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High school football 2021: Rivalry games, county showdowns headline Week 1

Nease wide receiver Grant Stevens (88) makes a catch against Yulee linebacker Landon Hale (11) in the second quarter of a Sept. 25 game.
Nease wide receiver Grant Stevens (88) makes a catch against Yulee linebacker Landon Hale (11) in the second quarter of a Sept. 25 game. (News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – High school football cranks up this week in Florida.

A look at four of the top games in the area to watch on Friday night, followed by the next four. Super 10 rankings in parentheses. All games start at 7 p.m. unless indicated.

WW Gay Bold City Showcase coverage can be found here.

TOP FOUR

Atlantic Coast at Mandarin, 6:30 p.m.: The Principal’s Cup is on the line and the Mustangs have been in control of this series. But the Stingrays are no doubt one of the teams expected to turn the corner in 2021. Their playoff run last year is a big reason why. Atlantic Coast won three of its final four games, two of those coming in the state playoffs, to finish 5-6. Not bad for a program that had never reached the postseason. Sure, Atlantic Coast graduated the top player in program history (Illinois signee Patrick Bryant II), but depth remains. RB Arthur Walker (725 rushing yards, 10 TDs) is back to lead the offense. He’ll have the full attention of the Mustangs. Mandarin has won six straight in this series, which was featured in the inaugural Bold City Showdown in 2018, and in the Bold City Showcase the following year. The Mustangs slumped to 3-6 last year and struggled to move the ball. Defensively, Mandarin should be better, with S Tony Carter back and healthy, along with returnees in the secondary in leading tackler Carmello Murphy and Joseph Lewis both coming back.

(1) Trinity Christian at (6) Raines, 6:30 p.m.: A Super 10 battle right out of the gate. The Conquerors are tough. RB Treyaun Webb is back and healthy to pace the offense. LB Caden Morrell and DE Johnathan Goddard, Jr. pace the defense. Cam Miller was two-way star at Fernandina Beach last year but will likely be more of a factor in the secondary for Trinity, with occasional contributions on offense. Trinity coach Verlon Dorminey is just four victories away from the 300 career wins coaching mark. According to the Orlando Sentinel, only six coaches in state history have hit that mark. Iconic former Bolles coach Corky Rogers is tops in the state history with 465 career victories. Raines is going to be much better in the second year of Donovan Masline’s coaching career. The Vikings have quite a few significant players returning, with impact players like Kareem Burke and Quincy Burroughs returning at receiver. The secondary, with Kyree Hammond and Kenton Kirkland, is going to be a problem for opposing teams. And QB Carleton Butler is back under center for the Vikings.

Clay at (8) Fleming Island, 7:30 p.m.: You can’t go wrong with a Clay County showdown right out of the gate. This is the 16th meeting between the teams and the Golden Eagles have won 10 of those games, including four straight from 2016-19. The teams didn’t play last season as Week 1 games were wiped out by the delayed start due to the pandemic. The focus in this one is on two exceptional running backs, Clay’s Alquerious Ray (1,898 rushing yards, 24 TDs) and Fleming’s Sam Singleton (921 rushing yards, 7 TDs). The Golden Eagles went 9-3 a year ago but have a few question marks after a slew of graduation losses. They’ve weathered those very well under coach Damenyum Springs, who continues to stack one good season on top of another with the Golden Eagles. Clay was one of the area’s surprise teams in 2020, rebounding from a 1-9 season in 2019 to go 10-2 last year. Chalk that boost up to first-year coach Kyle Kennard getting the most out of his group. The Clay offensive line is annually one of the most consistent units around. And Ray may be the most difficult back to bring down in town.

(10) Sandalwood at Fletcher, 6:30 p.m.: This is always a physical, fun game to see. The Saints turned in their best season in years in 2020, reaching the third round of the state playoffs before losing to eventual champ Seminole. Chris Calhoun is good in and out of the pocket and moves the chains. He is arguably the top senior QB in the area. The Saints graduated quite a bit on defense, as well as the All-News4Jax player of the year in Jadon Canady, but talent remains. DEs Deante McCray and Sayvion Blount are disruptive at the point of attack. The Senators are going to learn as the go on offense under first-year coach and Fletcher icon Ciatrick Fason. But they should be strong on defense, with players like S Merritt Reynolds and mega-recruit DE Aaron Hester.

NEXT FOUR

Nease at Ponte Vedra: Can Panthers end an 11-game slide to their rivals? Turnaround season for Nease is the expectation.

Riverside at Parker, 6:30 p.m.: Big things expected from both of these programs this season.

Tallahassee Rickards at Bartram Trail: Bears had their opener at Ware County replaced by this one.

Westside at Jackson, 6:30 p.m.: Tigers have a good squad this year, led by 2023 mega-recruit Grayson Howard and a very good QB in Jalen Sonnier.

Florida Week 1

All games at 7 p.m.; district games indicated by an *

Friday

Atlantic Coast at Mandarin, 6:30 p.m.

Baker County at Bradford, 7:30 p.m.

Bishop Kenny at Providence

Bishop McLaughlin Catholic at North Florida Educational, canceled due to COVID-19

Bishop Snyder at St. Edward’s

Clay at Fleming Island, 7:30 p.m.

Crescent City at Chiefland

Delray Beach American Heritage at Columbia, 7:30 p.m.

Eagle’s View at St. Joseph

Englewood at Paxon, 6:30 p.m.

Episcopal vs. Tocoi Creek (at St. Augustine High)

Fernandina Beach at Keystone Heights

First Coast vs. Dakota Ridge (Littleton, Colo.), at Kissimmee

Fort White at Union County, canceled due to COVID-19

Harvest at Christ’s Church

Interlachen at Daytona Beach Father Lopez

Lake Weir at Palatka, canceled due to COVID-19

Matanzas at Menendez

Nease at Ponte Vedra*

Pine Ridge at Flagler Palm Coast, rescheduled due to COVID-19

Riverside at Parker, 6:30 p.m.

St. Augustine at Dunnellon, canceled due to COVID-19

Sandalwood at Fletcher, 6:30 p.m.

Stanton at Middleburg

Suwannee at Dixie County, 7:30 p.m.

Tallahassee Rickards at Bartram Trail (replaced Bartram/Ware County game, a trip Bears could not make due to COVID-19 issues at Ware County)

Trinity Christian at Raines, 6:30 p.m.

University Christian at Pensacola Washington, 8 p.m.

Wakulla at White, 6:30 p.m. (replaced White/Baldwin game, which was canceled due to COVID-19)

West Nassau at Bolles (Bold City Showcase)

Westside at Jackson, 6:30 p.m.

Wolfson at Hilliard

Yulee at Hawthorne

Zarephath Academy at Young Kids in Motion, 6 p.m.

Saturday

Creekside vs. Ribault, 3:30 p.m. (Bold City Showcase at Bolles)

Oakleaf vs. Orange Park (Bold City Showcase at Bolles)

OFF: Baldwin, Flagler Palm Coast, Fort White, NFEI, Palatka, Ridgeview, St. Augustine, Union County.

Georgia Week 2

All games at 7:30 p.m.

Brunswick (1-0) at McIntosh County (0-0-1)

Camden County (1-0) at Glynn Academy (0-0-1)

Eagle’s Landing Christian (1-0) at Ware County (1-0)

Pierce County (0-1) at Wayne County (0-1)

OFF: Charlton County.


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.