JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – News4Jax sports editor Justin Barney reveals his high school football Week 1 playoff predictions. Picks are published each Thursday during the season. All games are Friday at 7:30 p.m. unless indicated. Seeds are listed in parentheses.
Last week: 8-3. Season: 286-103 (.735).
(2) Lee (9-3) at (1) Pensacola Escambia (12-0), 8:30 p.m.: The Generals are the last Gateway Conference program left standing. Can they make the long road trip to the Panhandle, an area that local teams have had their struggles in, and emerge with a win? As much as I want to think Big Blue can stretch a Gateway playoff streak of reaching the fourth round to five straight seasons, I think it’s going to be a difficult assignment. Even without facing Emmitt Smith, which is the last time these teams met in the postseason in 1984. N4J pick: Escambia 34, Lee 21.
(6) Bradford (6-5) at (1) Bolles (9-1): The Bulldogs were off in the opening round in the playoffs and apparently used that time to decide just how many touchdowns that they felt like scoring in their opener last week. The Tornadoes have played the schedule they have to prepare them for a deep playoff run, but I think that ends this week. N4J pick: Bolles 31, Bradford 14.
(2) Tallahassee Maclay (9-2) at (1) University Christian (10-1): The freight train that has been the underrated Max McClendon may not play on Friday night due to an ankle injury, but UC losing at home to a 2A program is about as likely as me losing weight over the holidays. UC’s two games against 2A competition this season have been won by an average of a mere 25 points. N4J pick: UC 38, Maclay 20.
(6) Union County (7-5) at (1) Madison County (9-2): I’ve picked against Union the first two rounds and that has resulted in munching on some embarrassingly big slices of pre-Thanksgiving humble pie. I wavered on taking the Tigers last week and chickened out at the last moment, but I can’t try and right the ship this week. Madison is likely bound for a threepeat in 1A. N4J pick: Madison County 47, Union County 7.