4 local teams eye state football championships

Raines, University Christian, Baker County, Bartram Trail advance to finals

By Brian Jackson - Digital sports reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Booking a December trip to Orlando is the goal of every high school football team in the state of football. Spring practice started over six months ago and four of our local schools have earned a spot in the state championship game.

4A Title Game: Raines vs Cocoa – Thursday 7 p.m.

Raines (12-1) enters the 4A state title game riding a 12-game winning streak. The Vikings only blemish this year came in their season opener when they lost to Lee 20-16. This is a much different Raines’ roster than the 2015 team that loss 42-23 to Booker T. Washington in the 4A title game. There are less than five players who remain from that team. The Vikings are led by senior quarterback Ivory Durham and a stingy defense. But according to head coach Deran Wiley the difference of this year’s team is the play of the offensive line.

To say Raines has been dominant since that loss to Lee would be a vast understatement. The Vikings won their opening three playoff games by average of 42 points. Cocoa (11-1) also enters the 4A championship game with only one loss. The Tigers won their three playoff games by an average of 48 points.

Raines is looking to become the first Duval County public school to win a state championship since 1997.

2A Title Game: University Christian vs Champagnat Catholic – Friday 10 a.m.

The 2A Championship game is a rematch from 2016. University Christian (10-2) is going for their third straight state title. Champagnat (8-2) has only allowed 88 points all season long. Of late these two schools have been the elite football programs in class 2A. Champanant won the state title in 2012 and the Christians have won the last three in class 2A. A win by University Christian on Friday would give quarterback Clay Boyd his third state championship ring. Boyd leads a Christians’ offense that is averaging 37 points per game.

5A Title Game: Baker County vs American Heritage – Friday 3 p.m.

Baker County (13-1) is in the state title game for the first time in school history after beating West Florida 42-28 last Friday in Pensacola. The Wildcats are an old school smash mouth type of football team. Their game plan is run the ball until an opposing team proves they can stop it. Running back Seth Paige ran for four touchdowns in the semifinal against West Florida, but he’ll be the first to give credit to his offensive line that is nicknamed the “Gate Keepers.”

The Wildcats will have their work cut out for them. American Heritage won the state championship in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The Patriots are undefeated in 2017 and are currently ranked No. 7 in the nation by USA Today.

7A Title Game: Bartram Trail vs Venice – Saturday 3 p.m.

Like Baker Country, Bartram Trail (11-3) has also reached the state title game for the first time in program history. The Bears held of Tampa Plant 34-29 in the semifinals last Friday. Bartram was previously 0-3 in the state semifinals and Plant is a 4x state championship winner.

The Bears have one of the most powerful and unorthodox offenses in the state. They’re averaging 42 points per game and have done so while splitting time between quarterbacks Joey Gatewood and Riley Smith.

Venice pulled off a major upset in the semifinals when they beat powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. The only loss for Venice (14-1) came against IMG Academy who is ranked No. 2 in the country by USA Today.

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