JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s crunchtime in the high school football state playoffs.
Five area teams in Class 5A-8A are playing for berths in the state semifinals. A glance at those four games on Friday night. Information on state semifinal games in Classes 2A, 3A and 4A can be found here.
Region 1-8A final
Bartram Trail (10-1) at Seminole (9-0), 7:30 p.m.
Road here: Bartram d. Oakleaf, 51-7; d. Spruce Creek, 35-13; Seminole d. DeLand, 28-13; d. Sandalwood, 40-20.
Winner gets: Bartram would travel to face the Apopka-Lake Mary winner in the state semifinals on Dec. 11.
Glance: A collision between explosive offenses for a berth in the state semifinals. RB A.J. Jones III is closing in on a 1,000-yard rushing season. He had a pair of rushing TDs against Spruce Creek last week. QB Santino Marucci (1,393 passing yards, 15 TDs) has been steady passing the ball and gives the Bears a capable element running it, too (6 rushing TDs). This game will hinge on how well the Bears can put the brakes on an explosive offense led by QB Timmy McClain. This Bartram defense is certainly up to the challenge. It has one of the area’s most disruptive defenders in LB Micah Pollard. DB Bryce Johnson had a pick that set up a TD last week. Seminole solved a strong and fast Sandalwood defense last week by wearing it out with the athleticism of McClain. He had a 71-yard TD run in the second half. A victory would send the Bears on to the state semifinals for the sixth time in program history.
Region 1-7A final
Niceville (10-0) at Fleming Island (10-2), 7 p.m.
Road here: Fleming d. Tate, 21-0; d. Chiles, 23-7; d. Atlantic Coast, 42-7; Niceville d. Crestview, 56-20; d. Leon, 42-0; d. Gainesville Buchholz, 38-35 (OT).
Winner gets: Fleming Island would host the Orlando Edgewater-New Port Richey winner in the state semifinals on Dec. 11.
Glance: The Golden Eagles are riding their best season in program history. They’ve been three rounds deep four times before but they’ve never won three games in the same postseason. Fleming is coming off its most convincing victory in the playoffs, an absolutely dominant beating of what had been a strong Atlantic Coast team. The ground game continues to drive Fleming. RB Sam Singleton rushed for 274 yards and four TDs in the win over Atlantic Coast. Fellow backs Timothy Thomas and TK Kocak continue to be solid, versatile runners, with Kocak a TD vulture from inside the 15. Can that diverse backfield and a still-improving defense slow down Niceville? Fleming hasn’t allowed more than 2 TDs in a game since Oct. 23. Niceville does everything well. Not only do the Eagles put up a number on offense (48.2 points per game), they don’t give up much at all. They have three shutouts this season and give up just 13.1 ppg. This is a rematch of last season’s second round game, which Niceville won 47-28.
Region 1-6A final
St. Augustine (9-2) at Columbia (5-5), 7:30 p.m.
Road here: Columbia d. Englewood, 41-7; d. Ponte Vedra, 14-0; d. Daytona Beach Seabreeze, 28-14; d. Daytona Beach Mainland, 28-26; St. Augustine, bye; d. Mosley, 38-24; d. Pensacola Escambia, 48-27; d. Pace, 34-7.
Winner gets: The St. Augustine-Columbia winner would travel to face the Lake Minneola-Tampa Gaither winner in the state semifinals on Dec. 11.
Glance: As the season turned into October, who would have predicted these two would have still been alive in the state playoffs? St. Augustine was 1-2 entering October and Columbia started 0-5. Now, a win will send one of these teams on to the state semifinals. Columbia is coming off of a stunning win over Mainland last week. Adeon Farmer returned a fumble 58 yards for a TD with just under 3 minutes to play for the winner. Columbia has gone back and forth at QB, with Kade Jackson taking the reins last week and throwing TD passes to Tray Tolliver and WR-QB Marcus Peterson. Peterson has accounted for 7 total TDs in Columbia’s current winning streak. St. Augustine’s surge hasn’t been as pronounced as Columbia’s. The Yellow Jackets’ two losses were to Bartram Trail and Bolles, both teams that are still alive in the playoffs. Since then, St. Augustine has won 8 straight games and rumbled through three Panhandle challengers. QB Sam Edwards was solid again in the playoffs last week, accounting for 3 total TDs and shouldering more of a load with RB Ty Baxter missing the game with an injury. Edwards had 4 TDs the week before and a pair in the playoff opener against Mosley. ATH Dequan Stanley remains St. Augustine’s most versatile two-way threat. He caught another TD pass from Edwards last week. These teams have met four times in the playoffs since 2011, with Columbia leading the series 3-1.
Region 1-5A final
Tallahassee Rickards (7-1) at Baker County (9-2), 7:30 p.m.
Winner gets: Rickards d. White, 21-14; d. West Florida, 38-16; d. Ribault, 44-26; Baker County d. Arnold by forfeit; d. Raines, 33-32 (2 OT); d. Pensacola Pine Forest, 28-19.
Winner gets: Baker County would host the Dunnellon-Ocala Vanguard winner in the state semifinals on Dec. 11.
Glance: The Wildcats went from outlasting Raines in double OT the week prior to jumping on Pine Forest right from the start, leading at halftime and pulling away in the second half to reach its first regional final under second-year coach Kevin Mays. RB Scooby Graham had a pair of TDs in the win and has 13 on the season now. Much like Fleming Island in Class 7A, Baker County is rooted in good defense and a battalion of runners, all of whom have the potential to lead the way. Graham is one of four Wildcats players to be above 500 rushing yards this season, joining Carson Crawford, Jamarian Baker and Cam Smith in leading the backfield. The Wildcats have logged three playoff games just once before, reaching the Class 5A state title game in 2017. Baker County’s offense will definitely have its work cut out for it. Rickards defense has been very good this season, limiting teams to 14.6 ppg. It has held 6 of its 8 opponents under 20 points in a game. Ribault’s output last week was the most Rickards has allowed in a game this season.