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High school football ‘21: Glance at Class 1A-4A state playoff matchups

The Jackson football team is 7-3 and will host a playoff game for the first time since 2009. (Justin Barney, News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The regular season is over and the playoffs are here. The postseason begins on Friday night (well, Thursday for Fleming Island in Region 1-7A) for high school football teams in Florida and Georgia. News4Jax takes a look at matchups in Class 1A-4A. All games are Friday at 7:30 p.m. unless indicated.

Region 1-4A

2. Bolles (6-2), bye

4. Baldwin (6-3) vs. 5. Marianna (5-5), 6:30 p.m.

Winner gets: 1. South Walton (9-1) in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face South Walton.

Glance: The Indians have three losses, but just one of those games was out of reach, the season finale against Baker County (49-21). They lost to Episcopal on a walk-off rushing touchdown. And a missed PAT against Jackson in the final minute led to a 16-15 loss. WRs Jahad Miller and Dejuan Malpress have been the big targets for the Indians and its two QBs, Ethan Krause and Jalen Hitchens. LB Malcolm Harvin leads Baldwin in tackles. The Indians have been very consistent after back-to-back losses to the Eagles and Tigers, the headlining win of that span a 38-21 rout of an always-tough Bradford team.

3. Jackson (7-3) vs. 6. Gadsden County (2-6), 6:30 p.m.

Winner gets: 2. Bolles (6-2) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Bolles.

Glance: It has been a long, long time coming for the Tigers. Jackson last qualified for the playoffs back in 2010 under coach Quinn Gray. Since then, it has been a turnstile of coaches, losing seasons and constant struggles. That has changed this year under coach Christopher Foy, who has led Jackson to its first winning season since Kevin Sullivan’s last year in 2009. RB Fred Gaines is a big-play threat. He’s closing in on a 1,000-yard rushing season (862 yards, 6 TDs). J’nethen Jackson (625 yards, 4 TDs) and QB Jalen Sonnier (396 yards, 6 TDs) give the Tigers three players who can move the ball out of the backfield. Sonnier’s passing is also a threat. He’s got 1,316 yards and 11 TDs, spread out well. Five receivers have 156 yards or more receiving, with Gaines, Matthew Merritt and Caleb Francis the primary targets. This defense is very good. LB Grayson Howard (137 tackles) is a rising star and poised to be Jackson’s top player since the Sullivan era. DE Richard Garrett (114 tackles, 11.5 sacks) has to be accounted for off the edge. Jackson has picked off 18 passes, with Khalil Francis’ four leading the team.

Region 2-4A

3. Keystone Heights (9-1) vs. 6. Umatilla (6-4)

Winner gets: 2. Villages Charter in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Villages.

Glance: Keystone’s quest at a first 10-0 regular season ended with a thud last week in a 33-14 loss to P.K. Yonge. They can bounce back in a big way in a very winnable playoff opener. RB Dalton Hollingsworth (1,300 rushing yards, 21 TDs) leads the rush-heavy Keystone attack. RB Logan Williams (738 rushing yards, 6 TDs) and QB Tyler Jenkins (546 rushing yards, 9 TDs) give the Indians some versatility with their offense. Keystone is built to win with its ground game and defense. Williams has a team-best six sacks from his linebacker spot. Hollingsworth has a team-high 54 tackles from his safety position. Keystone has allowed just four teams to reach double figures in scoring this season.

Region 1-3A

4. Gainesville P.K. Yonge (7-3) vs. Crescent City (7-3)

Winner gets: 1. Ocala Trinity Catholic (6-2) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Trinity Catholic.

Glance: Not an easy opener for the Raiders. The Blue Wave are coming off of a win over previously unbeaten Keystone Heights in the regular-season finale. QB Naykeem Scott is key to everything Crescent City does. The Raiders were 0-8 last season. A win would be their first playoff victory since 2018.

3. Florida State University High (8-1) vs. 6. Episcopal (6-4)

Winner gets: 2. Walton (9-1) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Walton.

