Top ranked Bolles is making its state record twenty-fourth appearance in the state playoffs. They are also tied with their Jacksonville neighbors, University Christian, with six state championships, most in Florida history. The Bulldogs dropped a tough 21-17 contest to Miami Monsignor Pace in last year's 3A final. As usual, they're back in the hunt for another title, which is what you expect from Coach Corky Rogers, the winningest coach in Florida history.
St. Augustine last checked into the state title game in 2001 where the Yellow Jackets were thumped 38-6 by Rockledge. The Yellow Jackets can score. They took a pair of victories over arch-rival Nease 33-30 and 35-28 (playoffs) over state record passer Tim Tebow. St. Augustine is led by quarterback Carlton Smith, a southpaw who has thrown for 22 touchdowns on the season in the Yellow Jackets new wide open offensive system. One of the finest athletes on the squad is Jacques Rickerson, a junior with eight picks including two last week off Tebow. Rickerson has also scored four touchdowns receiving. He will be on everybody's watch list over the summer.
Tampa Jefferson at Miami Monsignor Pace 3A
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Jefferson head coach Mike Simmonds has his squad poised for another title run. Two years ago, Simmonds brought current Florida wide receiver Andre Caldwell to the state title game, losing a heartbreaker to Palm Bay, 19-10. One of the most underrated offensive linemen in the state of Florida is Antuan Lewis of Jefferson. I first saw Lewis (6-4, 310) when Jefferson played in the jamboree last spring. He is a solid driver blocker and one of the more aggressive linemen in the trenches. Lewis opens holes for one of the quickest backs I've seen in Alex Suber. At 5-7, 155, Suber cuts and runs like a gazelle, showing extraordinary vision. There is no question that he'll be dangerous as a slot receiver in college.
Coach Joe Zaccheo has Pace in its tenth consecutive playoff appearance. Last season Pace defeated Bolles, 21-17. Running back Conredge Collins (5-11, 220) is one of the nation's top backs. Blessed with power and quickness, Collins is one of those guys who just gets it done. He doesn't have great speed but he has everything else you could want in a top back. Wide receiver Quinton Andrews (5-11, 180) has been outstanding for Pace. He is also a double threat as one the top defensive backs for the Spartans. Andrews is drawing interest from the likes of Georgia, Florida, and West Virginia.
Blounstown at Jacksonville Trinity Christian 1A
The Blountstown Tigers are a program on the fast track. The Tigers were the 1A 2003 state champions in weightlifting but there has been a long dry spell when it comes to success on gridiron. Blountstown hasn't won a game in the state playoffs since 1977. In fact, former Florida linebacker Fernando Jackson and the Tigers captured the state title that very year with a 27-17 win over Clermont. Jackson, who is seventh on UF's career tackles list, was an All-SEC performer in 1981. The Tigers were a state powerhouse in the 70s. In 1976, Blountstown shut out Pahokee, 12-0, for its second state championship. The Tigers won their first state title beating current 1A power Ft. Meade, 40-28, in 1973.
The Tigers (13-0) have used an effective ground game to power their way to the top of the 1A rankings. Running backs Chance Attaway, Arsenio Ivory and T.C. Copeland combined for 263 rushing yards and four touchdowns in last weekend's 32-7 blowout over Vernon. Attaway is the Tigers top threat though. The Tigers averaged 43.7 points per game. Defensively, the Tigers are tough. In ten games, they pitched six shutouts. In two others, they gave up just six points for a season average of just 3.6 points per game. However, Blountstown did give up chunks of yardage through the air to Hilliard two weeks ago.
Trinity Christian is gunning for a trip to Gainesville, where they can compete for their third consecutive state title. The Conquerers have had a tough road this season. Coach Verlon Dorminey had to replace 17 seniors from last year's team. The Conquerors suffered through an abbreviated season as many of the schools did this season due to the hurricanes. Finishing as the District 5 Class A runner-up, Trinity Christian suffered through a 3-4 regular season. I believe the tough schedule (Miami Pace, Dade City Pasco, North Florida Christian, and Lakeland Evangel Christian) prepared them for the playoffs. It appears that they have hit stride. Despite not playing the level of competition the pick here is…
Belle Glades Glades Day at Ft. Meade 1A
There will be no nerves in this game. Glades Day is making its twelfth consecutive playoff appearance. Ft. Meade has made it to the championship game four of the past five years. The Miners have a big edge in recent history, though, as they blew out Glades Day, 36-7, in the state semi-finals in 2003. In fact, the Miners have beaten the Gators the past five years in a row in the state playoffs.
Tailback Brian Whitehurst leads the Miners run-oriented attack. Whitehurst (5-9, 170) put the finishing touches on Evangel Christian a week ago with a 64-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for a 7-6 playoff victory. He was a first team All-State performer as a junior where he led Ft. Meade in rushing and tackles. Athletic quarterback Anthony Johnson pulls the trigger for the Miners. Ft. Meade is where current Florida wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius graduated.
Glades Day has a very good running back in Billy Shannon, who ran for 260 yards on 38 carries and three touchdowns in Gators 21-19 upset win over Kings Academy. The Gators had lost to the Lions, 35-21, during the regular season. It marked the first ever loss to Kings Academy. Shannon gained 987 yards through the regular season on just 86 carries (11.5 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns. Shannon is also their second leading receiver. Fellow running back Lloyd Monds averages 9.3 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns on significantly fewer attempts. The Gators also have a solid two-way player in quarterback/defensive back Justin Garrett. During the regular season Garrett completed 57 of 97 for 990 yards and 13 touchdowns while tossing only three interceptions. Top receiver Jesus Aleman has caught 15 passes for 327 yards (21.8) and three touchdowns.
Pick: Ft. Meade