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High school football ‘21: Glance at 5A-8A state playoff matchups

Creekside running back Preston Strope barrels through Ponte Vedra defenders during a Week 10 game. The Knights travel to face Gainesville Buchholz in the playoff opener on Friday. (Ralph D. Priddy) (Ralph D. Priddy, 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 5A-8A. All games are Friday at 7:30 p.m. unless indicated. Previews of 1A-4A games can be found here.

Region 1-8A

2. Bartram Trail (8-2) vs. 7. Lake Brantley (6-4)

Winner gets: Creekside or Apopka in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Bartram would host either team.

Glance: The Bears always find themselves in the state playoffs and are a good pick to win at least a game. Bartram’s offense took some time to get moving and it’s not been the typical scoreboard-popping numbers Bears’ fans are accustomed to. Bartram doesn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher or passer (yet), although QB Riley Trujillo (978 yards, 9 TDs) is getting close. The Bears have had difficulty putting up big offensive point totals. They’ve scored 26 points or less seven times this season. Two of their highest point totals of the year, however, did come over the final three weeks. Statistically, it’s been an off-year on offense, but not on the other side of the ball. The Bears have shown significant ability to win smashmouth, low-scoring affairs and choke out opposing offenses. LBs Zeke Cromwell and Dylan Chiedo have 147 tackles between them. And Bartram has the best kicker around in Liam Padron, a through-the-upright magnet (17 of 23 FGs).

3. Apopka (8-2) vs. 6. Creekside (8-2)

Winner gets: Bartram Trail or Lake Brantley in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Creekside would host Lake Brantley, but travel to face Bartram.

Glance: Coach Sean McIntyre knew before the season began that this team had the potential to be one of the best in Knights’ history. The veterans were all over the field, highlighted by RB Preston Strope (1,256 rushing yards, 19 TDs), CB Carter Mceachean (4 INTs) and edge players Vincent Approbato (30 tackles, 3 sacks) and Christian Yousefzadeh (61 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks). Others, like LB Ian Mooney (79 tackles) and QB Jacob Dennie (1,648 passing yards, 14 TDs) elevated their games to help Creekside produce the best regular season in program history. There have been several tough games that the Knights dug deep to win (Mandarin, Ribault, Sandalwood, Ponte Vedra) in that eight-win campaign. Can the Knights find that playoff success against one of the best programs in state history right out of the playoff gate?

Region 1-7A

1. Gainesville Buchholz (9-1) vs. 8 Fleming Island (6-4), Thursday, 7 p.m.

Winner gets: Fletcher or University in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Fleming would travel to face either team.

Glance: The Golden Eagles vaulted in to the state playoffs with a Week 11 win and some help. The reward is their most challenging opponent of the season in a tough-as-nails Bobcats team that has state championship caliber talent. RB Sam Singleton (927 rushing yards, 9 TDs) headlines an offensive attack that has six different rushers at 100 yards or more this season. QB Cibastian Broughton (1,067 passing yards, 7 TDs, 203 rushing yards, TD) is one of the area’s stellar 2025 passers. Those two will face a defense that has smothered every opponent it has seen this season. Even in Buchholz’s lone loss against defending Class 4A state champion Cardinal Gibbons, it only allowed 16 points. The Bobcats have also claimed wins over area teams Bartram Trail, Bolles and Sandalwood.

4. Fletcher (5-5) vs. 5. Orange City University (6-2), 6:30 p.m.

Winner gets: Buchholz or Fleming Island in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Fletcher would host Fleming, but travel to Buchholz.

Glance: The Senators won the games that they needed to to win the District 3-7A title after an 0-3 start, turning back playoff teams Atlantic Coast, Fleming Island and Nease. Fletcher’s RPI was the worst among those teams and it would have missed the playoffs without winning the district title. The Senators have run extremely hot and cold this season on the offensive side of the ball. QB Marcelis Tate has been a spark for the Senators (655 passing yards, 6 TDs), but running the ball is what Fletcher leans on. When the ground game has struggled, the Senators have, too. Defense is what Fletcher has done predictably well this year. S Merritt Reynolds (103 tackles) and DE Aaron Hester (46 tackles, 5 sacks) are the playmakers for Fletcher. The Senators love to drag teams into a field position battle, led its defense lead the way and Tate and RB Jabarri Williams chew up yardage in small pieces. Fletcher needs to keep this game low scoring.

2. Spruce Creek (8-1) vs. 7. Nease (7-3)

Winner gets: Niceville or Atlantic Coast in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Nease would travel to face either team.

Glance: What a turnaround for the Panthers. A season ago, they won one game. They let the district title slip away with a late game slide against Fletcher. QB Marcus Stokes (1,938 passing yards, 18 TDs) and WR Dom Henry (1,114 yards, 9 TDs) may be the best pass-catch combo in the area. But this defense is powerful, too. Ben Bogle (149 tackles, 13 sacks, 2 INT, 5 FF, 5 FR) is in the conversation as the area’s best linebacker. He’s relentless and the heartbeat of the Panthers’ defense. Fellow LB Zach Harmon (107 tackles) is also in the three-digit tackle mark. S Creed McClafferty has six of the Panthers’ 16 interceptions. Nease has gone flat in games on offense, notably against Fletcher, Ponte Vedra and Yulee. It needs to avoid those prolonged dry spells against a Hawks team that has erased offenses all season long. Spruce Creek is holding teams to just 8.6 points per game.

