Bold City Showcase: Oakleaf, Orange Park bring football rivalry out of Clay County for a night

Clay rivals face off Saturday night in final game of WW Gay Bold City Showcase

Bold City Showcase preview

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Clay County football rivalry is headed out of town … just for a night.

When Oakleaf and Orange Park meet in the W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor, Inc. Bold City Showcase at Bolles on Saturday night at 7, it’s bringing the county rivalry under the lights and onto the small screen.

WJXT Channel 4 will televise the game and stream it live on

WATCH LIVE | Bold City Showcase: Oakleaf vs. Orange Park

For Clay County, it’s a moment to savor. A relatively smaller county — Clay has just seven high schools — has a third of the six teams in this year’s BCS.

“It’s unbelievable that we are the seven o’clock game on Saturday, we’re the main event,” said Oakleaf coach Frank Garis. “You know, we’re Ric Flair, bright lights, big city, pretty ladies, like, let’s go do it. So, from that standpoint, the fact that we get to put Oakleaf football on the map. It’s something that we’re really excited about. Now, at the same time, we got to follow through on that with how we play the game.”

Oakleaf opened its doors in 2010 and success has been fleeting, with two of its best seasons in program history (8-2 in 2015 and 7-3 in 2016) both coming up short of the playoffs. Those came after the Knights’ best season in 2014, a 12-1 run that ended in the regional finals.

What hasn’t been fleeting is its success against the Raiders. After dropping their first three games to Orange Park from 2011-13, the Knights have crushed the Raiders in the last five meetings by an average of 21.8 points.

“It’s a blessing, now I’ve always wanted to play on TV, especially in front of everybody and my dad’s watching, I can’t wait to play,” said Orange Park offensive lineman Britton Roberts. “We always talk about locking in and not paying attention to the outside surroundings, no matter what’s going on.”

Tom MacPherson has been a fixture in Clay County football since 1998. He worked as an assistant on Ridgeview’s first coaching staff and was elevated to head coach the following year. All but two of his 22 previous seasons have been spent at schools in Clay County.

With how much the game has evolved — for better or for worse is up for debate — MacPherson said that any opportunity to shine a light on what a program is doing is welcome.

“Now you really have to promote your brand, and you really have to put yourself out there. Because we live in a world where it’s open enrollment, school of choice. And it’s not only representing our community but it’s letting people know that, ‘hey, we put a product out there that’s good.’ … So, you got to put those things out there nowadays because it’s just the world we live in right now.”

Orange Park-Oakleaf history

2011: OP 56, Oakleaf 21

2012: OP 35, Oakleaf 0

2013: OP 15, Oakleaf 14

2014: Oakleaf 34, OP 0

2015: Oakleaf 44, OP 7

2017: Oakleaf 33, OP 13

2018: Oakleaf 45, OP 14

2019: Oakleaf 42, OP 21


Last year: 7-4, lost in Region 1-8A quarterfinals to Bartram Trail, 51-7.

Coach: Frank Garis (19-13, fourth season).

Notable: The newest program in Clay County opened in 2010 and has controlled the series against the second-oldest school in the country. Oakleaf has won the last five meetings against OP and won by an average of 21.8 points. ... The Knights aren’t as experienced as they’ve been in the past, but talent still dots the roster. RB Devin Outlaw (329 rushing yards, TD) moves in to the featured back role. Drew Ammon replaces multi-year starter Tre Simmons at QB. Oakleaf has had one player drafted in the NFL, Shaq Quarterman by the Jaguars in 2020.


Last year: 4-6, lost in Region 2-5A quarterfinals to Menendez, 41-24.

Coach: Tom MacPherson (20-29, sixth season at Orange Park; 23rd season overall, 101-129).

Notable: Two of OP’s top players are underclassmen, including a home run threat in RB JoJo Restall (1,194 rushing yards, 12 TDs, 9.1 ypc). He may be one of the area’s best-kept secrets. The Raiders have one of the area’s top players in the Class of 2023 in OT Roderick Kearney, a 6-3, 255-pound three-star prospect by 247 Sports. Orange Park has had three players drafted in the NFL; DB Adrian White, (second round, 55th pick, 1987); DE/TE Chris Gannon (third round, 73rd overall, 1989); P Ray Criswell (fifth round, 121st, 1986).

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.