‘Weird’ year continues as high school football teams know playoff opponents weeks in advance

FHSAA logo
FHSAA logo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a year of abnormality, it’s just another example of things operating differently. Wednesday, the FHSAA released the playoff matchups for the football season, more than a month before the games are scheduled to be played.

How are local coaches reacting to the move?

“Because there’s been so much different, I think it’s just one more different thing,” Mandarin football coach Bobby Ramsay said. “It’s weird, but everything is weird. It’s just one more strange, different thing. And not that anybody’s fault. It’s just the way the world is right now. But they are, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s just weird.”

So weird, in fact, that Mandarin is slated to face Sandalwood in a play-in round game on Nov. 13 as part of the Region 1-8A playoffs. The Mustangs and Saints are district rivals and so the need to do advance scouting and preparation is limited. Plus, Ramsay wants the players to understand how special every Friday night is in this pandemic-adjusted season, so looking ahead doesn’t do much good.

“We know each other pretty well,” Ramsay said. “I think you have to go out there each week and perform, like, you know, your life depends on it.”

Mandarin has had two games impacted by COVID-19. Two weeks ago, they had several players test positive, but they were able to conduct contact tracing in time to play the game against Lee. Then last week, they got the word on Friday that an additional player had tested positive. There wasn’t enough time for contract tracing, so the game against Nease was postponed.

This week, Mandarin faces Trinity Christian in our Football Friday Game of the Week. The Conquerors know they will face Baldwin on Nov. 13 in a regional quarterfinal game in Region 1-3A and head coach Verlon Dorminey said he isn’t too concerned with looking ahead to the playoffs just yet.

“We were looking at it yesterday morning and just talking about wow, it’s great that we don’t have to go very far in the first round. We only have to go to Baldwin,” Dorminey said. “You can see where everything lines up how it all pans out all the way to the end. So you’re not waiting on week by week, who gets enough points to be able to go to the next round.”

As for Friday’s game, it’s the first time that Mandarin and Trinity Christian will face one another in the regular season. Dorminey said he remembers a preseason matchup years ago. Anytime teams with state championship trophies in the trophy case meet up, it’s going to bring a little extra attention to the game. Trinity Christian has won seven state titles and Mandarin won the first 8A state championship in the history of Jacksonville schools two years ago.

“We’ve tried to work it out to play over the last couple of years, but the weeks just never matched up,” Dorminey said. “(Ramsay) called me and he goes, ‘Hey, what do you got this week?’ Because I think we were supposed to play Godby this week. And of course, they’re not leaving Leon County. So we were able to put that game together. And we were lucky we got to get a home game, for sure.”

The Mustangs may not be at full strength against Trinity Christian because of some players being quarantined, but that won’t diminish the matchup.

“We’ve taken the approach that we want to give the guys as many opportunities to play as possible because you just don’t know how many games they’re going to get,” Ramsay said. “So it was an opportunity for us to get on their schedule and they’re always looking for games. So it worked out.”

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