Area teams ready for football playoffs to kick off


Bobcats wide receiver Jared Goar celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the West Port earlier this season.

Matt Benson/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7:37 p.m.

Area qualifiers into tonight’s opening round of the state football playoffs look a lot like last year, with a few exceptions.

Facts

Friday's games

All games start at 7:30 p.m.
Regional quarterfinals
Class 7A
Region 1: Buchholz (5-5) at No. 2 Jacksonville First Coast (10-0)
Class 6A
Region 1: St. Johns Bartram Trail (8-2) at No. 5 Columbia (9-1)
Region 2: Hernando (6-4) at No. 1 Gainesville (10-0)
Class 5A
Regional semifinals
Class 3A
Region 2: Fort White (6-4) at No. 4 Orlando The First Academy (10-0)
Class 1A
Region 3: Hilliard (7-3) at Lafayette (8-2)
Region 3: Jefferson County (3-7) at No. 1 Trenton (10-0)
Region 4: No. 4 Newberry (7-3) at Wildwood (4-6)
Region 4: Crescent City (5-4) at No. 2 Union County (10-0)

Those exceptions, Buchholz in Class 7A and Newberry in Class 1A.

It has been four years since both the Bobcats and Panthers have been in the postseason. For Buchholz (5-5), tonight’s Region 1 quarterfinal at No. 2 Jacksonville First Coast (10-0) is a huge challenge against a team that played for the state title a year ago.

Also in action tonight, in regional quarterfinals in 6A, is Brooksville Hernando (6-4) against No. 1 Gainesville (10-0) at Citizens Field, and St. Johns Bartram Trail (8-2) at No. 5 Columbia (9-1).

In regional semifinals, Fort White (6-4) is at Orlando The First Academy (10-0) in 3A. There are four area games in 1A, with the marquee matchup being defending 1A state champion Jefferson County (3-7) at No. 1 Trenton (10-0). Other 1A regional semifinals have No. 2 Union County (10-0) hosting Crescent City (5-4), Hilliard (7-3) at No. 3 Lafayette (8-2) and No. 5 Newberry (7-3) at Wildwood (4-6).

All games kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Buchholz, which was 1-9 a year ago, qualified for the playoffs under first-year coach Mark Whittemore after winning its final three games, all district contests. Because the Bobcats are runners-up in the district, they must travel in the first round of playoffs.

“They are pretty loaded with talent,” Whittemore said. “We just want to go and play hard and put together four quarters of solid football. It was a real achievement winning the last three games. We didn’t want to back into the playoffs. It was huge morale boost for us at Buchholz.”

Gainesville, which has been No. 1 in 6A pretty much all season, is looking for its first state title since 1980. A year ago, the Hurricanes escaped Brooksville with a 20-14 win, scoring on a Mark Cato touchdown pass to Chris Bivins in the final minute of the game.

“Hernando is a good team. Our guys remember that game last year when it went to the final minute,” said GHS coach James Thomson. “I think the bye week really helped us.

“Everyone is 0-0 at this point, rankings don’t matter at all. We have to fight for it every week.”

Bartram Trail ended Columbia’s season last year in the regional semifinals (27-24). It was a bitter ending to 2011 for the Tigers, who are looking for revenge. They have won eight straight this season following a 17-14 loss at Gainesville.

Trenton, which took over the No. 1 ranking in 1A at midseason, has the toughest of the regional semifinals, playing defending state champion Jefferson County. Last year Jefferson, playing all its playoff games at home, beat Trenton (56-19) and Union County (27-6), before crushing Chipley (47-13) in the state final.

Jefferson traditionally plays mostly upper classification teams before its district schedule, so it is not surprising it doesn’t have a winning record. It did lose at Lafayette (21-20) in the District 5 title game, meaning Jefferson will have to win on the road to reach the state final this season.

“If Jefferson County played our schedule, they would probably be sitting where we are at,” said Trenton coach Andrew Thomas. “They played Mayo and Mayo got them. They are a great team. The big difference is having it at our place.

“Last year our kids hadn’t been in an environment like that, and when they got on us early it kind of snowballed. It is going to be a big advantage for us to be playing at home.”

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