Tonight: Cocoa High plays for 4A state football title

Any questions will be answered on Thursday. Cocoa High football will line up against Jacksonville Bolles at 7 p.m. in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium to play for the Class 4A championship.

Cocoa faces Jacksonville Bolles for the 4A title on Thursday.

Cocoa faces Jacksonville Bolles for the 4A title on Thursday.

For the Tigers (10-1), it will mark a return to the final after a five-year absence. For Bolles (12-0), it’s a chance to win its first title since 2011, when Corky Rogers and the Bulldogs followed Cocoa’s 2010 win, defeating Miami Booker T. Washington, 33-25.

That game came a week after BTW broke Cocoa’s 15-game postseason winning streak and prevented the Tigers from playing for a fourth consecutive ring. Coach John Wilkinson hopes his team learned a lesson from the way the Tornadoes handled their emotional 2011 state semifinal win over the Tigers before losing to Bolles.

MORE: Wilkinson drove Cocoa to its potential

MORE: Switch in defense bolstered title chances

“They knocked us off and celebrated like it was the Super Bowl,” Wilkinson said. The result was the finals loss. “Our first practice back (after an emotional 24-21 win over BTW on Nov. 25), I told the guys I’m proud of them, now it’s on to the next step.”

Wilkinson’s message to his team all year has been about taking one step at a time. Win the district. Win each round of the playoffs. Get past the BTW hurdle.

The moving of the ACC final to Orlando caused the FHSAA to delay all its championship games to this weekend. That means Cocoa had a few extra days to withstand the emotional letdown that followed the semifinal win.

“You could see it just in our practices on Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said. “Then, (last Thursday), I think we had one of our best practices all year.”

Cocoa semifinal football win reverses trends

On the other hand, Bolles got the same benefit. That gave Florida’s winningest high school coach, Corky Rogers, more time to prepare as well.

Rogers has led the Bulldogs to 10 state championships, 78 postseason wins in all since 1989. He has a record of 324-45 at Bolles and 465-84 in his career.

“He’s someone I’ve always looked up to,” Wilkinson said. In 2009, Cocoa played Bolles in Jacksonville and came away with a 44-37 overtime win. “It’s a game I always thought about playing, to go up in that atmosphere and go against a coaching legend.”

This season, Bolles has beaten its opponents by an average score of 50-14. The team runs a wing-T offense.

“If you want to run the wing-T, you go to Bolles to see how they do it,” Wilkinson said.

MORE: Cocoa fans consistently faithful in 10-year run

MORE: Bruce Judson leads All-District 12 team

Cocoa runs a variety of offensive looks now but adhered to more wing-T principles when the teams met in 2009. The Bulldogs led in the third quarter, 30-14, but the Tigers rallied. It ended a 42-game regular-season Bolles winning streak.

Even in defeat, Rogers appreciated the quality of the matchup.

“It was one of the greatest high schools games I’ve witnessed,” he said that night. “We were prepared, and I was really proud of the effort. Somebody had to lose.”

The same will be true Thursday.

Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or Follow and @Brian_McCallum on Twitter.

MORE: Final 2016 state football rankings

Cocoa at a glance

2016 results

Aug. 28   Jacksonville Trinity Christian          W, 26-23 (OT)

Sept. 2    at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman          L, 46-10

Sept. 16    Lake Highland Prep          W, 49-24

Sept. 23    at Viera          W, 17-7

Oct. 14    Orlando Jones          W, 41-6

Oct. 21    at Astronaut          W, 48-6

Oct. 28    at Port Orange Atlantic         W, 56-0

Nov. 4    Rockledge          W, 56-14

Nov. 11   4A regional semi: Cocoa 64, Bishop Verot 0

Nov. 18   4A regional final: Cocoa 36, Jones 30

Nov. 25   4A state semi: Cocoa 24, Miami BTW 21

State championships

2008 — Class 3A: Cocoa 7, Tallahassee Godby 6 (OT)

2009 — Class 2A: Cocoa 27, Glades Central 13

2010 — Class 2A: Cocoa 14, Glades Central 13

Cocoa High plans to challenge for state again

Bolles at a glance

2016 results

Aug. 26   at Lake Mary          W, 62-24

Sept. 9    at Lakewood          W, 54-12

Sept. 16   at Jackson          W, 58-6

Sept. 23   Miami Jackson          W, 44-14

Sept. 30   at West Nassau          W, 47-0

Oct. 14    Keys Gate          W, 69-27

Oct. 21   Fernandina          W, 55-0

Oct. 28   Raines          W, 24-23

Nov. 4    Monterey (Mexico) Tec          W, 59-15

Nov. 11  4A regional semi: East Gadsden     W, 40-0

Nov. 18   4A regional final: Raines     W, 60-20

Nov. 25   4A state semi: South Sumter     W, 31-26

State championships

1986 — Class 2A: Bolles 27, Palmetto 21

1990 — Class 2A: Bolles 17, Bishop Verot 14

1993 — Class 3A: Bolles 42, Lake Wales 21

1995 —  Class 4A: Bolles 28, Hardee 21

1998 — Class 3A: Bolles 29, Pahokee 14

2002 — Class 2A: Bolles 6, Chaminade 0

2004 — Class 3A: Bolles 42, Jefferson 21

2006 — Class 2A: Bolles 27, Clewiston 24 (3OT)

2008 — Class 2A: Bolles 49, Gulliver Prep 20

2009 — Class 2B: Bolles 21, Tampa Catholic 7

2011 — Class 4A: Bolles 33, Miami BTW 25

High school sports |

More Stories

Current high school NIL rules in each of the 50 states (plus D.C.)

A current rundown that shows which states have adopted rules in favor of high school athletes benefiting from name, image and likeness.

Read the full article

High school football coach at the center of prayer debate gets reinstated, receives $1.7 million settlement

Kennedy was terminated from his coaching position after he continued post-game prayers with students.

Read the full article

Insane Maine HS basketball finish features 4 lead changes in final 21 seconds

The Maine high school playoff game between Thornton Academy and Bonny Eagle had one of the most exciting finishes of the season.

Read the full article
More News