JACKSONVILLE, FLA - What a great week of football Week 7 turned out to be. Let's jump right to it in Snaps.
One great game on Thursday night and two more on Friday night.
• Raines with a 22-21 overtime victory over Sandalwood, a game where the Vikings watched a 14-0 lead wind up in a tie at the end of regulation. Sandalwood struck first in OT and led 21-14. Raines answered back and made the decision to go for the win. Jaylin Griffin, who scored the touchdown in OT, ran in the winner on the two-point conversion.
Raines coach Deran Wiley said the Vikings can take more from this game than any of their others this season. It was their first victory of substance (routs of Paxon and Stanton were by a combined 115-7) in what has been a year of learning experiences.
"We controlled the game, the majority of the game, anyway. Down the stretch, we made some mistakes on offense and defense. It had no business going into overtime, but everything happens for a reason. Being a young team, maybe they've found themselves in this and can understand the process a little bit better. That [two-point decision] was a gut call. We felt good about a certain play and went with it. This game can do more for us than we'll every know."
• And what a finish by Bartram Trail in a 29-27 win over Ponte Vedra in a battle of two Super 10 teams. The Bears connected on a schoolyard play, a hook-and-lateral that went from quarterback Chad Dodson to receiver Brandon Chim and then pitched to A.J. Jones, who went 25 yards to paydirt.
Will Brown of the St. Augustine Record captured that finish in his game story here.
"I'd have to say that was the most exciting finish I have ever been apart of.," Dodson said. "Two-minute drill is something we rep every day in practice. It's the most exciting period of practice. Both sides of the ball are excited and there's tons of energy. I couldn't be more proud of the guys for responding the way we did."
The Sharks, who trailed 23-13 with less than four minutes to play, erased that in a hurry. They scored quickly and then recovered an onside kick and scored again, the go-ahead TD on a fourth-and-9 from the 42 on a pass from R.J. Glod to Aidan Lingenfelger. That set the table for the Bears' rally, a win that moved them to 6-0.
The Bears have what should be an easier game in Week 8 against district rival Nease. Then it's the game of the season Oct. 18 at Oakleaf in a battle that will (barring an epic upset next week) determine the district champ.
• The victory that I didn't see coming was Ribault's 34-30 win over Lee, a back-and-forth game on Thursday night that went down to the wire.
The Trojans scored three defensive touchdowns, including a pair of picks returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the first by Cedric Woodson, the second by Chris Johnson. Eugene Vickers recovered a fumble in the end zone for Ribault in the opening quarter.
Add that to a Lee fake punt from inside its own 15 in the third quarter (it failed) that set Ribault up for a two-play drive that ended with a Santana Jackson to Freddie Manning scoring pass, and it was a night of giving for the Generals.
And it was a night of capitalizing for the Trojans, who badly needed a win with the Northwest Classic — now a district game — on tap next Saturday. WJXT will air that game at 2 p.m.
It's been challenging to figure out Ribault. One week they limit Sandalwood to a pair of touchdowns in a 21-14 win; the next, they muster just one score in a 10-7 loss to Yulee.
Defense has seldom been a problem.
Ribault coach Lin Shell said that the Trojans finally started to put things together in the Lee game, and there were examples of that offensively. Jackson had a distance touchdown pass to Chris Johnson before the half that showcased just how explosive this offense can be with some consistency, an area that Shell said was still a work in progress. To the Trojans' credit, they kept on pounding away and chopped down the Generals for the second time in three seasons.
No doubt the Northwest Classic, the 50th version of it next Saturday at Ribault, benefits from both Raines and Ribault coming in after mega wins.
This one has quite a bit more on the line than just bragging rights. It's a district game this season. A loss by Ribault ends its district title hopes. A loss by Raines means the district championship will be decided in an Oct. 17 game against Yulee.
• What a surprising turnaround by Fernandina Beach, which moved to 3-4 after topping Paxon on Friday night. The Pirates have just about three dozen players on their roster and started the season buried in an 0-4 hole.
They've been outplayed in just two games, Keystone Heights in Week 1 and Yulee in Week 2. They lost 31-27 to Interlachen and 28-21 to Wolfson. Since that 0-4 start, the Pirates have won three straight entering a Nassau County clash with 5-1 West Nassau next week.
The Pirates haven't had large roster sizes in quite some time, and this year's team is no exception. This team was 2-8 a season ago. But making it to five victories this year is certainly within reach and that would be a massive turnaround for second-year coach Jude Swearingen and the Pirates, who have won five games or more just three times in the last 16 years.
The opening of Yulee High School in 2006 certainly has quite a bit to do with Fernandina Beach's struggles, but it has cycled through coaches and low roster numbers quite a bit, even in recent years.
• I've touched on the growth of Parker in Snaps quite a bit this season and it warrants mentioning again.
The Braves, who have won three straight following Friday's 20-13 victory over Baker County, have learned how to play through the valleys and actually build. The win at Memorial Stadium was the best of coach Charron Dorsey's two-year tenure. And it sets the stage for a potential playoff finish for the Braves.
Parker has a tricky district game against an up-and-down White High in Week 8. Its game of the season comes on Oct. 25 against Westside in what could be the biggest game for the Braves in probably 20 years. Beat White and Westside and the Braves win the District 3-5A title outright. Lose one of those and the path to the playoffs is less clear.
The Commanders will be no pushover because a loss essentially ends their district title hopes. But for Parker, what a turnaround. The Braves haven't won 4 games in a season since 2008 when they went 7-3.
• Best bets in Week 8.
Columbia (6-0, 1-0) at Lee (4-2, 1-0), 6 p.m.*
Fernandina Beach (3-4) at West Nassau (5-1)
Mandarin (3-3, 1-1) at Oakleaf (5-1, 1-0), 7 p.m.*
Paxon (2-4, 0-1) at Stanton (0-5, 0-1), 6 p.m.*
Providence (4-1) at Christ's Church (6-0)
Seminole (6-0, 1-0) at Flagler Palm Coast (6-0, 2-0)*
Trinity Christian (3-4) at Colquitt County, Ga. (5-1), 8 p.m.
Raines (3-2) at Ribault (2-3), Saturday, 2 p.m.*
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