JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The third round of the high school football state playoffs in Florida is Friday night. In Georgia, teams are in the second round. A glance at this week’s games. All games are at 7:30 p.m. unless indicated.
(2) Lee (9-3) at (1) Pensacola Escambia (12-0), 8:30 p.m.
Playoff road: Lee d. St. Augustine, 29-21; d. Columbia, 6-3 (2 OT); Escambia d. New Smyrna Beach, 44-0; d. Daytona Beach Mainland, 27-7.
Winner gets: (1) Tampa Gaither or (3) Lake Minneola in the state semifinals. Lee, with a .611 RPI, would host Lake Minneola (.608), but travel to Gaither (.672).
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Lee (4-2), Escambia (4-0).
These teams have met once before in the state playoffs, Nov. 30, 1984. That game, a 28-25 Escambia victory, took four overtimes to decide. It is considered by some as the greatest high school playoff game in area history. A Corky Rogers-coached Lee team held then-sophomore running back Emmitt Smith to just 97 yards rushing, the only game of his high school career that he didn’t crack the 100-yard mark. Lee’s defense will have its work cut out for it. RB Frank Peasant has rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 of Escambia’s 12 games. He’s at 1,686 yards and 19 rushing TDs this season. QB AV Smith has passed for 2,184 yards and 26 TDs (just 3 INTs), with two big targets in DT Gideon (790 yards, 9 TDs) and Jojo Blackmon (759 yards, 10 TDs). Defensively, the Gators are holding opponents to 8.7 ppg. The Generals showed last week against a very good and Columbia offense that they can put the brakes on teams. There are younger players on offense, but underclassmen like Cale Zarah (1,897 passing yards, 17 TDs) fired the game-winning TD to junior Timothy Gallion last week to beat Columbia. No doubt Lee will have to score points to keep up with a very good Escambia team, but the Generals have to feel confident after limiting Columbia to just a field goal. Granted, the weather was nasty and the field conditions are arguably the area’s worst, even on a good night, but Lee’s defense has gotten sharper as the season has worn on. DBs Larry Smith and Isaiah Jones have 5 INTs apiece to lead a stacked secondary.
(6) Bradford (6-5) at (1) Bolles (9-1)
Playoff road: Bradford d. Gadsden County, 21-0; d. West Nassau, 45-13; Bolles was off in Week 1 of the playoffs and beat South Walton, 62-6 last week.
Winner gets: (1) Cocoa or (2) South Sumter in the state semifinals. Bolles, with a .663 RPI, would host either. Bradford (.523) would travel to face either Cocoa (.623) or South Sumter (.610).
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Bolles (3-1), Bradford (1-5).
The Bulldogs eviscerated South Walton last week, dominating in every phase of the game. They recovered two kickoffs. They had a stop on downs. They recovered a fumble. All of that came in the opening quarter. Spliced in between was an offense that scored on the ground and through the air. Not even 13 minutes in to the game, Bolles led 42-0. Bradford presents an upgrade in competition. The Tornadoes have played a solid schedule this season and that has shown in the playoffs as they overwhelmed teams with better records, but who hadn’t faced the quality of competition. RB Erric Smith is Bradford’s top offensive player, although the Tornadoes are better suited to play strong defense and drag teams into a slowdown game. DE Ahmon Jefferson has 31 tackles for loss and had an interception return for a TD last week, one of four Tornadoes’ picks in the game. Bradford is holding teams to 12.7 ppg. Bolles’ defense is tough, too. The Bulldogs have allowed just 10.4 ppg this season. Bolles has forced 25 turnovers, with ATH Caden Fordham (3 INTs, FR) and DB Will Netting (2 INTs, 2 FR) the top defenders. DL Hayden Schwartz has a team-best 7 sacks. RB Kade Frew had an excellent, albeit, abbreviated effort against South Walton. He touched the ball just eight times and scored on three of those. Bolles has won nine straight games after a Week 1 loss to University Christian.
(2) Tallahassee Maclay (9-2) at (1) University Christian (10-1)
Playoff road: Maclay d. St. Joseph, 38-2; UC d. North Florida Christian, 36-6. Both teams had first-round byes.
