Local District 1-5A teams (Pensacola High, West Florida High) are both on the wrong end of the district chase – but they are not out by any means.
Panama City teams have taken the district by storm, headlined by the Bay Tornadoes (6-0, 1-0; ranked No. 7 in AP Class 5A poll).
The Bay Tornadoes got the better of PHS in Week 6 and the Tigers host Panama City Arnold (3-4, 1-1) this week.
“After losing our first district game, we’re in kind of a do-or-die situation,” PHS coach Mike Mincy said. “Our kids are smart enough to know that. They know they gotta step up and get a district win. That keeps us alive for next week.”
Arnold is led by dual-threat QB Cody Saunders — who has verbally committed to West Virginia University.
Though Saunders offers a unique set of skills, Mincy believes his Tigers have seen similar traits this season.
“(Saunders) is a great player, he reminds me a lot of Sawyer (Smith) at Tate,” said Mincy, referring to Tate’s QB who the Tigers faced in Week Four. “Saunders is very competitive. We’ve seen a QB play that way (this season). We’ve just gotta figure out a way to contain him. It comes down to tackling well.”
Defense may be the difference here, as PHS (16.8 points allowed per game) carries the edge over Arnold (24.4 ppg).
With the numbers to prove it, L.J. Mallory — senior defensive back for the Tigers — feels confident in his squad.
“We all knew that the Bay game was very important … but this game (vs. Arnold) will be more important,” Mallory said. “We gotta do our assignments and give 100 percent every play.
“Our coaches tell us a lot, and the players know what is on the line. We’ve got a lot of seniors on this team and we don’t want our season to end early.”
Senior leadership has been crucial for Pensacola High, and the bond only got stronger during the team’s bye week (Oct. 5-10).
“It was really the best week of practice we’ve had all season,” Tigers receiver Deandre Norman said. “We were correcting things and taking it play-by-play.
“We’re real focused as a team. All the planning we’ve done this season … it’s time to buckle down. It’s win or go home.”
While the Tigers aim to defend home against Arnold, the West Florida Jaguars will hit the road to face District 1-5A leader Bay.
Offensively, the Jaguars could be highly pressured by Bay DE Janarius Robinson – who is verbally committed to Florida State University.
The Tornadoes have shown the tendency to use aggressive defense, and then methodically run the ball on offense with Raekwon Webb.
The offensive scheme creates long drives and essentially plays “keep-away” with the opposition.
The Jaguars may have to rely on its opportunistic defense (9 interceptions, 11 sacks) to create some turnovers during Bay possessions.
Want to Go?
Who: Arnold Marlins vs. Pensacola Tigers
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Pensacola High
Records: Arnold (3-4, 1-1); PHS (3-3, 0-1)
Want to Go?
Who: West Florida Jaguars vs. Bay Tornadoes
Kickoff:7 p.m. Friday
Where: Tommy Oliver Stadium
Records: West Florida (3-3, 0-1)