All games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Island Coast (8-2) at Naples (9-0)
* What to watch for: Island Coast: This a Region 6A-3 quarterfinal. The Gators made the playoffs as the District 6A-11 runners-up behind a balanced offense led by senior QB Kurt Benkert and senior RB Devon Calhoun, who rank among the most productive players at their positions in the region. Benkert has completed 147-of-236 passes for 2,261 yards and 20 touchdowns with four interceptions. Calhoun has rushed 162 times for 1,098 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. The Gators have additional depth on offense in senior WR/RB Tyrell Johnson, who has 1,133 combined yards (545 rushing, 588 receiving) and 11 touchdowns. If Johnson can get more involved in the offense, he could be the difference maker. “We have explained to them that there are no second chances in the playoffs,” Island Coast coach Joe Bowen said. “We expect Naples to play us very physical up front. We are also preparing for them blitzing as well.” Naples: The Golden Eagles, as District 6A-12 champions, have won their nine games by an average score of 53-12. Naples is coming off a 42-31 victory against Venice. Senior RB Manny Morgan has rushed 146 times for 1,339 yards (9.17 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns. Senior QB Kilton Anderson has completed 42-of-92 passes for 1,025 yards and 14 touchdowns with three picks. “The worst game we played was probably Venice,” Naples coach Bill Kramer. That said, “We have improved every week. We have a better handle on things.”
* The News-Press pick: Naples 42-27
Golden Gate (3-7) at East Lee County (6-4)
* What to watch for: Golden Gate: This is a Region 5A-3 quarterfinal and the second consecutive postseason trip for the Titans. Golden Gate is a run-first team behind talented junior RB Breon Brown (710 yards, two touchdowns). Junior QB Taylor Anderson has completed just 41 percent of his passes for 860 yards and nine touchdowns with 12 interceptions. The Titans haven’t won a game this season in which they’ve allowed more than 10 points. East Lee County: The Jaguars are making their state playoff debut after winning the District 5A-11 championship. Each of East Lee’s losses came against eventual district champions (Dunbar, South Fort Myers, Vero Beach and Charlotte). Coach Scott Jones said Golden Gate is much more formidable than its record indicates. “They remind me a lot of Barron Collier,” he said. “They like to play smash-mouth football.” That’s something the Jaguars can do as well behind physical senior RBs Omaris Tolbert and Bryant Richardson. Junior RB/WR/DB Kendall Sawyer is East’s most explosive offensive weapon, averaging 8.9 yards per carry and scoring a team-leading 13 touchdowns.
* The News-Press pick: East Lee County 31-21
Barron Collier (7-3) at South Fort Myers (9-1)
* What to watch for: Barron Collier: This is a Region 6A-3 quarterfinal. The Cougars were the runners-up in District 6A-12. Starting QB Carson Klahm is out for the season, having suffered a torn labrum two weeks ago against Palmetto Ridge. That means Connor Keating will take over under center for the postseason. “It’s an offense that has trouble finding its momentum,” Barron Collier coach Dan Pallante said after changing the culture of his team’s offense, which ran a spread-style shotgun attack under former coach Mark Ivey. “The kids never knew how to take a snap under center,” Pallante said. “So that was a real transition. You just don’t put in the triple option overnight. Even though I’ve run it for years, it starts out every year slow. It’s just one of those things.” The plus side, Pallante said, is “you don’t know what’s going to happen until the ball is snapped.” The Cougars will need to control the clock and will need every ounce of deception in order to win this one. South Fort Myers: The Wolfpack won the District 6A-11 championship with perhaps an underestimated defense and an at-times explosive offense. Senior Jayron Kearse has played strong defensively all season. He has not gotten the ball much on offense as he did last season as the Cypress Lake QB, but has 30 carries for 326 yards (10.87 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Senior RB Robert Brown has 129 carries for 992 yards (7.6 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. Senior QB Anthony Dailidonis has completed 63-of-104 passes for 934 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception. “They’re going to keep the ball and control it and play good defense,” South Fort Myers coach Grant Redhead said of Barron Collier. “They want to keep the ball and not make mistakes. They run it very well.”
* The News-Press pick: South Fort Myers 21-7
Estero (8-2) at Immokalee (7-3)
* What to watch for: This is a Region 5A-3 quarterfinal and marks the first state playoff appearance for the Wildcats since 2001. While Estero’s defense is significantly improved over recent years, this team is powered by its offense. The Wildcats average 34.8 points and 395.2 yards per game and are equally adept at running and throwing the football. Estero will rely heavily on senior RB Eric McFadden (1,469 yards and 19 touchdowns) to help chew up yards and the clock, keeping the explosive Immokalee offense on the sidelines. Senior QB Christian Phillips (2,023 passing yards, 15 touchdowns) has an array of targets to choose from with four Wildcats having at least 20 catches. Immokalee: The Indians can wipe away the disappointment of an uneven regular season with a deep playoff run. Immokalee will welcome back senior QB Tshumbi Johnson (887 passing yards, 11 touchdowns), who hasn’t thrown a pass since suffering a shoulder injury in a 29-21 win over Lely on Oct. 5. Johnson is hoping to return the big play to an Indians’ offense that’s struggled to move the football at times. Defensively, the Immokalee secondary will be challenged by Phillips but the Indians will have a serious edge in speed on both sides of the ball.
* The News-Press: Immokalee 37-24
Orlando Jones (6-4) at Dunbar (8-2)
* What to watch for: This is a Region 4A-3 semifinal. The visiting Tigers played a brutal schedule this season with their four losses coming against teams with a combined record of 34-6, including state powers Cocoa and Miami Booker T. Washington. Jones is extremely dangerous in the passing game behind senior QB Jaquan Young-Battle and a blazing pair of senior wideouts in Levonte Whitfield and Tyrian Taylor. Defensively, the Tigers feature impressive bookends in senior DEs Devin Washington and Kendrick Hair. Dunbar: Just one of the eight teams Dunbar defeated during the regular season (East Lee County) finished with a winning record. Sophomore QB Daniel Cobb leads the team in both passing (1,174 yards, 12 touchdowns) and rushing (794 yards, 11 touchdowns) while also being Dunbar’s most dangerous return man. The Tigers defense will be tested by a Jones offense that averaged 33.1 points per game.
* The News-Press pick: Jones 30-26
Largo Indian Rocks Christian (6-4) at First Baptist (10-0)
* What to watch for: Indian Rocks Christian: It would appear that the Eagles are stumbling into the playoffs after three straight losses. However, Indian Rocks coach Mark Buchanan was resting his starters in those games after clinching a playoff spot on Oct. 19. “We had our bye week in the first week,” he said. “We were trying to get healthy and we had an opportunity to rest players.” Damien King has been the do-everything player for the Terriers, putting time in at running back, wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back. Buchanan believes that King will have to be a key player in order to win. First Baptist: The Lions are playing in the postseason for the first time in the four-year program history. This was accomplished by capping off an undefeated regular season with a District 2A-6 title. Seniors Jonah Bueltel and Chris Dorrill, both 1,000- yard rushers, lead a ground game for First Baptist that averages 341.1 yards per game. Bueltel is not only the leading rusher on the team with 1,284 yards, but is also the leading receiver, accounting for 29 of the Lions 61 offensive touchdowns. “It’s a credit to the o-line, fullbacks and receivers for making the key blocks,” coach Billy Sparacio said. “He’s a very talented athlete and we try to do our best to utilize that.”
* The News-Press pick: First Baptist 28-24
The News-Press rankings
1. Naples (9-0)
The Golden Eagles wrapped up the sixth unbeaten regular season in the program’s history with a 42-31 win over Venice.
2. S. Fort Myers (9-1)
The Wolfpack defense is allowing just 9.9 points per game this season.
3. Island Coast (8-2)
The Gators must find a way to limit a Naples running game that’s averaging a shade under 297 rushing yards per game.
4. Fort Myers (8-2)
The last time the Green Wave won eight games and missed the state playoffs was 1986, seven years before the FHSAA expanded the postseason to include district runner-ups.
5. Baker (7-3)
Sophomore QB Sage Attwood matched a season-high with three touchdown passes in last week’s 47-20 win over Mariner.
6. Barron Collier (7-3)
The Cougars held six opponents to nine or fewer points during the regular season.
7. Immokalee (7-3)
The Indians closed out the regular season with a 19-0 win over Dunbar.
8. Dunbar (8-2)
The Tigers host a formidable first-round foe in Orlando Jones tonight.
9. East Lee County (6-4)
The Jaguars will host their first-ever state playoff game tonight against Golden Gate.
10. Estero (8-2)
The Wildcats are back in the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.
The best of the rest
11. Riverdale (5-5)
12. First Baptist (10-0)
13. Cape Coral (4-6)
14. Lehigh (2-8)
15. Mariner (3-7)
16. Golden Gate (3-7)
17. Gulf Coast (2-8)
18. LaBelle (4-6)
19. Lely (3-7)
20. St. John Neumann (7-3)
21. Bishop Verot (1-9)
22. Palmetto Ridge (1-9)
23. North Fort Myers (0-10)
24. Community School (6-4)
25. Cypress Lake (0-10)
26. Evangelical Christian (2-8)
27. SFCA (4-6)
28. Gateway Charter (3-5)
29. Oasis Charter (1-6)
30. Marco Island (2-6)