Glance: A tough playoff opener for the Eagles and first-year head coach Marcus Wells. QB Joseph Wiesner (1,814 passing yards, 13 TDs), RB Ershod Jasey (823 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and WR Corey Scott (801 receiving yards, 5 TDs) are all on the verge of statistical milestones. Scott also has a team-best three interceptions from his defensive back position. LB Elijah Franklin (94 tackles) and Jasey (60 tackles) are Episcopal’s top players on defense. Florida High has state championship expectations this year after getting blistered by Trinity Christian to spoil an unbeaten season in the 2020 playoffs. Florida High ended Episcopal’s 2019 season in the playoffs, a year that the Eagles won the first state playoff game in school history.

Region 1-2A

1. Trinity Christian (6-4), bye

3. University Christian (6-4) vs. 6. Rocky Bayou Christian (6-3)

Winner gets: Quincy Munroe (7-2) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Munroe.

Glance: Tough break for the Christians in Week 11, with a 28-21 loss to Atlantic Coast relegating them from a No. 1 seed to a 3 and bumping them from a bye week. When the Christians are healthy, they are dangerous. Versatile athlete Orel Gray is so important to what UC does on both sides of the ball and he’s missed time with a rib injury. QB Desirrio Riles has been more dangerous rushing the ball than passing it. UC’s four losses look bad, but they’ve all come to solid, playoff-bound programs (Atlantic Coast, Bolles, Madison County, Parker). DE Kaydrick Robinson is UC’s top pass-rushing threat and LB Luke Thomas the Christians’ leading tackler. On paper, UC shouldn’t have too much trouble in the early rounds of the postseason. A regional final clash against No. 1 seed Trinity Christian has been expected since the reclassification earlier this year.

Region 3-1A

2. Hilliard (9-1), bye

4. Lafayette (7-3) vs. 5. Fort White (5-4)

Winner gets: 1. Chiefland (9-1) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Chiefland.

Glance: Talk about a bounce-back season for the Indians. Fort White went 2-8 last year, notching both of those victories in the everyone’s-in playoffs. QB Clayton Philpot (658 passing yards, 8 TDs), RB Kamarion Griffin (356 rushing yards, 3 TDs, 247 receiving yards, 3 TDs) have helped the Indians pivot back to normalcy.

3. Union County (10-0) vs. 6. Trenton (4-5)

Winner gets: Hilliard (9-1) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Hilliard.

Glance: The Tigers were the lone area team in the News4Jax Florida coverage area to post a 10-0 record, albeit against the weakest strength of schedule of any team in MaxPreps’ top 142 teams in the state. RBs Rayvon Durant (878 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and Caleb Crawford (577 rushing yards, 8 TDs), WR Daylyn Diston (281 receiving yards, 4 TDs) and QB Martin Odum (526 passing yards, 7 TDs) lead the Union County offense. Diston has a team-best four of the Tigers’ 11 interceptions. LB Curran Webb leads the way on defense with 84 tackles and 14 sacks. A win here would set up an all-local second round against 9-1 Hilliard.

Region 4-1A

3. Bradford (5-5) vs. 6. Newberry (5-5)

Winner gets: 2. Pahokee (7-1) in the regionals semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Pahokee.

Glance: The Tornadoes always seem to find themselves in the state playoffs. Last year, they went two rounds deep in Class 4A. They’ve played in the big games over the years, including a tough 16-6 regional final loss to Bolles in 2019 and a run to the Class 4A state semifinals in 2017 where they lost to eventual state champion Raines. QB Amari Jones (1,686 passing yards, 14 TDs, 339 rushing yards, 7 TDs), RB Manny Covey (383 rushing yards, 6 TDs) and WRs Jontez Williams (514 receiving yards, 4 TDs) and Chalil Cummings (348 receiving yards, 6 TDs) lead the offense. LB Chason Clark (67 tackles) and Cummings (59 tackles) lead Bradford on defense. The big question is how far can the Tornadoes take this in 1A? A win here gives them a shot at Pahokee next week. Could the Tornadoes surprise and rip off a state semifinal run?


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.