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High school football ‘21: Five area teams have sights set on state semifinals

Bolles running back Kade Frew rips off a long run during the Bulldogs' win over Clay on Friday night.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s the third week of the high school football playoffs and it’s win or go home.

Five area teams from North Florida and one from the News4Jax South Georgia coverage region are still alive in the state playoffs. They all play on Friday night.

Winners advance to the state semifinals next week. The state semifinalists will be seeded 1-4 based on season-ending RPI totals, with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 seed hosting the No. 3 seed.

Regional finals

Friday’s schedule; all games 7:30 p.m. unless indicated

Region 1-7A

7. Nease (9-3) at 1. Gainesville Buchholz (11-1)

Road here: Nease d. Spruce Creek, 24-21; d. Niceville, 24-19; Buchholz d. Fleming Island, 35-7; d. Orange City University, 39-7.

Winner gets: Lake Gibson (.601)/Melbourne (.623); St. Thomas Aquinas (.730)/Homestead (.671); Tampa Bay Tech (.756/Wharton (.605) in the state semifinals. Nease’s .564 RPI means it would travel to face any of those teams.

Glance: The remarkable run of the Panthers continues. Nease has won more playoff games this season than it won in the regular seasons of 2019 and ‘20, combined. That’s how drastic of a turnaround it’s been for the Panthers. They scratched out another playoff upset last week in the Panhandle. QB Marcus Stokes has passed for 2,506 yards (22 TDs, 6 INTs) this season, but it was his breakaway 29-yard TD run in crunch time that helped the Panthers put Niceville away. WR Dom Henry had his streak 100-yard receiving games end last week, but he still managed to get into the end zone. Henry’s 1,435 receiving yards (12 TDs) lead the state. LB Ben Bogle had a career-high 21 tackles against Niceville. He has 185 tackles on the season, including 31 for loss and 17 sacks. The pressure will be on Nease’s offense to find a path to the end zone against one of the best defenses in the state. Buchholz has allowed just three opponents to reach double figures in scoring (Bartram Trail, Cardinal Gibbons and Chiles) and is holding opponents to just 7.3 points per game. Can Nease extend its dream season and reach its first state semifinal since 2007?

Region 1-5A

3. Wakulla (10-2) at 1. Baker County (10-2), 7 p.m.

Road here: Wakulla d. Bishop Kenny, 52-24; d. Raines, 32-27; Baker County d. White, 28-12; d. West Florida, 13-10.

Winner gets: Clearwater (.635)/Sebring (.573); Killian (.694)/Miami Central (.656); Merritt Island (.671)/Satellite (.578) in the state semifinals. Baker County’s .618 RPI means it could host Sebring or Satellite but travel to face the other teams.

Glance: The War Eagles face their third straight area opponent. Wakulla handled Raines last week by forcing three turnovers and converting all of those into points. Baker County will have its defensive focus on RB Zamarion Smith (1,737 rushing yards, 17 TDs), who went for 175 of those last week. The Wildcats excel at running the ball hard and playing tough defense. The two-back system of Cam Smith (1,300 rushing yards, 15 TDs) and Jamarian Baker (875 rushing yards, 13 TDs), meshed with the passing of Noah Ray (1,335 passing yards, 12 TDs) give Baker County a balanced offense. But the backbone of this Wildcats team is defense, and a lot of it. LBs Camilo Rollins (111 tackles, 9 TFL), Bryce Kazmierczak (81 tackles, 9 sacks) and Toby Kinghorn (76 tackles, 6 sacks) are tough. DE Orlando Holland (18 sacks) is one of the area’s best at bringing the quarterback down. That doesn’t even include the secondary, which is the area’s most larcenous unit. Jamil Jones has a 904/912 and 386-best 10 interceptions. Ronnie Ellis preserved last week’s win over West Florida with his fifth pick of the season with less than a minute to play.

Region 1-4A

2. Bolles (7-2) at 1. South Walton (10-1), 8:30 p.m.

Road here: Bolles d. Gadsden County, 27-6; South Walton d. Baldwin, 42-28. Both teams had byes in the first round.

Winner gets: Lakewood (.674)/Clewiston (.584); Gulliver Prep (.722)/Cardinal Gibbons (.694); Cocoa (.768)/Villages (.702) in the state semifinals. Bolles’ .652 RPI means it could host Clewiston but would travel to face any of the other teams.

Glance: Call this a collision of styles. 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). Big difference between these teams? Competition. South Walton’s schedule was filled with smaller programs in the regular season (4 Class 1A teams, 3 Class 4A teams, 1 Class 3A and 2A team and an independent). Bolles played two smaller classification schools, Trinity Christian and University Christian and one independent (TRU Prep). The Bulldogs have a rugged ground game centered around RB Kade Frew (1,245 rushing yards, 18 TDs) and a powerful offensive line. Bolles wants to wear teams out at the line of scrimmage and then solder the game shut with defense. LB Jack Pyburn (84 tackles, 27 TFL, 11 sacks), DLs Bradley Mann (45 tackles, 5 sacks) and Hayden Schwartz (47 tackles, 6 sacks), LB Trent Carter (50 tackles) and DB Spencer Surface (48 tackles, 4 INTs) headline the defense. DB Kavon Miller also has four interceptions and adds an edge to Bolles’ special teams. He took a kickoff back for a touchdown last week.

