NFC, Florida High, Munroe compete for regional football titles on Black Friday

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Do your early morning shopping, take a power nap and put on your coat because we have some big regional title matches on Friday.

Three teams compete for a chance to make the jump to the semi-finals, pitting two Big Bend squads against each other.

North Florida Christian rematches with Munroe as Florida High takes on the red-hot Suwannee, coached by former Florida State player and Maclay coach Kyler Hall.

No matter what, one Big Bend team will continue its season for another week, but what matters is who it will be and how they will get there.

Here’s what to look out for this Black Friday.

North Florida Christian

File: 11-0

Latest result: 42-14 vs. Maclay in 1S-1 semifinals

Opponent: vs. Munroe (at NFC)

Winner gets: Trinity Catholic (Ocala) or PK Yonge

What we learned from the previous game:

I’m not sure if it was the two weeks off or the weather, but NFC was in trouble for half of their game against Maclay, whom they had beaten 58-7 earlier that season. The game was tied at 14 on a Hail Mary touchdown by the Marauders.

In the second half, it was the Eagles stars who took over for the win, with 28 unanswered points. Junior quarterback JP Pickles hit senior wide receiver for a 60-yard touchdown for the lead in the third and Pickles and junior wide receiver Leon Washington Jr scored in the fourth to put away the game.

With NFC, two things happen: Washington and Ray get knocked out and the Eagles’ depth takes over, or Washington, Ray, and Pickles run off to take over the game. Friday night saw the second situation where the trio did the heavy lifting.

Munroe cut off Washington and Ray in their final meeting, but saw the depth of NFC steal the show for the win. It should be an interesting matchup if these two have seen each other before. As for the first half against Maclay, I’m not sure if it was the jitters or the cold, but I didn’t expect that to happen again.

Players to watch:

J.P. Pickles, Jr., QB: 15-28 passing, 272 passing yards, one passing touchdown, two rushing touchdowns, two interceptions (vs. Maclay)

Traylon Ray, Sr., WR: 106 receiving yards, one touchdown, 29 rushing yards, one rushing TD (vs. Maclay)

Leon Washington Jr., Jr., WR: 61 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 83 receiving yards, one fumble (vs. Maclay)

Munroe

File: 5-6

Latest result: vs. St. John Paul II 21-19 in 1S-1 semifinals

Opponent: vs. North Florida Christian (at NFC)

Winner gets: Trinity Catholic (Ocala) or PK Yonge

What we learned from the previous game:

The Munroe/St. The John Paul II matchup was everything it was hyped for. It was back and forth early, coming down to the final play to determine the winner. In the end, it was the special teams of the Bobcats, who have struggled all season, that won the game.

Like many smaller schools, Munroe doesn’t kick much. They went for a kick-score play all game, which was an 11-yard from junior Jose Centeno with one second left. Other than that, the Bobcats had missed every two-point conversion of the night.

While it didn’t look like a problem, going up 18-7 in the third quarter, it later became a point of stress as the Bobcats went down 19-18 with a minute and a half left in the fourth. Something similar happened three weeks ago against NFC, where Munroe trailed by two late in the fourth inning and eventually saw the game get away from them via extra runs and errors.

Munroe missed four of the six extra points and NFC hit all eight. The special teams boost gave the Bobcats a needed boost in the rematch against the Eagles. Munroe has proven it can stay with the top team in 1S, but needs to clean up the little things to win.

If the Bobcats can stay consistent on offense and defense, and start making kicks and conversions, an upset is possible for a regional title.

Players to watch:

Ahamri Borden, Jr., WR: From game one to date, Borden has been the most consistent offensive force for Munroe. Whether by air or on the ground, the Stanford commit has been non-stop and an absolute workhorse.

Nehemiah Chandler, Jr., ATH: Chandler’s move from wide receiver to QB paid off big time, rushing for a touchdown and throwing for another against JPII. it was a move that caught JPII off guard. Even as the Panthers caught on, senior Luke Sather jumped in to deliver the final blow.

Makari Vickers, Sr., WR/CB: While Vickers has been recruited and praised for his defensive abilities, his impact on offense against JPII was crucial in the victory. While he didn’t score, he made a handful of big receptions, one to get the yard for the game-winning field goal.

Florida high

File: 12-0

Latest result: vs. Pensacola Catholic 18-14 in 2S-1 Regional Semifinals

Opponent: vs. Suwannee (at Florida High)

Winner gets: TBD (Bradford, Baker County, Cocoa, South Sumter, Bishop Verot, Frostproof)

What we learned from the previous game

This was the push Florida High needed. With the pressure up and down for most of the game, the Seminoles had to be confident in their execution, particularly on the passing game. Florida High relies heavily on the crowds because there is more depth there, but the Crusaders quickly countered that.

As with the Lincoln game, it came down to a passing play from junior quarterback Jeremy Johnston connecting with junior wide receiver Ashton Hampton, giving Florida High the go-ahead. Activating the passing game now and as far as the Seminoles can go is extremely important.

They face a Suwanne squad that has hung its hat on its defensive performance and passed the gauntlet over the past month. The Bulldogs have had victories over Wakulla, Bradford, Bay and West Florida in the past month. They were 14-0 in West Florida at the half on Friday before scoring 17 unanswered to win.

While guys like junior running back Michai Danzy and senior Rhyder Poppell will be big guns on offense, the Seminoles will have to start moving the ball to stay in it. Pensacola Catholic revealed that Florida High will have to expand its offense if it wants to win, and will do whatever it takes.

The defensive matchup is very even in the upcoming game with both teams proving to be slightly out. It will be the attack that determines who will keep his season alive.

Players to watch

Michai Danzy, Jr., RB (Florida High): Centralized Florida High’s offensive effort and passed quadruple rushing marks on the season. Expect the Seminoles to go to him all night.

Chris Cotton, Sr., LB (Florida High): Conversely, Cotton was the focal point of the Seminoles’ defense. Florida High’s defense has truly been the MVP of the season, limiting the number of opponents to an average of just 12 points per game.

Ashton Hampton, Jr., WR (Florida High): As Florida High continues to improve its passing game, Hampton will most likely be the main target. He has received seven scores this season, including the game-winning touchdown against Pensacola Catholic in regional semifinals.

Javarion Smith, Sr., WR/CB (Suwannee): Smith has been the No. 1 target for QB Bronsen Tillotson, with 913 receiving yards a year for 11 touchdowns. He averages 19 yards per reception and 76 per game. He’s going to push this Florida High defense.

Kodi Lang, Jr., ATH (Suwannee): Much has been said about Suwannee’s defense and Lang has been a key part of that. He owns 89 tackles a year, seven for yardage loss and three caused fumbles. The Seminoles O-Line will have to keep an eye on him.

Marchioness Owens, Jr., RB/CB (Suwannee): In the rush, Owens has been a monster for the Bulldogs. Owens rushed for 1,026 yards and a season-high six touchdowns, offsetting Suwannee’s all-around offensive effort. He will be active on Friday with an average of 85 meters per game.

Jack Williams reports prep sports for Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.

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