The Buchholz Bobcats football team was predicted to have a big season in 2021. After being knocked out by Niceville in the Class 7A region semifinals a year ago, the Bobcats returned most of their starters and were primed for a big run.
As the high school football season comes to an end the Bobcats came up short of the ultimate goal of a 7A state title, but Buchholz has put the program on the map statewide after a 12-2 season that ended in the state semifinals against nationally-ranked and eventual state champion St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale).
The Bobcats won their first three postseason games at home against Fleming Island (Orange Park), No. 16 University (Orange City), and No. 10 Nease (Ponte Vedra) by a combined score of 111-28 to win Region 1-7A, their first regional title sine 1991. This was enough to garner Buchholz five of the seven first-place and the final No. 1 ranking in The Prep Zone Power Poll.
The Bobcats also finished 16th statewide regardless of classification in MaxPreps season-ending poll.
Buchholz ends up just ahead of Bolles, who moves up one spot to No. 2. The Bulldogs (8-3) were knocked out in the 4A state semifinals at Cocoa, losing a double-digit lead in the second half. Bolles came up just short of its third straight 4A state championship game appearance.
Class 2A state champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) ends up third. The Conquerors, who won the 3A state title in 2020, moved down a classification and picked up their ninth state title in school history. Trinity Christian rallied to win the state semifinal game at Orlando Christian Prep, then defeated defending 2A state champion Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah), 41-23, in the state title game in Tallahassee.
The Conquerors (10-4) move up six spots from the previous poll. Trinity Christian's four losses all came to playoff teams from higher classifications, Bolles, 3A Florida High (Tallahassee), 7A Lincoln (Tallahassee), and 6A Riverside (Jacksonville). Trinity Christian received one first-place vote.
Class 1A state champion Madison County finishes at No. 4. The Cowboys (11-3) are up seven spots from the previous poll after capturing their fourth 1A state championship in five years. Madison County earned the No. 3 seed in Region 2 and had to win three straight road games to advance to the state championship game. No problem, as the Cowboys pounded Blountstown, Port St. Joe and No. 15 Chiefland by a combined 117-6.
In the state title game, Madison County met Hawthorne, who knocked the Cowboys out in the state semifinal round a year ago on their way to a state runner-up finish. This time playing for the state title at Gene Cox Stadium, Madison County blocked a punt with seven minutes to go and recovered on the 2-yard line, and scored one play later to take a 13-12 lead. And that was enough for another championship for the Cowboys, who also earn the final first-place vote.
Rounding out the top five is Vanguard (Ocala), The Knights finished 12-1, being knocked out by Jones (Orlando) in the Region 2-6A final. Vanguard was ranked 2nd previously.
Baker County (Glen St. Mary), another state semifinalist, finishes at No. 6. The Wildcats, state runners-up in 2017, won their first three playoff games at home to claim Region 1-5A. But Baker County (11-3) then had to make the long trip to South Florida to Traz Powell Stadium for the state semifinal against Central (Miami), and their season ended there with a 54-21 loss to the eventual state champion.
Hawthorne finishes seventh. The Hornets (10-1) advanced to the 1A state title game for the second straight year, winning all of their Region 4 and state semifinal game against Chipley at home. But for the second straight year, Hawthorne came up just a bit short of the state title, this time by one point to No. 4 Madison County.
Rounding out the top 10 are No. 8 Bartram Trail (St. Johns), ninth-ranked Riverside (Jacksonville), and No. 10 Nease (Ponte Vedra). Both Bartram Trail and Riverside were eliminated in the second round of the 8A and 6A playoffs, respectively, while Nease advanced to the Region 1-7A final, where Buchholz knocked the Panthers (9-4). Nease still moves up five spots and into the top 10 after postseason wins at No. 14 Spruce Creek (Port Orange) and Niceville.
Mainland (Daytona Beach) moves into the final rankings at No.18, while St. Augustine and Creekside (St. Johns) are also new to the rankings as both are tied for No. 20 along with Dunnellon.
Falling out from the previous poll is Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville).
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, girls basketball, boys basketball, softball & baseball teams (regardless of FHSAA classification) across 26 counties in North Florida (Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties). It is voted on weekly by sportswriters and sportscasters and it is powered by Anytime Fitness of Gainesville.
THE PREP ZONE POWER POLL – 2021 FOOTBALL POLL #14 (FINAL POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final 2021 record, and total voting points)
1. Buchholz (Gainesville) (7A) (5) (12-2) – 137
2. Bolles (Jacksonville) (4A) (8-3) - 129
3. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (1) (10-4) - 128
4. Madison County (1A) (1) (11-3) - 114
5. Vanguard (Ocala) (6A) (12-1) - 112
6. Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (11-3) - 109
7. Hawthorne (1A) (10-1) - 100
8. Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (8A) (9-3) - 87
9. Riverside (Jacksonville) (6A) (10-2) - 85
10. Nease (Ponte Vedra) (7A) (9-4) - 77
11. Raines (Jacksonville) (5A) (8-3) - 59
12. The Villages (4A) (11-1) - 58
13. Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (7-3) - 51
14. Spruce Creek (Port Orange) (7A) (8-2) - 48
15. Chiefland (1A) (10-2) - 44
16. University (Orange City) (7A) (7-3) - 40
17. Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (12-1) - 26
18. Mainland (Daytona Beach) (6A) (5-5) - 17
19, University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (7-5) - 8
20T. Creekside (St. Johns) (8A) (8-3) - 7
20T. Dunnellon (5A) (8-3) - 7
20T. St. Augustine (6A) (6-3) - 7
Also receiving votes: Columbia (Lake City) (6A) (6-5) – 5; Hilliard (1A) (9-2) - 5; Lafayette (Mayo) (1A) (8-4) - 4; South Sumter (Bushnell) (4A) (7-4) - 4; Keystone Heights (4A) (10-2) - 3; North Marion (Citra) (5A) (6-4) - 3; Gainesville (6A) (8-3) – 1; Nature Coast Tech (Brooksville) (5A) (8-4) - 1.