson is (2,054) is completing 65% of his passes and has five very good targets to get the ball to (Zach Rhodes, Eric Weatherly, Brandon Chim and Jackson Mayer are the top four). RB A.J. Jones III (1,227 rushing yards, 238 receiving yards, 25 total TDs) has put himself into the conversation as the area's top player.
(3) Fleming Island (10-0) at (2) Niceville (11-0), 8 p.m.
Last week: Fleming d. Wekiva, 28-14; Niceville d. Chiles, 31-10.
Winner gets: (1) Orlando Edgewater or (5) Tallahassee Lincoln in the regional final. Fleming would host Lincoln, but travel to Edgewater.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Fleming Island (1-0), Niceville (3-0).
One 0 must go. The Golden Eagles get a tough trip west to face the Eagles in the only unbeaten vs. unbeaten matchup in the area this week. These are two very good rushing teams, led by solid RBs in Timothy Thomas of Fleming and Shawn Parker of Niceville. The Eagles can throw it, too, with Will Koch having thrown 17 TDs and just one interception. Fleming is a similar team in that it sets up the pass with an effective ground game paced by Thomas, TK Kocak and Sam Singleton.
(6) Columbia (8-3) at (2) Lee (8-3)
Last week: Columbia d. Ponte Vedra, 14-7; Lee d. St. Augustine, 29-21.
Winner gets: (1) Pensacola Escambia or (4) Daytona Beach Mainland in the regional final. Columbia would travel to face either. Lee would host Mainland, but travel to Escambia.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Lee (4-2), Columbia (3-3).
A district rematch. The regular season game was won in OT by the Generals (27-21), triggering a rough close to the regular season by Columbia. These teams have been very evenly matched the last 15 years. The Tigers dominated this series from 2005-15, going 5-0. Since then, the Generals have flipped the script, going 5-1, including a win in last year's playoffs. Tigers QB Jordan Smith (27 TD passes, 2,571 passing yards) will face a very good Lee defense, the back end of which will try and slow down bookend big play WRs in Marquez Bell (1,055 yards, 12 TDs) and Lanadrick Bradley (873 yards, 6 TDs). It will be up to the Lee defense, led by DBs Isaiah Jones and Larry Smith (both have 5 INTs), DE Ralph Mency and LB Maurice Heath (pick, fumble return for TD last week) to slow down the Tigers, which they did in the regular season. The Lee offense is balanced and diverse, with multi-threat Cobie Bates (1,305 all-purpose yards, 11 TDs), RBs Zaire Lee (411 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and Kevonte Doles (321 rushing yards, 4 TDs) and WR Terry McKinney (750 receiving yards, 5 TDs) paving the way for sophomore QB Cale Zarah (1,845 passing yards, 16 TDs) to work.
(4) Raines (6-4) at (1) Wakulla (11-0)
Last week: Raines d. Westside, 52-20; Wakulla d. Suwannee, 41-10.
Winner gets: (2) Pensacola Pine Forest or (6) Tallahassee Godby in the regional finals. Raines would travel to Pine Forest, but host Godby.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Raines (0-4), Wakulla (6-0).
Big challenge on the road for a Vikings team that has won the past two Class 4A state championships. Raines' offense has learned on the fly this season as young players have been counted on at numerous skill positions. RB Nigel Smith has done well as the featured back and was a heavy part of the Raines' offense last week in a rainy win over Westside. QBs Carleton Butler and Adrian Williams have both played throughout the season and do different things well. Williams accounted for four second-half TDs last week. Wakulla's defense could be the best that the Vikings will have faced all season. The War Eagles are allowing just 12.7 ppg and have 28 takeaways. If the Vikings can hang on to the football and hammer away, their defense, led by ball-hawking defensive back Treyvon Hobbs, gives them a very good chance to shut down any team they face.
(5) South Walton (6-4) at (1) Bolles (8-1)
Last week: South Walton d. Marianna, 38-24; Bolles was off.
Winner gets: (2) West Nassau or (6) Bradford in the regional finals. Bolles would host either. Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Bolles (3-1), South Walton (3-2).
