JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Practicing on Thanksgiving is one of the benchmarks of a successful high school football season.
Bolles has plenty of experience with that.
This marks the Bulldogs’ fourth straight season of making it to a turkey week game, and they’re one of just six teams in the News4Jax Florida and Georgia coverage regions to reach the third round of the playoffs.
Baker County, Nease, Pierce County, Trinity Christian and Union County are the others still going strong.
Second-seeded Bolles (7-2) travels to face No. 1 South Walton (10-1) in the Region 1-4A final on Friday night.
Coach Matt Toblin said that it’s not only big for current players to be involved in, but just as important for former the school’s alumni base.
“No, it’s a big deal. And it’s not just a big deal for our kids. It’s a big deal for our alumni. I know how special it is and how excited they are, that our … our recent alumni and our alumni that go back decades or get an opportunity to come back so we can give thanks to them for the program they built and put us in this situation we are today.”
It’s been an odd end of the season for the Bulldogs.
Atlanta Marist backed out of a Week 7 game against the Bulldogs and Bolles had a Week 8 bye. It returned by dropping regular season games against Gainesville Buchholz and TRU Prep Academy in Weeks 9 and 10, respectively. Daytona Beach Mainland, its Week 11 opponent, elected not to play in the regular season finale due to impending weather.
With a playoff bye in the opening round, that meant last week’s win over Gadsden County was Bolles’ first game since Oct. 29.
“We played three games in seven weeks. And so, we are actually kind of treating it back like we just got out of camp,” Toblin said. “And so we’re hoping the biggest improvement you make should be between Week one and Week two. So, we’re treating last week like it was Week one. And so our biggest jump as a team should be this week, making corrections of all the mistakes that we made last week. And so, we’re hoping to make some big some big leaps in terms of execution.”
On paper, the trek to South Walton in the Panhandle will be a test for Bolles’ defense. The Seahawks are averaging 42.2 points a game. The Bulldogs have given up just 73 points on the defensive side of the ball this season (8.1 ppg).
The teams last met in the 2019 state playoffs in town. Bolles crushed South Walton, 62-6.
“South Walton has a very good offense, but I mean we’re also very well on the defensive side of the ball, so I think it’ll be a pretty good matchup for us,” said Bolles defensive lineman Bradley Mann.