11 area football teams dive into postseason


Union County's Princeton Alexander, Gainesville's Kenric Young and Dixie County's Julian Robinson.

Staff photos by Brad McClenny and Matt Stamey. Illustration by Jon McDonald.
Published: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 11:28 p.m.

For 11 high school football teams in the area, the real season begins tonight as the state playoffs kick off around the state.

Facts

FRIDAY'S GAMES
(All games at 7:30 p.m.)
Regional Quarterfinals
Class 6A, Region 1

Columbia (9-1) at St. Augustine (8-2)
Class 6A, Region 2
Land O'Lakes Sunlake (9-1) at Gainesville (8-2)
Class 5A, Region 2
Suwannee (7-2) at South Sumter (10-0)
Regional Semifinals
Class 4A, Region 1

Havana East Gadsden (4-6) at Fort White (7-1)
Class 4A, Region 2
Bradford (3-6) at Jacksonville Raines (8-2)
Jax Bolles (7-3) at Keystone Heights (5-4)
Class 1A, Region 3
Lafayette (7-2) at Trenton (8-1)
Class 1A, Region 4
Wildwood (2-8) at Dixie County (8-0)
Union County (9-1) at Crescent City (6-4)

They survived the regular season, finishing as either district champions or runners up. Five teams will open the playoffs at home while six will be on the road.

And yes, two local teams will face each other tonight when Lafayette (7-2), making its area-best ninth straight playoff appearance, travels to No. 4 Trenton (8-1) in a Region 3-1A semifinal. A year ago, these two teams met in the regional finals, with the Tigers winning, then edging Newberry in the state semifinals and reaching its first state final, joining Gainesville as the only area teams that finished in the ultimate game.

There are also some familiar matchups in the regional quarterfinals: Columbia (9-1) at St. Augustine (8-2) in Region 1-6A and Land O'Lakes Sunlake (9-1) at Gainesville (8-2) in Region 2-6A. And there is a local team that will be playing in its first playoff game ever when Bell (8-2) travels to Jasper Hamilton County (4-5) in another Region 3-1A semifinal matchup.

“We have embraced the significance of us being the first to make the playoffs from our school, but we know there is more for us to do,” said Bell first-year coach Joey Whittington. “We have practiced hard for what Hamilton County does. A lot of people I've talked to said they will be there, the whole community is really excited.”

The Hurricanes, who reached the state final for the first time in 32 years (losing to Miami Central for the 6A title), are the only Gainesville school in the playoffs. Sunlake returns to Citizens Field two years after a 21-14 loss to GHS in the regional semifinals.

Last week, the 'Canes saw their 15-game win streak at Citizens Field snapped in a 31-18 loss to Wakulla, which failed to make the playoffs in 5A.

“The kids have been upbeat this week, they know what is on the line,” said GHS first-year coach Mark Latsko. “I don't think anyone wants to play their last game this week. I think we are as prepared as we can be in the playoffs.

“They (Sunlake) are a good team, that has a good offense, good defense that doesn'tt turn the ball over. They are in the playoffs for a reason, they are a very good football team.”

Dixie County (8-0), which will host Wildwood (2-8) in a Region 4-1A semifinal, comes in as the highest ranked local team at No. 2. Union County (9-1) — which fell in Cross City 30-12, costing the Tigers the District 7 title — opens at Crescent City (6-4).

A rematch between Union and Dixie, again in Cross City, could happen if both teams win and advance to the regional finals.

But Bears coach Brent Wilkerson said his team is focused on the task at hand — Wildwood.

“Wildwood has a better team than what their record indicates,” said Wilkerson, who is in his 15th season. “They gave Chiefland a tough time in the kickoff classic and Williston had a tough time with them.

“We are taking it one week at a time. We are fairly healthy at this point in the year, and that is all we can ask for. It's playoff time, you mess up one game and you are back in the house.”

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