Region 1-2A

2. Quincy Munroe (8-2) at 1. Trinity Christian (7-4)

Road here: Munroe d. University Christian, 36-23; Trinity d. St. John Paul II, 44-7. Both teams had byes in the first round.

Winner gets: First Baptist Academy (.660)/Northside Christian (.575); John Carroll Catholic (.569)/Champagnat Catholic (.639); Orlando Christian Prep (.675)/Zephyrhills Christian (.594) in the state semifinals. Trinity’s .613 RPI means it could host Northside Christian, John Carroll Catholic or Zephyrhills Christian in the state semifinals. It would travel to face the other teams.

Glance: Munroe notched the biggest win in program history when it stunned University Christian. It marked the first playoff victory ever for the Bobcats. The reward? A date with presumptive state championship favorite Trinity. The teams share one common opponent — St. John Paul II. Munroe won that game, 19-9. The Conquerors won in a running clock effort last week. RB Treyaun Webb had the best rushing game of his career last week (215 yards, 3 TDs on just 13 carries). That was his first game over 100 yards rushing since a win over Raines on Oct. 30, 2020. Webb, an Oklahoma commit, has been limited due to injuries. With him healthy alongside Darnell Rogers (1,032 rushing yards, 10 TDs), the Conquerors are that much more difficult to defend. QB Colin Hurley has had his growing pains (5 TDs, 8 INTs) in the second half of the season against a tougher schedule, but he’s still capable of lighting a team up. Hurley had a dominant effort against Plantation American Heritage (7 of 9 passing, 163 yards, 3 TDs) in Week 7. His top target is Fred Highsmith (11 TDs on 28 catches, 474 receiving yards). LBs Caden Morrell (119 tackles, 10.5 TFL), Cameron Anderson (82 tackles, 14 TFL, 3 INT) and DL/LB Johnathan Goddard Jr. (61 tackles, 5.5 TFL) lead Trinity in tackles. Another LB, Keaton Thomas, is tops on the team with four interceptions.

Region 3-1A

3. Union County (12-0) at 1. Chiefland (10-1)

Road here: Union d. Trenton, 49-13; d. Hilliard, 52-14; Chiefland had a first-round bye, then d. Lafayette, 28-27 in OT.

Winner gets: Baker (.624)/Chipley (.577); Madison County (.620)/Blountstown (.689); Hawthorne (.672)/Pahokee (.616) in the state semifinals. Union’s .630 RPI means it could host Baker, Chipley, Madison County and Pahokee in the state semifinals. It would travel to face Blountstown or Hawthorne.

Glance: Can Chiefland slow down the Tigers’ fast-paced offense? Union County enters this one lighting up scoreboards to the tune of 41.7 points per game. RB Rayvon Durant carved up Hilliard last week with 157 rushing yards, igniting a ground game that chewed up 467 yards. Durant isn’t alone. RBs Thomas Williams (11 rushing TDs), Caleb Crawford (11 rushing TDs), Daylyn Diston (5 rushing TDs) and Dayviontae Thompson (5 rushing TDs) take turns finding the end zone. LBs Curran Webb (94 tackles, 30 TFL, 14 sacks) and Trevor Holtzendorf (86 tackles, 12.5 TFL) are approaching 100-tackle seasons. And Diston has six of the Tigers’ 16 interceptions. The teams share three common opponents, Dixie County, Trenton and Williston. Chiefland won 14-7, 42-0 and 59-7, respectively; Union won 28-12, 49-13 and 46-12, respectively. The Tigers are looking to get past the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2003 when it reached the Class 2B championship game and lost to Pahokee. Union County faced Chiefland in the 2020 regular season and rolled, 42-7.

Florida playoff schedule

Regional finals

Friday, Nov. 26, all games 7:30 p.m. unless indicated

Region 1-7A

7. Nease (9-3) at 1. Gainesville Buchholz (11-1)

Region 1-5A

3. Wakulla (10-2) at 1. Baker County (10-2), 7 p.m.

Region 1-4A

2. Bolles (7-2) at 1. South Walton (10-1), 8:30 p.m.

Region 1-2A

2. Quincy Munroe (8-2) at 1. Trinity Christian (7-4)

Region 3-1A

3. Union County (12-0) at 1. Chiefland (10-1)

Georgia playoff schedule

Class 3A

Peach County (8-3) at Pierce County (10-2), 7 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.