GAINESVILLE — A high school football season that was once in doubt has come to an end. And just like every other year in Florida, eight state champions have been crowned.
Once again, but for the first time in four years, the Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) Conquerors are state champions in Class 3A—and they also finish the 2020 season as the top-ranked team in The Prep Zone Power Poll.
Trinity Christian (12-1) rallied from a 16-0 halftime deficit in the 3A state championship game at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee to defeat three-time defending champion Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood), 25-22. It was the eighth state title in school history.
The Conquerors took the lead for good on a fourth-down 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ja’Cory Jordan to UF signee wide receiver Marcus Burke with 48 seconds left.
Trinity Christian also won road games in the regional playoffs at Baldwin, Episcopal (Jacksonville), and at #18 Trinity Catholic (Ocala) in the state semifinals. They blasted 2019 3A state runner-up Florida High (Tallahassee), 45-14, in the Region 1-4A final in their only home playoff game during this run to the state championship game.
The Conquerors received all eight first-place votes to move up from second from the previous poll and finish as a unanimous No. 1 pick.
This was their first state title since 2016, during a run of four straight state championships from 2013-2016.
Trinity Christian won its last 12 games after an opening week loss to Bolles (Jacksonville), which finishes second in the poll.
The Bulldogs (10-3) move up five spots to second in the final rankings after finishing as 4A state runner-up for the second year in a row.
The ‘Dogs were also road warriors, winning games at RV The Villages, RV Fernandina Beach, and South Sumter (Bushnell), before having to work overtime to beat Gadsden County (Havana) at home, 10-7, in the state semifinals.
Bolles came up short in the state title game for the second year in a row, this time falling 35-21 to Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale), which took home its second state championship in three years.
It was the sixth time since 2011 that the Bulldogs were state runner-up.
Bartram Trail (St. Johns) finishes third.
The Bears (10-2) had been in the top spot in the previous poll, and most of this season, but dropped two slots in the final ranking as they were eliminated, 42-28, at eventual 8A state champion Seminole (Sanford) in the Region 1 final.
Dunnellon ends up fourth.
The Tigers (10-1) just missed out on their first state championship game appearance since back-to-back state titles in 1978 and ’79 after losing a heartbreaker, 26-24, at eventual 5A state runner-up Rickards (Tallahassee) in the state semifinals.
Dunnellon knocked off No. 8 Vanguard (Ocala) for the second time this season, 13-10, in the Region 2-5A final to advance to the state semifinals.
Another surprise team, 6A state runner-up Lake Minneola, rounds out the top five.
The Hawks (11-2) move up 11 spots after they rolled through their first three playoff opponents, then slipped past undefeated Gaither (Tampa) in the Region 3-6A final and #9 St. Augustine, 49-48, in a 3-overtime thriller in the state semifinals to advance to Tallahassee.
Unfortunately, Lake Minneola ran into defending 6A state champion Central (Miami) in the title game and was blown out 46-0 by a more playoff-experienced Rockets team, which won its 7th state title overall.
But it was quite a season for a Hawks team that had won only two postseason games before this year, both in 2019.
Class 1A state runner-up Hawthorne leads off the second five at No. 6, moving up 13 spots from the previous poll.
The Hornets (10-3) knocked off three-time defending 1A state champion No. 14 Madison County, 18-14, in the state semifinals, to advance to their first state championship game appearance in Tallahassee against Baker.
Unfortunately, Baker scored 20 points off three Hawthorne turnovers and the Hornets came up short, falling 27-14 in the title game.
Head coach Cornelius Ingram’s team has plenty to be proud of and to look forward to, as most of the team will return in 2021.
Buchholz (Gainesville) finishes 7th.
The Bobcats (8-2) lost a heartbreaker, 38-35, in double overtime to Niceville in the Region 1-7A semifinal, but still move up two slots in this final poll.
Rounding out the top 10 are Vanguard, St. Augustine, and Oakleaf (Orange Park).
Among the highlights in the second 10 is 2A state runner-up University Christian (Jacksonville), which moves into the final poll at No. 15.
The Christians (8-5) started the season 2-4 and won six of their final seven games. The run included a big playoff win on the road at North Florida Christian (Tallahassee) in the Region 1-2A final before returning home to beat Foundation Academy (Winter Garden) in the state semifinal.
UCS made its first state title game appearance since 2017 and hung with defending state champion Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah) most of the game but came up short of their 10th state title, 41-27.
Also moving into the rankings is No. 20 Columbia (Lake City).
The Tigers only finished with a 5-6 record, but four of those wins came in the postseason after Columbia won only one game in regular season play.
Columbia knocked off Englewood (Jacksonville), Ponte Vedra, Seabreeze (Daytona Beach), and then-No. 6 Mainland (Daytona Beach) in the Region 1-6A semifinals before being knocked out by St. Augustine in the regional final round.
Dropping out from the previous poll were No. 17 Newberry, No. 18 Sandalwood (Jacksonville), and #20T DeLand.
The Prep Zone Power Poll ranks the top 20 high school football, volleyball, 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 – 2020 FOOTBALL POLL #12 (FINAL POLL)
(School, followed by classification, first-place votes, final record, and total voting points)
1. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) (3A) (8) (12-1) – 160
2. Bolles (Jacksonville) (4A) (10-3) – 146
3. Bartram Trail (St. Johns) (8A) (10-2) – 143
4. Dunnellon (5A) (10-1) – 133
5. Lake Minneola (Minneola) (6A) (11-2) – 115
6. Hawthorne (1A) (10-3) – 110
7. Buchholz (Gainesville) (7A) (8-2) – 95
8. Vanguard (Ocala) (5A) (8-2) – 92
9. St. Augustine (6A) (10-3) – 84
10. Oakleaf (Orange Park) (8A) (7-4) – 77
11. Mainland (Daytona Beach) (6A) (8-2) – 75
12. Baker County (Glen St. Mary) (5A) (10-3) – 61
13. Fleming Island (Orange Park) (7A) (10-3) – 60
14. Madison County (1A) (10-3) – 58
15. University Christian (Jacksonville) (2A) (8-5) – 55
16. Robert E. Lee (Jacksonville) (6A) (6-2) – 50
17. Clay (Green Cove Springs) (5A) (9-2) – 37
18. Trinity Catholic (Ocala) (3A) (7-4) – 32
19. Suwannee (Live Oak) (5A) (8-3) – 27
20. Columbia (Lake City) (6A) (5-6) – 23
Also receiving votes: Sandalwood (Jacksonville) (8A) (8-3) – 22; The Villages (4A) (6-1) – 8; Newberry (1A) (8-2) – 6; Fernandina Beach (4A) (7-4) – 4; DeLand (8A) (4-3) – 3; Wildwood (1A) (9-2) – 3; Union County (Lake Butler) (1A) (8-4) – 1.