If a three-team spring football jamboree at Gene Cox Stadium on Thursday night was any indication, the fall slate of games should be a whirlwind of attention paid to District 2-5A.
College coaches and scouts were out in abundance standing on the sidelines— Alabama, LSU, Florida, UCF and a dozen more— there to woo the services of big-time athletes on Godby, Wakulla and Rickards.
There’s the already-committed duo of Wakulla quarterback Feleipe Franks (LSU) and Keith Gavin (Florida State). Then there are guys like Godby defensive tackle Cedric Wood (FSU), plus undecided recruits such as Cougars quarterback Darius Bradwell, who is enamored with Georgia Southern even as Oregon State and Louisville breathe down his neck.
Rising seniors Franks, at 6-foot-5, and Gavin, at 6-foot-4, should be quite a combo to watch after years of honing pass-catch scenarios.
“You can’t always meet people’s expectations, because sometimes you’re going to have good games and sometimes you’re going to have bad games,” Franks said. “But I do believe this is the year. We have o-linemen that blocked great tonight and that’s how we executed. But I think we’re going to have a great year. We’re going to make things happen together.”
Franks and Gavin connected on two touchdowns in Wakulla’s half against Rickards— a Raiders win, 20-16— then for slant-and-go two-point conversion as the War Eagles rolled to a 24-8 win over Godby.
“Feleipe is always going to be looking for me, and if he throws it up there I’m going to come down with it,” said Gavin, the first two touchdowns coming on deep passes over 35 yards. “We’re ready.”
Rickards rising junior D.J. Phillips started at quarterback like he did last season and quickly found South Florida commit Kalen Riles for a deep score. He punched home a touchdown run after a Wakulla turnover, then a long kickoff return by Marcus Riley following Wakulla’s second touchdown set up a game-winning run from rising senior Delvon Williams.
Rickards rising junior Javon Wooten recovered a fumble in the second quarter, and sealed the two-quarter win with an interception of Franks on a deep ball into the end zone.
In Wakulla’s second half of football, Monterious Loggins ran in a score, but Bradwell responded by hitting rising junior Titus Fain on a post route to the two-yard line. Bradwell finished things off with a touchdown keeper. The Cougars’ offense was without starting running back Tyquan Watson, who is expected to put up similar numbers to the near 2,000 yards rushing that P.J. Simmons did a year ago, but the caveat is Godby’s offensive line is brand new and void of four scholarship seniors.
“That’s the one unit that is the hardest to put together, and those guys are young,” Godby coach Todd Lanter said. “They’ve just got to learn to gel, trust each other, and understand that they’ve got talented people behind them that when they do their jobs can make things happen. That just takes time. Cleon (McFarlane) will do a great job with them, but it just takes time.”
Wood’s re-tooling defensive unit gave up a 45-yard run to Franks, then a 25-yard touchdown scamper to War Eagles tailback Justin Davis.
“We played a lot of kids tonight for the first time in a varsity game and that showed,” Lanter said. “Rickards and Wakulla are two very talented teams and they can take advantage of things when we make mistakes. I think that’s what happened tonight. We made mistakes and they were able to take advantage of it. But these kids will grow and they have a whole summer to grow and learn. We have a great nucleus.”
One series later, Bradwell fumbled and Franks hit Davis on a five-yard play-action touchdown. Just like it had on every score, Wakulla went for the two-point conversion and was successful, making the War Eagles 5-for-5 on the night in two-point tries.
“Feleipe and Keith are phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but we have a lot of other phenomenal athletes,” Wakulla coach Scott Klees said. “We’re going to use a lot of our team like we did tonight. I think we showed Feleipe is a dual-threat quarterback. We ran him, did some things we haven’t done with him in the past.
Rickards closed out the night of football with a 21-17 over Godby, as Phillips displayed more of the promise that Raiders coach Quintin Lewis saw in him last year in his raw debut season.
“We always knew D.J. had the ability to play as he played today, but he was really dialed in tonight, especially in the second quarter of this (Godby) game,” Lewis said. “His growth is still coming. He’s still learning, but he’s spending the time doing it. The offensive line game, they’ve grown up. The receivers are 100 times better, they’ve grown up. It’s an older team this year. We were very young last year and our talent shown through. Now we’ve just got to put in hard work and be able to execute for four quarters. We did a good job of that tonight.”
Bradwell carried in for a score, but Phillips hooked up deep with Riles, leading to a touchdown pass to Chad Hunter. He and Hunter then hooked up again from 30 yards out following Cougars kicker Logan Roberts’ 38-yard field goal.
Riley capped the victory with a late touchdown run, meaning Bradwell’s 25-yard touchdown run with 11 seconds remaining was meaningless, but he too is expected to have an outstanding senior year and draw major attention come time for his college decision to be made permanent.
“Darius has improved his passing tremendously and he proved it tonight making some really great throws,” Lanter said. “He’s a true leader and a great human being. He’s going to help these kids along and grow them. It will be exciting to be able to see what this group is able to turn into by the end of the year next year.”