Now that Week 10 is in the books, prep football fans can begin salivating over playoff scenarios now that postseason brackets have been finalized.
In 1-6A, Pine Forest (7-2, 3-0) swept the district and will play host in the first round to the winner of the 2-6A shootout between Milton (6-3, 1-2), Pace (3-6, 1-2) and Gulf Breeze (2-7, 1-2). 1-6A runner up Tate will travel to face 2-6A champion Navarre.
In 1-5A, the West Florida Jaguars (6-3, 3-1) secured their fourth district title in five years after starting this season 1-3. The Jaguars will host Rickards (6-2, 1-1) in the 1-5A region quarterfinal.
Catholic (2-7, 1-1) finished as runner up in District 1-3A and will travel to face Trinity Christian (9-0, 3-0) in the first round of the playoffs.
And in 1A, Northview (2-7, 1-1) finished runner up in region 1 and will travel to face Vernon (8-1, 4-1) to start the postseason. Santa Rosa County fans will be treated to an early dose of postseason action as Milton hosts a runner-up shootout on Monday.
Escambia, Washington finish district play strong
For Escambia, this year simply did not reach the Gators’ expectations.
Escambia worked through what was arguably the area’s toughest schedule, but lost key district matches to Tate and Pine Forest to eliminate the Gators’ playoff hopes.
But last season’s district champions refused to fold in their final district contest when they hosted Washington on Friday night.
The Gators came out on top 28-26 in a close battle with the Wildcats, and the Gators can now claim third place in District 1-6A.
“As seniors, we had to come out here with a bang,” said Darius Grandison, a Pensacola News Journal Super Senior. “We came out good, but it was a close one – we should have come out banging from the start. But we stuck in it as team. This was a big win for us coming off a couple of losses. I have never lost to Washington, so I didn’t want to lose tonight. We came out with that intensity to win.”
It was an injury-riddled season for Escambia, highlighted by star player and PNJ Super Senior Jabir Frye’s ankle, which forced the senior to miss several games this season.
Friday night Frye was sidelined once again, and the “next-man up” mentality proved true for the Gators’ ground attack.
“I thought when Frye went out, I had to step up for the team,” sophomore Ray Samuel said. “The defense stood up at the end, and they just give me more confidence for next year. We never give up. We always fight, and we just stuck through it.”
There was moral victories for the Wildcats as well, who came a long way from the start of the season when the team totaled 10 points in a three-game span.
Washington earned its first win against Catholic in Week 9, and followed it up with a convincing statement on Friday night.
And although the Gators proved to be the better team on the scoreboard, the Cats heart and drive impressed Washington coach Charlie Ward.
“My guys competed, and that’s all we can ask of them,” Ward said. “We had a couple of miscues in the first half that cost us some drives. But overall, they didn’t score in the second half, and we were able to put up 14 points. Our kids continue to fight. The season’s not gone according to planned, but they found a way to muster up enough pride within themselves to continue to compete. We were just unfortunate tonight.”
New territory for Northview as playoffs approach
2-7 overall. It is the worst regular-season campaign for a Northview squad since 2008 (2-8, then in District 1-2B).
For the Chiefs – 6-4 last season and 11-3 back in 2012 – it is unfamiliar territory.
“We’ve got good kids and they’re used to winning, just like all of us are,” said Sid Wheatley, Chiefs head coach. “This is new for me; it’s a new experience for them, but I think it shows a lot of character that they’re still in it when the score’s not looking good.
“We know things can happen and you can’t look at the scoreboard and say ‘aw man, we’re down by two or three touchdowns right here. You just have to keep playing and fighting. Maybe a ball bounces your way, you make a big play, you get back in it and you get a chance to sneak in there and get it tight.”
It is one of the reasons, trailing 28-8 in Friday’s District 1-1A title game against Baker, that the Chiefs did not back down, whittling the score to 35-21 before turning the ball over on a failed fourth-and-goal conversion attempt with about 2:30 to play in regulation.
“We had that chance,” Wheatley said. “We had that chance tonight.”
“I know you look at some of the scores (this season), but then you look at the breakdown of the game and, man, a play here a play there …”