3. Niceville (9-1) vs. 6. Atlantic Coast (6-4)

Winner gets: Spruce Creek or Nease in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Atlantic Coast would host Nease but travel to face Spruce Creek.

Glance: The breakthrough for the Stingrays came in the state playoffs last year. That was the first step. This season has been about consistency and Atlantic Coast has done that well. Take away games against Riverside and Nease and the Stingrays have been in every outing this season. The offense is all about getting RB Arthur Walker the ball. He’s rushed for 1,252 yards and 16 TDs. QB Jacob Corley has provided a bit of the dual-threat ability, passing for 574 yards (5 TDs) and rushing for 321 yards and five TDs. S Rontavion Scott leads the team in tackles (90) and interceptions (three). DE Camden Hardy leads Atlantic Coast in sacks (5). The challenge is significant here for the Stingrays. Any Panhandle trip is a doozy for area teams and Niceville is a perennial playoff team.

Region 1-6A

4. Columbia (6-4) vs. 5. Riverside (9-1)

Winner gets: Pine Forest of Rickards in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Both teams would travel to face Pine Forest and both teams would host Rickards.

Glance: This has become quite the rivalry since 2013, with the teams meeting every year since then and sometimes even twice a season. That’s happened in 2016 (Riverside sweep), 2018 (Columbia win in the regular season, Riverside win in the playoffs) and 2019 (Riverside sweep, with an OT victory in the regular season and a 2OT slugfest in the playoffs). The Generals’ 28-26 loss in the regular season stings. Riverside led 26-7 entering the fourth before the Tigers roared back for the stunner. That loss kept the Generals from the No. 1 overall seed in the region and likely sends them on the road to face No. 1 Pine Forest next week. RB Alvin Gibson (901 rushing yards, 16 TDs) and WRs Freddie Manning III (506 receiving yards, 5 TDs) and Rickie Shaw (261 receiving yards, 5 TDs) are the favorite targets of QBs Daniel Plummer (1,188 passing yards, 12 TDs) and Cale Zarah (433 passing yards, 11 TDs). This defense is special. While five-star corner Jaheim Singletary (25 tackles, 3 INTs) casts a large shadow, it’s the strength at all three levels that sets this defense up as one of the area’s top three units. DE Masiah Wells (50 tackles, 8 sacks), DT De’Avery Wells (46 tackles) and LB Lawrence Neloms (43 tackles, 3 sacks) are headliners up front. The Tigers have run hot and cold this season on offense. RB Tony Fulton (337 rushing yards, 3 TDs), ATH Tray Tolliver (6 TDs) and QB Evan Umstead (494 passing yards, 8 TDs) have been the playmakers for the Tigers.

Region 1-5A

1. Baker County (8-2) vs. 8. White (5-4)

Winner gets: North Marion or West Florida in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. White would travel to face either team. Baker County would host either team.

Glance: One of two district rematches in this region and it should be a good one. The Wildcats won the first game 36-16. Their two losses this season are by a combined 10 points. They’re good and they’re deep. QB Noah Ray (1,141 passing yards, 12 TDs) gives Baker County a passing threat, something that they’re going to need for an extended playoff run. One-dimensional teams tend to have a playoff ceiling of two rounds. RBs Cam Smith (1,085 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and Jamarian Baker (764 rushing yards, 12 TDs) give Baker County a strong 1-2 punch. WR Jaymodd Ruise has eight TD catches (464 yards) on just 22 receptions. LB Camilo Rollins (99 tackles), DE Orlando Holland (15 sacks) and DB Jamil Jones (8 INTs) give the Wildcats presence at all three levels. This defense is good. They’ll have their attention squarely on Commanders RBs Christian Ellis (1,357 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and Davaughn Patterson (349 rushing yards, 6 TDs). White can throw the ball, but that’s not one of its strengths. The Commanders like to keep it on the ground and wear teams down. LB Westley Madison (86 tackles) and Patterson at safety (80 tackles, 3 INTs) provide the big help on defense.

2. Raines (7-2) vs. 7. Parker (7-3), 6:30 p.m.

Winner gets: Wakulla or Bishop Kenny in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Raines would host either team. Parker would travel to face either team.

