Luke Helms and Jacob Pugh had plenty to talk about Thursday night.
The Godby High teammates and roommates compared memories from a year ago and prepped their fellow Cougars on what to expect in Saturday’s Class 5A state title game against Immokalee here at the Citrus Bowl.
Helms, Pugh and center Ben Lyda each earned state championship rings on different teams last season — Helms and Lyda with Class 2A North Florida Christian and Pugh with 1A Jefferson County.
While Godby’s football program waited 25 years to win another state crown, the trio returned to Tallahassee with a second consecutive gold medallion hanging from their necks following the Cougars’ 21-20 win.
“We actually talked to some of our teammates about this game and what it would be like, with all the distractions and stuff like that, playing in this kind of environment and huge facility,” said Helms, a senior inside linebacker who had nine tackles, including two tackles for loss, on Saturday.
“We just told everyone we just have to go out and play football.”
The Cougars traveled here on Thursday afternoon and spent the evening in a local hotel.
Pugh, a lanky junior defensive end who had seven tackles in the win, believes his experience last year helped against Immokalee.
“I think it did because we knew what to expect,” Pugh said. “We took those experiences from last year and used them to help us get ready for all this, the atmosphere and everything.”
The trio, of course, also had to make plays.
Lyda, a junior center named the Tallahassee Quarterback Club’s offensive lineman of the year earlier this week, played a big part in the Cougars’ efficient attack.
Godby finished with 322 total yards and jumped to leads of 13-0 and 21-7.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, one I can’t even explain,” Lyda said. “It’s great being able to share this with your teammates.”
Cheering for Tally
Godby and Lincoln had a fan on the Citrus Bowl’s security staff — Ben Jenkins.
Jenkins, 64, lived and worked in Tallahassee for 31 years as a postal carrier.
He retired in 2004 and returned here to his hometown in 2005. Jenkins visits Tallahassee two to three times a month on business.
The personable Jenkins, who manned the press elevator to the Citrus Bowl’s upper level, was able to sneak away for a few minutes to watch the Godby-Immokalee game.
“But don’t tell anybody I left (my post),” Jenkins laughed.
A busy man
Godby athlete Tim Longmire proved to be a versatile weapon in the Cougars’ win.
The senior had 10 rushing yards, completed 2 of 2 passes for 54 yards out of the Wildcat set and had three receptions for a team-high 57 yards.
“From day one we set a goal to play 15 weeks this season,” said Longmire, who played at Leon last season.
“We came out (Saturday) knowing it was going to be a fight and hoping we’d be rewarded. They were a good defense, very physical. We started a little slow but kept building our tempo.”
Enough of Orlando
After three straight road trips to Orlando for playoff games, the Lincoln High football team has seen plenty of central Florida.
The Trojans won at Oviedo in the Region 1-7A final two weeks ago and then won at Kissimmee Osceola last week in the state semifinals to earn one more trip to Orlando.
On Friday, the Disney magic ran out as the Trojans lost 41-25 to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 7A state title game.
Senior linebacker Carson Combs said he had mixed feelings about his time in central Florida.
“I have some pretty good memories,” Combs said. “I have some bad ones, too. But it’s been a great experience. I love all my teammates. We’re like a family, man.”
Lincoln coach Yusuf Shakir said three trips to Orlando is enough for one season.
“I think we know everything there is to know about this area,” he said.
Lincoln senior tailback Ben Robinson was held to 54 rushing yards Friday night, snapping his string of three straight 100-yard performances.
But Robinson still heard plenty of cheers in the Citrus Bowl Stadium crowd.
The running back said he had more than 50 family members and friends in the crowd watching him play.
“I’m actually from Orlando,” Robinson said. “I moved to Tallahassee in the sixth grade. I still have a lot of family here.”
Robinson may not have put up the big numbers that he has in previous playoff games, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t perform. Most of his 54 rushing yards came after bouncing off a tackler or two against a big, strong and fast St. Thomas Aquinas defense.
“It was very hard. They are a very disciplined team – very disciplined,” Robinson said. “I knew it would be tough, but I knew I had to push through for my team.”