Prep football roundup: McGriff powers Leon into playoffs

Prep football roundup: McGriff powers Leon into playoffs

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Prep football roundup: McGriff powers Leon into playoffs

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There was little to stop Leon quarterback D’Anfernee McGriff from scoring. Not would-be Chiles tacklers, nor puddles and soggy turf could slow the athletic junior Friday night.

McGriff’s first two carries went for long touchdown runs and the Lions rolled up 467 rushing yards in a 41-7 win over the Timberwolves at Gene Cox Stadium. The District 2-7A victory puts Leon (3-6) into the playoffs for the first time in three years and stops a five-game losing skid.

“It feels real good to bounce back from all those losses,” McGriff said.

“We put it all on the field and came out with a victory.”

“We’ve played good in spurts this year and tonight we didn’t turn the ball over,” Lions coach Tim Cokely said. “Our defense really played as well as they have all year. It’s real exciting for the kids.”

McGriff gained 145 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, scoring on carries of 43, 34 and 5 yards. His first carry of the second half was an 87-yard sprint to the end zone through the slip-n-slide that became midfield following a halftime downpour. He finished with 241 yards on just 10 carries.

“I just want to thank my o-line for opening up the holes, and the running lanes were there,” McGriff said. “It’s an awesome feeling when your o-line is doing their job and all you have to do is hold onto the ball.”

Ben Wahlen rushed for 137 yards and a 19-yard third-quarter touchdown for Chiles (2-6), which missed an opportunity to reach the playoffs for the first time in its 13-year school history. Leon defensive back Carlton McWhite picked off two errant Timberwolves throws as Chiles turned the ball over three times.

“We need to do fundamental things. We need to block well, we need to tackle well,” Chiles coach Mike Lassiter said.

“We tell our guys all the time that’s what separates the teams that go to the playoffs from the teams that don’t. We could have been 6-1 coming in and if we don’t block and tackle, we’re 6-2 and still miss the playoffs. Records don’t always indicate where you’re at, but how you play in the trenches does.”

Leon running back Aleze Romain carried 17 times for 75 yards and scored on a one-yard run, while Norman Jones III made his mark with a 30-yard carry in the fourth quarter. Travis Amey rushed for 58 yards, as Leon now turns its attention to finishing the season strong next week at Providence before heading into the playoffs.

“I think we’re multiple offensively, but coaching is understanding the environment, understanding what’s happening in that situation, understanding what it takes to scheme to win,” Cokely said about the team’s run, run, run mindset.

“Tonight, we needed to protect the ball. They gave the ball up a couple times and it really helped us at key points. We told them to hang onto it, keep doing what we were doing, and we’d be fine.”

Gainesville 20, Lincoln 16

During the brief moments when Friday night’s sideways downpour downgraded to a slight drizzle, Lincoln and Gainesville looked like two of the better high school football teams in the state.

The majority of the time, though, the heavy rain and muddy field made for a sloppy, turnover-riddled affair in which each side hoped to capitalize on the other’s latest mistake.

The two teams combined for seven turnovers, but it was the Hurricanes who took advantage last, turning a third-quarter interception into the touchdown that provided the victory in a rare on-campus game at Lincoln.

Two of Gainesville’s three scores came following a Trojans turnover.

“In the pouring rain, you can’t get the deep ball in, you can’t get your intermediate game really going because of what’s going on in the rain,” Lincoln coach Yusuf Shakir said. “And if you’re not being dominant up front in the run, those things kind of hurt us tonight.

“But they played in the same thing.”

Lincoln (6-3) had several opportunities to sneak out with a win, but the Trojans suffered a run of bad center-to-quarterback exchanges and were held off the scoreboard in each of their five second-half drives.

With a minute to play in the game and an apparent momentum boost following a fourth-and-two stop, the Trojans had the ball and needed 59 yards for what would’ve been a game-tying touchdown.

Instead, the first-down snap skidded across the ground, through quarterback Darius Harvey’s legs and was recovered by Gainesville.

The Hurricanes (8-1) then ran out the clock — fittingly fumbling the exchange on quarterback Caelan Christian’s final kneel-down.

“We were fortunate to be on top when the conditions got real bad,” Gainesville coach Mark Latsko said. “To hold a high-powered offense like Lincoln to 14 points, we’ll take that all day.”

Lincoln’s offensive success came on the legs of senior running back Matt Donaldson, who carried 21 times for 133 yards. His 56-yard touchdown tied the game at 14 late in the second quarter.

But with a chance to take the lead on the first drive of the third quarter, Lincoln quarterback Darius Harvey was picked off by Gainesville’s Ahmad Ivey, who returned the ball 44 yards to Lincoln’s 17-yard line.

The Hurricanes then called four straight hand-offs for running back Tony James, who took the final carry three yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

James, who is verbally committed to Oregon, finished with 122 yards on 13 carries.

“We feel pretty confident to be able to ground and pound and hold on to the football when conditions are like this,” Gainesville coach Mark Latsko said.

Meanwhile, in the face of stiff Hurricanes pass rush, the Trojans passing game could muster only 49 yards and talented receiver John Burt was held without a catch.

“When it rains, you kind of have an advantage because your guys know where we’re going so we’re trying to hit some short, quick routes,” Shakir said. “But we just had a couple mistakes and we couldn’t take advantage of those things.”

Lincoln, which already claimed the District 2-7A title, will face cross-town rival Godby next week before beginning the state playoffs.

The Trojans have won five of their last six against the Cougars.

“We’ve got to try to learn from this week and get ready for the next week and get on a run going into the playoffs,” Shakir said.

– Tim Linafelt

NFC 45, FAMU 16

Running back Jonathan Vickers, a Florida State commitment, rushed for 211 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Eagles (7-2) past the Rattlers for the District 1-2A title.

The Rattlers also advance into the playoffs from the two-team district.

Munroe 43, Bay Haven 29

Bo Bailey (19 rushes, 165 yards) and Miles Edwards (24-113) combined for 278 rushing yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bobcats (6-3) past North Bay Haven.

Will Harris added 88 pasisng yards on 4 of 5 completions and 65 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

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