The Bulldogs enter this one riding an eight-game winning streak, with their best victory of the season a Week 11 win on the road at Daytona Beach Mainland. Bolles' strength is in its diversity. While there are players who have emerged as playmakers (RB Kade Frew has 612 rushing yards and 7 TDs; QB Ben Netting 311 rushing yards, 6 TDs) the makeup of this Bolles squad is having players who can step up when their number is called. A player like Caden Fordham is a perfect example of that. He's had 20 carries this season, with a staggering nine of those going for TDs. The Bulldogs aren't overwhelming opponents with one or two players, they are battering teams with a constant churn of fresh legs and willpower. Eight players have logged 95 yards rushing or more and split up 29 rushing TDs. And Bolles isn't turning the ball over (six giveaways) and making things easy for the other team.
(6) Bradford (5-5) at (2) West Nassau (8-2)
Last week: Bradford d. Gadsden County, 21-0; West Nassau was off.
Winner gets: (1) Bolles or (5) South Walton in the regional finals. West Nassau would host Bradford, but travel to Bolles.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: West Nassau (2-2), Bradford (1-5).
A rematch of a tough regular season game, won in a 16-13 dogfight by the Warriors. Bradford RB Erric Smith (825 rushing yards, 7 TDs) had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season in the playoff opener and he'll be looking for more room to run than he found the first time against the Warriors (48 yards on nine carries). West Nassau has become a much more complete team offensively, a goal that coach Rickey Armstrong hoped to accomplish entering the season. QBs Chaz Hirschman (969 passing yards, 13 TDs) and Blayze Padgett (1,103 passing yards, 12 TDs) have helped the Warriors speed things up and stretch the field. RBs Ethan Jones (555 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and Jesse Rochay (455 rushing yards, 8 TDs) lead the ground attack. WRs Zorian Stanton (689 receiving yards, 7 TDs) and Chaz Davis (551 receiving yards, 6 TDs) give West Nassau options on the outside. But don't expect these teams to trade scores all night. These teams are rooted in good defense. West Nassau is averaging 6.3 sacks a game and holding teams to 15.3 points an outing. Bradford is holding teams to 12.7 ppg.
(3) Episcopal (10-1) at (2) Florida State University School (9-1)
Last week: Episcopal d. Baldwin, 35-25; FSU School was off.
Winner gets: (1) Pensacola Catholic or (4) Ocala Trinity Catholic in the regional finals. Episcopal would host Trinity, but travel to Pensacola Catholic.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Florida High (5-1), Episcopal (1-1).
What a season for the Eagles. After ripping off a 9-1 mark in the regular season, Episcopal had a playoff rematch against the only team it lost to all season. The result? Just the first playoff victory in school history. The road will be far more challenging on the road at Florida High, but Episcopal may not be as overwhelmed as it may appear. QB Tucker Tomberlin (1,800 passing yards, 24 TDs), RB Ershod Jasey (1,262 rushing yards, 17 TDs) and WRs Nick Elksnis (665 receiving yards, 7 TDs), Jack Bogan (463 receiving yards, 6 TDs) and Langston Hardy (332 receiving yards, 7 TDs) give the Eagles playmakers all over the field on offense. Episcopal has 29 takeaways. Florida High is the biggest challenge of the season for the Eagles. LBs Kei'arryien Green and Aaron Ford have combined for 24 sacks, while QB Willie Taggart Jr. (1,583 passing yards, 15 TDs, 508 rushing yards, 8 TDs) drives an offense that is averaging 39.2 ppg. The last time Episcopal was in the state playoffs, Florida High ended the Eagles' season in 2016.
(4) Tallahassee North Florida Christian (4-5) at (1) University Christian (9-1)
Last week: NFC d. Florida A&M, 21-14; UC was off.
Winner gets: (6) St. Joseph or (2) Tallahasse Maclay in the regional fnials. UC would host either.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: UC (5-0), NFC (3-5).
Like clockwork, it's UC and NFC meeting in the state playoffs, this one the ninth consecutive postseason clash between the two. UC has won three of the final four meetings in this series and is 8-7 all-time in the playoffs on the field against NFC. A win in 2005 was later scrubbed due to a forfeit. This game has often served as a state championship game springboard. Of those 15 playoff meetings, UC or NFC has gone on to play for a state title 10 times, and won seven of them. NFC routed UC 45-21 last year and went on to win the 2A championship. UC's offense is very good, with RB Max McClendon erupting for a 400-yard rushing game in a Week 11 shootout win over Bishop Kenny. He's got 1,350 rushing yards and 19 TDs as the focal point of the UC attack. Defense is the hallmark of this team, with freshman cornerback Orel Gray (5 INTs) and junior LB Joseph Carter (60 tackles, 3 INTs) forming a very strong back level defense.
(6) St. Joseph (5-5) at (2) Tallahassee Maclay (8-2)
Last week: St. Joseph d. Aucilla Christian, 34-20; Maclay was off.
Winner gets: (4) Tallahassee North Florida Christian or (1) University Christian in the regional finals. St. Joseph would travel to face either.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Maclay (5-2), St. Joseph (1-3).
The Flashes learned a bit about scheduling from 2018 to '19. They watched an unbeaten regular season evaporate in a hurry in their playoff opener. The change this year? A far more challenging regular season schedule prepared St. Joseph for the postseason and it played out just about the exact opposite as 2018 as it peppered a previously unbeaten — and far less challenged — Aucilla last week. QB Will Carn (1,597 passing yards, 16 TDs), RB Aaron Roberson (648 rushing yards, 8 TDs) and top WRs Kent Hill (400 receiving yards, 3 TDs) helped lead the Flashes to the first playoff win in school history. A road trip to Maclay is a significant step up here, but the Flashes will be far more prepared at 5-5 this year than they would have been at 9-0 last.
(4) Hilliard (7-4) at (1) Madison County (8-2)
Last week: Hilliard d. Branford, 34-33 in OT; Madison was off.
Winner gets: (6) Union County or (2) Mayo Lafayette in the regional finals. Hilliard would host Union, but travel to Lafayette.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Hilliard (2-2), Madison (5-2).
The Red Flashes roared back last week and held off a two-point try at the finish to beat Branford, their first playoff victory since 2004 and just third in program history. Coach John Pate's Hilliard team has reeled off its best season in years, with underclassmen playing a leading role in the skill positions. QB Lyle Bennett (1,133 passing yards, 18 TDs) is a freshman. Leading RB Tywuan Lee (840 rushing yards, 9 TDs) is a junior. Top WR DJ Coston (525 yards, 10 TDs) is a sophomore. The defense is senior-heavy, with LB Seth O'Neal (68 tackles) and DE Tanner Morgan (51 tackles) leading the way in tackles. The Cowboys are one of the best small school programs in the state. Madison has won back-to-back Class 1A state championships, part of four titles and four runners-up trophies, that they've claimed since 2001.
(6) Union County (6-5) at (2) Mayo Lafayette (9-1)
Last week: Union d. Dixie County, 26-22; Lafayette was off.
Winner gets: (4) Hilliard or (1) Madison County in the regional finals. Union would travel to face either.
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Union County (1-3), Lafayette (4-1).
The Tigers atoned for a regular season loss to Dixie County with a fourth-quarter surge last week to edge the Bears. Union's challenge on Friday will come on the defensive side of the ball and trying to slow down dual-threat QB Jaxson Beach, who has passed for 2,247 yards and 24 TDs, and rushed for 1,182 yards and 22 TDs. He leads a Hornets offense that is averaging 39.8 ppg. Union RB Hosea Robinson (1,141 rushing yards, 13 TDs) is the offensive focal point for the Tigers. The bigger challenge lies on Union's defense, led by LB Trevor Holtzendorf (96 tackles), S Paden Clyatt (68 tackles) and LB Allan McClellon (62 tackles), and CB BJ Harvey (4 INTs), to slow down the Hornets.
Georgia state playoffs
(3) Camden County (7-3) at (2) Marietta (8-2)
Winner gets: Central Gwinnett-Milton winner in the second round on Nov. 22. Camden would host (4) Central Gwinnett, but travel to (1) Milton.
(3) Tucker (6-4) at (2) Glynn Academy (5-4)
Winner gets: Dalton-Dacula winner in the second round on Nov. 22. Glynn would host (4) Dalton but travel to (1) Dacula.
(3) Brunswick (5-5) at (2) Morrow (6-4)
Winner gets: Winder-Barrow-Harrison winner in the second round on Nov. 22. Brunswick would travel to (1) Harrison, but host (4 Winder-Barrow.
(4) Central (3-7) at (1) Pierce County (10-0)
Winner gets: Hart County-Haralson County in the second round on Nov. 22. Pierce would host (2) Hart or (3) Haralson.
(4) Ola (7-3) at (1) Ware County (7-3)
Winner gets: Decatur-Buford in the second round on Nov. 22. Ware would host (3) Decatur or (2) Buford.
(4) Brantley County (5-5) at (1) Peach County (9-1), 8 p.m.
Winner gets: Calhoun-Morgan County winner in the second round on Nov. 22. Brantley would travel to face (2) Calhoun or (3) Morgan County.
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