Class 4A state title game glance: Bolles aims to finish mission this year

Bolles football coach Matt Toblin talks to his team following a 10-7 overtime win over Gadsden County in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Bolles football coach Matt Toblin talks to his team following a 10-7 overtime win over Gadsden County in the Class 4A state semifinals. (News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three high school football teams from the area reached this week’s state championship games, Bolles, Trinity Christian and University Christian. We look at those games and give you what you need to know if you plan on attending it or watching it online.

Class 4A state championship

Bolles (10-2) vs. Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (7-1)

When: Thursday, 1 p.m.

Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee

The playoff road

Bolles d. Villages Charter, 44-14; d. Fernandina Beach, 35-7; d. South Sumter, 42-7; d. Gadsden County, 10-7 (OT); Cardinal Gibbons d. Clewiston, 37-7; d. Gulliver Prep, 29-7; d. Plantation American Heritage, 26-14; d. Cocoa, 45-15.

Glance at the game

This marks Matt Toblin’s third trip to the state championship game as a head coach. He took Bolles to the Class 4A title game in 2019 and led Ponte Vedra to the Class 5A final in 2016. Both times, his team entered as a significant underdog. And both times, those teams nearly pulled off stunning upsets. Bolles had Miami Booker T. Washington on the ropes last year, leading 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter before the Tornadoes rallied for a 25-21 win. …

Bolles has been steady throughout the season and handled personnel losses accordingly. RB Kade Frew remains the player that the Bulldogs are paced by. He’s rushed for 1,368 yards and 15 TDs in 11 games. QB Gunner Boree has passed for 1,405 yards and 17 TDs and, with Azeh Kani out with injury, he is Bolles’ second-active leading rusher (348 yards, TD). WR Davis Ellis could hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark with one big catch (971 yards, 10 TDs) and is coming off of a performance in which he had a season-saving TD grab on a fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter in the state semifinals. While WR Keaton Thomas is a wideout (268 yards, 3 TDs) capable of a big play, it’s Ellis and Ellis alone who commands the lion’s share of the defensive attention. The defense is experienced and very, very good. It has three players above 100 tackles, with LB Mack Marrone (132), S Caden Fordham (112) and LB Jack Pyburn (109) at the forefront of the defense. Pyburn also has a team-best 6 sacks. DB Avery Epstein had his team-best 6th interception of the season in crunch time of the state semifinal, a play that would help Bolles end a Gadsden County drive deep in Bulldogs territory.

Gibbons is paced by QB Brody Palhegyi (884 passing yards, 13 TDs) and a balanced ground game paced by Kamari Moulton (457 rushing yards, 3 TDs) and Torrence Miller (324 rushing yards, 4 TDs). WR Troy Stellato (325 receiving yards, 5 TDs) is the top pass catcher.

Coach speak

“I think getting the opportunity to add to that legacy has been as has been extremely meaningful to us. To go throughout a season, and to be where we are, you want to be able to finish. A lot of people would say, ‘Look, I just want to be in the game,’ and that’s the deal you want to get in the game where it’s two great teams and. And when that happens, it could go either way. Our deal is going to be how many times can we can get in the game? And then on that day, who plays better football.” — Bolles coach Matt Toblin.

About the Author: