Opponents and gameplans change from week to week, but for the most part personnel stays the same.
That luxury will not be present for North Florida Christian (9-2), which will be without starting quarterback Justin Moore for tonight’s home against Victory Christian (9-3) in the FHSAA Class 2A state semifinal.
Moore broke his leg early in last week’s 28-14 win over defending state champion University Christian, and backup Joey Giaritelli entered and threw a last-minute game-winning touchdown.
“As a coach, you tell your backups, you’re one snap away and to prepare that way every week,” Eagles coach Robert Craft said.
“I think it showed that he’d done that. He was mature enough to prepare like that every week and his time finally came, and he was ready to step up and fulfill his role. He’s done well leading us and will be ready to go (tonight.)”
Giaritelli suffered a sprained right knee in the win but labored through and has received treatment all week, along with increased practice reps. Eighth grader Avery Thomas could get the call if the injury worsens.
NFC faces a Victory team that has won four in a row, punctuated with a 21-15 win at Warner Christian.
The Storm bring in junior quarterback Caleb Lewis, who leads Polk County with over 2,700 passing yards and 29 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions.
Victory head coach Tommy Lewis has implemented a winning mentality in his first year after leading Hilton Head (S.C.) Christian to four state titles in seven years.
“I think they’re very similar to us in a lot of ways, in that they want to spread you out, be in shotgun, but still want to run the football a good amount,” Craft said. “They’ll make you be extremely balanced run and pass.”
Half of Caleb Lewis’ touchdowns have been to favorite target Nekari Jones, who has over 1,100 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. Mix in 1,000-yard back Kevin Coy (13 touchdowns), and the Eagles’ defense has its work cut out for it once again.
“Great quarterback, coach’s son,” Craft said. “He’s going to be really smart and know what to do with the football, take care of it. Every week, we’re going to have to bring our game, especially on defense. It’s the side of the ball that this time of year will win you games, which it did last week.”
Once again, NFC will rely heavily on Florida State commit Jonathan Vickers, who rushed for 181 yards last week and now has 1,237 yards on the year and 18 touchdowns.
Vickers also played heavily at linebacker and was a key to stopping University’s potent rushing attack. His 55-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the Eagles’ win.
“The first thing I’ll say about him is he’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Craft said. “That couldn’t be more evident than it was last week. He played almost every snap of the game, and he’s prepared to do that again.
“We try to take care of the things he has to do. He’s going to practice like that throughout the week. He’ll practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday like he’s going to play 100-120 snaps. You force him to prepare that way, condition himself both mentally and physically to play like that.”
Elsewhere, Florida High (8-4) travels to take on Jacksonville Bolles (9-3) and legendary coach Corky Rogers for a 4A state semifinal. The Seminoles defeated East Gadsden 27-21 in double overtime last week.
And in 1A, the undefeated Blountstown Tigers (12-0) will face off with Cottondale (8-4) for the right to head to next weekend’s respective state championship games to be held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.