The Tate Aggies (11-2) and their magical white jerseys: this football season’s top area team and most trending storyline.
Tate’s whites — which the Aggies have worn on the road in each game this season — have yielded a win in each game the Aggies have worn them.
In the regular season, Tate went 4-0 in the whites, outscoring opponents 135-73.
To describe the feeling that the white jersey’s provide, Dee Thompson (1119 rush yards, 10 TDs) quoted a popular rap song by Dej Loaf.
“I rock that all white when I’m feeling godly,” said Thompson, laughing. “After getting beat twice at home this year, we felt like we should go punish everyone else at their homes. The feeling wasn’t good, we wanted to pass it off.”
But the power of the all-white getup has only seemed more significant since the start of the postseason, as every single playoff game has been on the road for Tate.
It started with a first-round win over undefeated Navarre, followed by a revenge-win (31-7) over the Pine Forest Eagles, which beat the Aggies in the district championship.
Last week, the away Aggies even got the better of their primary foe — the Niceville Eagles. Tate had lost their previous five matchups with Niceville by a combined 146-55 margin.
This week, the Aggies will sport their whites again when they travel to face the Seffner Armwood Hawks — Tate’s third-straight opponent with a bird of prey as a mascot.
“The white knights are riding in to slay the Hawks,” Tate’s leading tackler Dallas Ditto said. “We’re gonna be bird hunting for the third-straight week. This week has felt good knowing we have 100 percent support from our school and the community.”
As many as nine buses will be following the Tate High football team to the Tampa area. The game will be broadcast live back to the Pensacola area via tatefootballlive.com.
Seffner (13-0) has a couple of big playmakers in its backfield, led by running back Brian Snead, who has offers from Ohio State, Florida and Mississippi State, as well as quarterback Darrian McNeal (1486 passing yards, 1073 rushing yards, 32 total TDs).
Defensively, the Hawks live up to their name when it comes to pressuring the QB.
Armwood has tallied 43 sacks through 13 games, sending a variety of blitzes at its opponents.
Dedarallo Blue heads Armwood’s pass rush, producing 12 sacks this year as a strong safety.
“They (Armwood Hawks) are a good team and they are pretty big up front,” said Alonte Thompson, who leads Tate with 16 sacks. “I don’t think they can move as good as we can … we are too fast for ’em. It’s tough to play defense like we do.”
For the Aggies, the trip to Armwood High will be what is easily Tate’s longest road journey this year. In fact, the Aggies’ previous seven road games required a total travel distance of 231 miles, which still doesn’t get Tate halfway to Seffner.
But for Josh Kea — who forced a fumble and an interception in the win over Niceville — and the Aggies, they’ll use the road trip to sharpen their mental focus.
“We’re gonna watch a bunch of football movies on the way to help keep us focused,” Kea said. “Friday Night Lights … that’s a good one.
“Last week before Niceville, we watched Rocky IV … that got me pumped, even though it’s not a football movie. We might have to watch that again. The white knights will treat Armwood like Rocky treated the Russian and go round-for-round.”
Class 6A Semifinal
Who: Tate Aggies vs. Seffner Armwood Hawks
Where: Armwood High
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. (local time)
Records: Tate (11-2), Armwood (13-0)
Broadcast info: TateFootballLive.com; Tate High will host a viewing party at Tate’s cafeteria.
Get all the inside scoop on Friday night’s matchup between Tate and Armwood, including season stats, schedules and playoff history. Page 2C