Glance: How about another rematch of a regular season slugfest. First one to 10 wins. The Vikings edged Parker 13-9 in a game that eventually decided the district title. The arrow is pointing up on both teams. Raines has found its niche and that’s plenty of RB Kareem Burke (849 rushing yards, 4 TDs, 520 receiving yards, 6 TDs) no matter how he gets the ball. QB Reshawn Latimer (574 passing yards, 7 TDs) has played quite a bit due to injuries for starter Carleton Butler, but he’s more than able to carry the load. Raines LB Rashaad Hall (74 tackles) and DB Kyree Hammond (56 tackles) are two pieces of a much-improved defense. Can these teams move the ball on each other? Parker’s offense has been lacking at times and it needs to pick things up in a hurry. RB Darrell Sawyer III (455 rushing yards, 4 TDs) and Justin Drayton (244 rushing yards, 4 TDs) provide the hard yards in the Parker ground game. ATH CJ Dorsey is Parker’s most valuable playmaker. He’s got 1,165 total yards and five TDs. But he’s dominant on defense, too, with eight interceptions. He and S Damani Dent (57 tackles, 4 INT) are ballhawks for a defense that has 26 takeaways.

3. Wakulla (8-2) vs. 6. Bishop Kenny (7-2)

Winner gets: Raines or Parker in the regional semifinals on Nov. 19. Bishop Kenny would host Parker but travel to face Raines.

Glance: Who saw the Crusaders making a six-game turnaround this season? Kenny went 1-8 a year ago and doubled that win total by Week 2. They’ve coasted in the games they should have (Stanton, Providence, Paxon, Tocoi Creek) but been solid in games against more difficult competition. Only once this year were the Crusaders truly outplayed (the first half against Baker County), but they have been far more consistent from the second half of that game onward. Sophomore QB James Resar (1,266 passing yards, 14 TDs, 476 rushing yards, 10 TDs) has continued his development. WRs Jayden Harris (513 receiving yards, 5 TDs) and Andrew Tabor (348 receiving yards, 4 TDs) have been dependable pass catchers. LB Baylor Newsom (123 tackles, INT) has been a game-changer in the middle of the field.

Florida high school football playoff schedule

All games Friday at 7:30 p.m. unless indicated; higher seeded team hosts

Region 1-8A

1. Seminole (9-1) vs. 8. Winter Park (6-4)

4. Timber Creek (7-3) vs. 5. Lake Mary (9-1)

2. Bartram Trail (8-2) vs. 7. Lake Brantley (6-4)

3. Apopka (8-2) vs. 6. Creekside (8-2)

Region 1-7A

1. Gainesville Buchholz (9-1) vs. 8 Fleming Island (6-4), Thursday, 7 p.m.

4. Fletcher (5-5) vs. 5. Orange City University (6-2), 6:30 p.m.

2. Spruce Creek (8-1) vs. 7. Nease (7-3)

3. Niceville (9-1) vs. 6. Atlantic Coast (6-4)

Region 1-6A

1. Pine Forest (8-1) vs. 8. Rickards (6-4)

4. Columbia (6-4) vs. 5. Riverside (9-1)

2. Mosley (9-1) vs. 7. Gulf Breeze (7-3)

3. Gainesville (8-2) vs. 6. Lincoln (8-2)

Region 1-5A

1. Baker County (8-2) vs. 8. White (5-4)

4. North Marion (6-3) vs. 5. West Florida (8-1)

2. Raines (7-2) vs. 7. Parker (7-3), 6:30 p.m.

3. Wakulla (8-2) vs. 6. Bishop Kenny (7-2)

Region 1-4A

1. South Walton (9-1), bye

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

2. Bolles (6-2), bye

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

Region 2-4A

1. Cocoa (8-1), bye

4. South Sumter (6-4) vs. 5. Hernando (6-4)

2. Villages Charter (10-0), bye

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

Region 1-3A

1. Ocala Trinity Catholic (6-2), bye

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

2. Walton (9-1), bye

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

Region 1-2A

1. Trinity Christian (6-4), bye

4. St. Johns Paul II (8-2) vs. 5. North Florida Christian (6-4)

2. Quincy Munroe (7-2)

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

Region 3-1A

1. Chiefland (9-1), bye

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

2. Hilliard (9-1), bye

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

Region 4-1A

1. Hawthorne (7-0), bye

4. Wildwood (5-4) vs. 5. Fort Meade (5-4)

2. Pahokee (7-1), bye

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

Georgia high school football schedule

All games Friday at 7:30 p.m.; higher seeded team hosts

Class 7A

4. Camden County (4-6) at 1. North Cobb (9-1)

3. Meadowcreek (5-5) at 2. Roswell (8-2)

Class 6A

4. Tucker (2-8) at 1. Brunswick (10-0), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

3. Pope (7-3) at 2. Dacula (6-4), Saturday, 1 p.m.

3. Shiloh (4-6) at 2. Allatoona (7-3), Saturday, 7 p.m.

4. Glynn Academy (4-5-1) at 1. Hughes (9-1), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Class 5A

4. Banneker (5-5) at 1. Ware County (8-1)

3. Decatur (8-2) at 2. Calhoun (8-2)

Class 3A

4. Windsor Forest (5-4) at 1. Pierce County (8-2)

3. Sandy Creek (9-1) at 2. Dawson County (6-4)

Class 1A Public

4. Charlton County (7-3) at 1. Wilcox County (7-3), Saturday, 6:30 p.m.

3. Social Circle (6-4) at 2. Trion (9-1), Saturday, 6:30 p.m.


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.