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Bold City Showcase: Bolles, West Nassau ready to kick things off in opener

Bolles and West Nassau meet in the opening game of the WW Gay Bold City Showcase on Friday night. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bolles is back. West Nassau is there for the first time.

The former district opponents face off in the opening game of the W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor, Inc. Bold City Showcase on Friday night as the 2021 high school football season kicks off in style. The game, the first of three in the Showcase, begins at 7 p.m. at Bolles. It will be televised live on WJXT and streamed on News4Jax.com.

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“What the Bold City classic represents, a showcase of high school athletics in the area,” said Bolles coach Matt Toblin. “Some of the best teams in the area in one location, so that our fans, West Nassau’s fans, but also the casual fans can get a chance to come in and see how good a product high school football is in the area.”

The Warriors don’t get chances like this often and they’re amped about maximizing the opportunity.

“I’m actually very excited,” said West Nassau’s Conner Nobles. “So, it’s a lot of exposure that we don’t usually get, because we’re not we’re not that big, we’re not as big as Bolles, so we should get a bunch more exposure than what we usually get.”

The last Bold City Showcase event in 2019 drew more than 21,000 fans for the three games. The 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic.

Bolles and West Nassau are on far different levels. The Bulldogs have 11 state championships, second most in state history to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. They have finished as state runner-up the last two seasons under Toblin.

“I think about those medals all the time,” said linebacker Jack Pyburn. “I mean, sometimes when I want to get really motivated, I make them my screensaver. I just look at them and know, I want more. And I know our guys can do it and I know what we want to do, so I’m excited for that.”

The clash is the first between the teams since the Bulldogs and Warriors shared a district for the final time in 2016. Bolles won that game, like it has every other against the Warriors, handily.

Things have changed quite a bit since then. The Florida High School Athletic Association did away with districts in 2017 for teams in Classes 1A-4A. With that move, West Nassau no longer had to go through Bolles to reach the state playoffs. The Warriors have made the state playoffs four consecutive seasons since then.

“We’re just ready for the level of competition. Team were about to play, they’re big name, big profile and we’re just ready to play them and get our name out there,” West Nassau’s Wyatt Butler said. “Probably get some looks from colleges that we probably wouldn’t get on a normal day from that game.”

ABOUT BOLLES

Last year: 10-3, lost in Class 4A state championship game to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, 35-21.

Coach: Matt Toblin (21-5, third season at Bolles; 10th season overall, 77-30).

Notable: Second in state history with 11 championships (St. Thomas Aquinas has 12). Bulldogs have played in seven of the last 10 Class 4A state championship games (winning in 2011 and losing in ‘12, ‘13, ‘14, ‘16, ‘19 and ‘20). ... Former Bolles coach Corky Rogers is in numerous halls of fame including the National Federation of High Schools Hall of Fame. Rogers died in 2020. ... Bolles has had seven players selected in the NFL draft, including two first-rounders (Mac Jones in 2021 and Hayden Hurst in 2018). ... RB Kade Frew is one of the best backs in the area. In two seasons at Bolles, Frew has rushed for 2,449 yards and 27 TDs on 359 carries. LB Jack Pyburn (121 tackles in 2021) is Bolles’ leading returning tackler. DL Hayden Schwartz (66 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 4 sacks) is also back. His father, Bryan, was a second-round pick by the expansion Jaguars in 1995.

ABOUT WEST NASSAU

Last year: 4-7, lost in Region 2-4A quarterfinals to Fernandina Beach, 34-22.

Coach: Rickey Armstrong (47-30, eighth season).

Notable: Four consecutive state playoff appearances. Armstrong played QB for West Nassau in high school. He later returned as an assistant and coordinator and spent 16 seasons on the staff before being elevated to head coach in 2014. ... West Nassau has had one player selected in the NFL draft (WR Frank Murphy, sixth round, 170th pick in 2000). ... RB Conner Nobles is West Nassau’s top returning offensive threat. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry last season (887 yards, 13 TDs). From his linebacker position, Nobles is also the team’s leading returning tackler (104) and tops in sacks (6). Michael Thorn (69 tackles, 4 sacks) is also back for the Warriors. DB Leon Whitley had 4 interceptions as a junior for West Nassau and is back to anchor the secondary.


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.