Winner gets: (1) Victory Christian or (2) Foundation Academy in the state semifinals. UC, with a .672 RPI, would host Foundation (.635), but travel to face Victory Christian (.694).
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: UC (5-0), Maclay (5-2).
With the North Florida Christian hurdle out of the way, UC should be poised for a run to the state championship game. UC has pulverized Maclay in two previous playoff meetings, rolling 48-20 last year and 59-6 in 2015. The only other time UC has beaten both NFC and Maclay in a season, it won the state title (2015). The Christians had to shake things up last week against NFC when top RB Max McClendon left the game early due to an ankle injury. His departure probably kept the score less lopsided than it would have been, but it didn’t slow UC over the long haul. If McClendon can’t go, expect to see the Christians split things up between RBs Arthur Walker, Marques Moulds and Joseph Carter. Carter is a strong runner and he’s fresh. He had 147 yards and a pair of TDs on 11 carries last week. This UC defense is very good at all three levels. DB Orel Gray upped his team-best interception total to 6 last week with a pick inside the 5. Maclay has followed up a 10-1 season with another good one, but will likely have similar issues against a deeper and more rugged UC squad as it had in 2018. The Marauders trailed 21-20 at the half in that one, but were outscored 27-0 the rest of the way. Expect UC’s depth and physicality to tip the scales in this one like it did a season ago.
(6) Union County (7-5) at (1) Madison County (9-2)
Playoff road: Union d. Dixie County, 26-22; d. Mayo Lafayette, 32-19; Madison was off in Week 1 and beat Hilliard 56-0 last week.
Winner gets: (5) Chiefland or (2) Pahokee in the state semifinals. Union, with an RPI of .497, would travel to face Chiefland (.521) or Pahokee (.543).
Record against playoff teams in the regular season: Union County (1-3), Madison (5-2).
The Tigers have done more with their seed than just about every other area team. They got things cranked up late and parlayed that into a playoff berth and a pair of victories on the road against higher-seeded teams. Last week’s win over No. 2 seed Lafayette wasn’t as close as the score suggested. Union jumped out to a 22-0 lead in the second quarter and was in control from open to close. For a team that went through a coaching change eight days before the season kicked off, the Tigers have responded. The offense centers around RB Hosea Robinson, a 1,338-yard back, is averaging 133.8 yards rushing per game. He had 197 yards on the ground in the win over Lafayette. Union will need its defense to play lights out against Madison. LB Trevor Holtzendorf (103 tackles, 4 sacks) and Paden Clyatt (85 tackles) lead Union on defense. CB B.J. Harvey has a team-best 4 interceptions. These programs have met twice in the playoffs (65-12 in 205 and 50-6 in 2016), both Madison wins. The Cowboys are a monster in the postseason. The two-time defending state champion Cowboys are 20-8 all-time in the state playoffs against local teams. Against local public school programs in the playoffs, Madison is 15-2 (only losses to Raines and Baker County).
(3) Brunswick (6-5) at (1) Harrison (11-0)
Playoff road: Brunswick d. Morrow, 34-13; Harrison d. Winder-Barrow, 45-25.
Winner gets: (4) Houston County or (2) South Paulding in the quarterfinals. Brunswick would host Houston County, but travel to face South Paulding.
(2) Glynn Academy (7-4) at (1) Dacula (11-0)
Playoff road: Glynn d. Tucker, 31-7; Dacula d. Dalton, 49-10.
Winner gets: (3) Creekside or (1) Lee County in the quarterfinals. Glynn would host Creekside, but travel to face Lee.
(2) Buford (10-1) at (1) Ware County (8-3)
Playoff road: Buford d. Decatur, 43-6; Ware County d. Ola, 35-22.
Winner gets: (2) Veterans or (1) Carrollton in the quarterfinals. Ware would host Veterans. A coin flip would determine the host between Ware and Carrollton.
(2) Hart County (9-2) at (1) Pierce County (11-0)
Playoff road: Hart d. Haralson County, 56-27; Pierce d. Central Macon, 49-6.
Winner gets: (2) Cook or (1) Greater Atlanta Christian School in the quarterfinals. Pierce would host Cook. A coin flip would determine the host between Pierce and Greater Atlanta Christian.