The season ended for dozens of Central Florida football teams last week, but it just started for many more. A host of local teams earned berths in the postseason, which starts Friday with some key matchups.
In Class 6A, DeLand, Daytona Beach Mainland, Sanford Seminole, Lake Brantley, Winter Park, Orlando Boone, Apopka, Orlando Olympia and Dr. Phillips reached the playoffs. Each plays a regional quarterfinal Friday. Dr. Phillips, Apopka, Winter Park, Seminole and Mainland play at home thanks to district championships. The others are loading up the bus.
With further introduction, let’s break down the matchups
Olympia at Dr. Phillips — Of the six Class 6A regional quarterfinals games, this one ranks at the top. After all, these rivals play home games just a stone’s throw apart in West Orlando. Dr. Phillips posted a perfect 10-0 regular-season record. The Panthers, though, had one close call. Guess who? That’s right. Olympia fell 27-20 to Dr. Phillips on Sept. 18. In that one, Olympia hosted.
Now the Titans travel to play in the Panther pen. Dr. Phillips shut out five of its opponents during the regular season, but part of that stems from Dr. Phillips’ offensive power. By putting up lots of points, DP forces opponents to put the ball into the air, and many prep teams do so with little success. Olympia, though, has a great passing game. In fact, the Titans have a better passing game than what DP has shown this season. Can Olympia (6-4) outscore DP? Can the Panthers shut down prolific passer Trevor Siemian, who might reach 2,500 passing yards before the season ends? All will be answered Friday night. The winner faces the Boone-Apopka victor.
DeLand at Orange Park — The Bulldogs (9-1) played last on Nov. 6. That game ended with a loss to new district rival Mainland. DeLand also lost a shot at a perfect regular season in the game, which ended 21-14 when the Bulldogs’ comeback bid hit the skids. Orange Park (10-0) has been coasting since pulling out a 20-17 win against Gainesville Buchholz in mid-September. Since then, the Raiders have outscored opponents 313-75. It’s tough to compare the two teams, who share no common opponents. For what it’s worth, Orange Park defeated Jacksonville Mandarin 42-20 and Jacksonville Sandalwood 40-7.
Those two schools were in the same district as DeLand before districts were realigned last spring. The winner faces the Mainland-Sandalwood winner, and the Bulldogs certainly want another shot at the Bucs. To earn that shot, though, DeLand’s defense must prove its worth against a Raiders offense that heats up the scoreboard. Plus, the Bulldogs need to work out some kinks on offense, where DeLand can be vulnerable when teams key on their run game.
Sandalwood at Mainland — The Saints (8-2) make the trek from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach riding a hot streak. Winners of its last four, Sandalwood has outscored opponents 137-38 over the stretch. The Saints’ two losses were to Jacksonville First Coast and Orange Park. Mainland (8-2) is on a six-game win streak after defeating rival Seabreeze 27-13 last Friday. The Bucs are a mysterious bunch. Mainland led powerhouse Miami Central 3-0 at one point on Sept. 4 only to fall 34-3. Three weeks later, the Bucs lost 21-20 to defending 6A state champion Seminole.
Over its first four games, Mainland allowed 76 points. The offense, though, has been relatively strong since Quinn Bell took over as quarterback. Bell, running back Marlin Lane and several key receivers have shown a knack for turning in big plays. Lane scored twice on long runs, including a punt return, against Seabreeze, and Bell scored an incredible six times, including a trio of touchdown throws, against Pine Ridge. Mainland, though, also has shown a tendency to commit penalties, particularly the 15-yard variety, and the Bucs seemed to go to sleep against both DeLand and Seabreeze after taking double-digit leads.
Timber Creek at Seminole — Though the defense was strong, the Seminole offense overshadowed everything else last season. With the departure of key playmakers, though, the Seminoles have relied heavily on defense this fall. Seminole (8-2) allowed an average of 9 points per game during the regular season and 39 of the 94 came against Mainland and DeLand. Seminole lost its season opener to Oviedo and lost against to DeLand in a shutout that showed the team’s limited ability to put points on the board.
Since the loss to DeLand, though, Seminole is on a five-game win streak that carries into the postseason. Timber Creek (6-4) matches up well with Seminole. The Wolves also lost to Oviedo, 24-17 on Sept. 25 and narrowly defeated Wekiva a week earlier. Timber Creek won four of its last five games to earn a spot in the postseason, but the team seems to fall when it faces good teams. The Wolves need to change that this week or begin thinking about next year.
Lake Brantley at Winter Park — The Wildcats created a buzz this season after winning its first five games, which include a 59-14 victory against Boon and a 13-7 win against Timber Creek. Only a 28-14 loss to Edgewater kept the Wildcats (9-1) from notching a perfect regular season. Defense has been key for Winter Park, which held six of 10 opponents to one or fewer touchdowns. The offense, though, has been good, too. Winter Park scored four or more touchdowns in eight of its games and went over 50 points twice. Of course, Lake Brantley isn’t likely to give up so many points. The Patriots (7-3) held a potent Seabreeze offense to 17 points in a Sept. 25 win and only allowed four touchdowns against DeLand’s relentless power running game. The Patriots, however, also finished the season giving up three scores each to Lake Mary and Hagerty. The winner hosts the Seminole-Timber Creek winner.
Boone at Apopka — The Blue Darters (9-1) know how to put points on the board. Apopka scored four or more touchdowns in eight of its nine wins, which included 66-14 and 49-21 poundings to end the regular season. Boone (7-3) needs to find some magic with its defense. While the Braves allowed no more than two scores during a win streak that stands at five games, Boone allowed Dr. Phillips to score 47 and allowed 59 against Winter Parker and 28 against Timber Creek. Without a better effort on defense, Boone quarterback Sam Hutsell has a lot of work to do. The winner plays the Olympia-Dr. Phillips winner. For Apopka, the chance for a rematch with Olympia lingers.
In Class 5A, Winter Springs travels to play another great Lakeland team. Meanwhile, Oviedo hosts Kissimmee Osceola. Oviedo (9-1) is playing great football. While the offense has dominated opponents via the passing of Blake Bortles, the Lions’ defense has held seven of its last eight opponents to two scores or fewer during an eight-game win streak. The streak includes a 24-17 victory against Timber Creek. Osceola (6-4) is a team overlooked by some. After all the Kowboys fell twice at the start of the season and twice again in October. Those losses, though, were against some extremely talented teams. Their combined regular-season records were 37-3. The quartet was Dr. Phillips, Mainland, Lakeland and Winter Park.
It’s the 26-7 loss to Lakeland that holds the most significance. After all, Osceola likely would play the Dreadnaughts in the second round if the Kowboys manage to defeat Oviedo. The other local team in Class 5A, Seabreeze, travels to play Fletcher in Nepture Beach. The Sandcrabs (6-4) have a talented core of players in the passing game, but Seabreeze has struggled with its running game. Meanwhile, the defense needs to play better than it has to make it another week. If that happens, the Sandcrabs would play the Fleming Island-First Coast winner on Nov. 27 in the regional semifinals.
In Class 2A, a pair of Orlando school still have state title dreams. Jones travels to play an unbeaten Cocoa team, and Bishop Moore hosts Astronaut. Lake Highland Prep plays at Island Coast in the 2B regional semifinals. In 1B, Warner Christian hosts Agape Christian and Pine Castle Christian hosts Florida Air. The winners of the two play each other Nov. 27. Warner Christian already defeated Florida Air during the regular season. On the bottom half of the 1B bracket is Jupiter Christian, which defeated Warner Christian last year in the state championship game.