The Barbecue Bowl has lost some of its tangy charm in the past few years as the Cocoa High Tigers have gone on their state title run and sent several talented athletes off to colleges.
This year, Rockledge also has a playoff team, and the Raiders come into this game with more reason for hope.
The game itself will give more hope to some of our neighbors. The two schools are raising money for the Wounded Warriors Project, which helps injured military veterans. A couple of dollars will be added to your ticket to benefit service members.
Supporting those who have defended us and watching some good football, what could be better?
The game could be more competetive this year, but the Raiders won’t be able to make mistakes if they want to have a chance. FLORIDA TODAY pick: Cocoa.
* MELBOURNE at MERRITT ISLAND: Recent history tells us this game will be close. The past two were decided at the end. In fact, the 2011 game was decided as the Mustangs turned back the Bulldogs on a goal-line stand in overtime.
When Melbourne defeated Eau Gallie last week, the team experienced an emotional boost. In a year when Merritt Island looks to be considerably better, that boost could be what the visitors will need to keep Friday’s game close enough for another fantastic finish. FLORIDA TODAY pick: Merritt Island.
* JUPITER CHRISTIAN at HOLY TRINITY: The Eagles have been a power in small-school Florida football, but they are down this year. It’s still an interesting game for fans, but the Tigers are looking like a seven-win team if they can overcome the heartbreak of last week’s late loss to Melbourne Central Catholic. FLORIDA TODAY pick: Holy Trinity.
* BAYSIDE at APOPKA: The Bears close out their regular season and could make this a “cause” game. On the other side, the Blue Darters have a playoff game coming up a week later. That sets up what could be an upset, but it wasn’t close last year. Bayside is better but has a lot of ground to make up. FLORIDA TODAY pick: Apopka.
* OCALA CHRISTIAN at MERRITT ISLAND CHRISTIAN: The Cougars aren’t in a district, but their membership in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference means their final opponent is determined by the standings in each of the conference’s two divisions. MIC matches up with the Crusaders this year, and we’ll go with the home team. FLORIDA TODAY pick: Merritt Island Christian.
Last week: 4-1.
This season: 36-8.