The stakes are higher as the second round of the high school football state playoffs kick off on Friday.
There are four area teams alive in the Class 1A state playoffs.
Chiefland, the top seed in Class 1A-Region 3, received a bye last week and will face No. 4 seed Lafayette (Mayo) in Friday’s regional semifinals.
The Indians (9-1) defeated the Hornets (8-3), 42-7, on the road on Oct. 15. Chiefland limited Lafayette to just 106 total yards in the game.
Union County (Lake Butler), the No. 3 seed, will play at No. 2 seed Hilliard (9-1) in the other regional semifinal.
The Tigers (11-0) eliminated Trenton last week, 48-13, to advance. Union County got three rushing touchdowns from Rayvon Durant and two from Caleb Crawford.
“It was a little weird playing Trenton knowing I spent five years there and won two state titles,” Union County coach Andrew Thomas said after the game. “But I have a lot of respect for the people there and that school and they will always have a special place in my heart.”
The winner of the Chiefland-Lafayette game will play the winner of Union County-Hilliard in next Friday’s regional final.
In Class 1A-Region 4, top seed Hawthorne (7-0) resumes play after a 3-week hiatus.
The Hornets (7-0), who received a bye last week, had its regular season finale against North Marion (Citra) canceled due to weather two weeks ago, and that was coming off a bye week.
“Honestly, I think it has helped and hurt us some,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “Having some time off has allowed for some athletes to rest injuries and try to get healthy for the playoffs, however it has also hurt us because we have not had ‘live’ game situations, and that is something you cannot replicate in practice.”
Hawthorne, which will host No. 4 seed Wildwood, hasn’t played since a 27-6 home win against Class 7A Forest (Ocala) on Oct. 22.
“Being off from actual game competition is something I worry about, but it is on us as coaches to ensure our kids are prepared to go without any excuses this Friday,” Adkins said.
The visiting Wildcats (6-4) enter with some momentum following a 3-game winning streak, including a 29-13 win against No. 5 seed Fort Meade last week.
“Wildwood has a lot of great athletes that they like to spread the ball around too,” Adkins said. “They make you cover the entire field and are a threat to take a short gain all the way to the house for 6.”
Wildwood, which is averaging 51.3 points per game during the streak, gave unbeaten The Villages Charter all it could handle in a 27-21 loss the week before winning three in a row.
“Being assignment sound, physical, and securing tackles will be our key to victory,” Adkins said. “We have to take away what they are comfortable doing and take away their first and second reads within the passing game. The line of scrimmage will play a pivotal part in this game.”
Bradford (Starke) pulled away from Newberry, 51-13, in the other regional quarterfinal.
“I believe our ability to spread the ball around to many different players helped keep them off balance,” said Bradford coach Brian Tomlinson. “Defensively we were able to fly to the ball.”
The Tornadoes (6-5), the No. 3 seed in 1A-Region 4, will travel to No. 2 seed Pahokee.
Bradford quarterback Amari Jones broke the school record for passing yards in a season in 2021 (currently 2,047), while Jontez Williams (WR/RB/DB) “has done it all this year,” according to Tomlinson.
“He has run the ball, caught passes, intercepted passes, returned punts and kickoffs, and even played QB and led us to a win,” Tomlinson said.
Pahokee (7-1) has won four in a row since a narrow 35-34 loss against Class 8A Palm Beach Gardens on Sept. 24.
“The biggest key will be not letting the long trip affect us,” Tomlinson said. “Pahokee is a very good team. They are fast and physical, so we are going to have to play mistake-free football in order to beat them.”
The winner of the Hawthorne-Wildwood game will face the winner of Pahokee-Bradford in next Friday’s regional final.
The P.K. Yonge football team has bounced back from a 1-3 start to win seven in a row. The Blue Wave, the No. 4 seed in 3A-Region 1, travel to top seed Trinity Catholic (Ocala).
The Blue Wave dominated visiting Crescent City, 56-7, in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
The host Celtics (6-2) have won six in a row since an 0-2 start.
“With a bunch of new young guys, it took a while to get everyone on the same page,” said Trinity Catholic coach John Brantley. “Since week three, by no means perfect, but we have played some good physical football.”
Brantley said P.K. Yonge presents challenges all over the field.
“To have a chance to win, we need to control the line of scrimmage and protect the football,” he said.
The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM and online at IamCountryRadio.com beginning with the pregame at 7 p.m.
The winner will face either No. 2 seed Walton or No. 3 seed Florida High (Tallahassee) in next Friday’s regional final.
The Villages (10-0), which is the No. 2 seed in 4A-Region 2, is hosting 10-1 Keystone Heights in a regional semifinal. Last week the Indians (10-1) won their first playoff game in school history with a 50-0 win against visiting Umatilla.
The other area team still alive is Buchholz (Gainesville).
The Bobcats (10-1), who are the top seed in 7A-Region 1, defeated Fleming Island (Orange Park), 35-7, in last Friday’s regional quarterfinal. They will host No. 5 seed University (Orange City) in Friday’s regional semifinal. The game will be broadcast (audio only) at MainStreetDailyNews.com.
If Buchholz wins, the Bobcats would host either No. 7 Nease (Ponte Vedra) or No. 3 seed Niceville in next Friday’s regional final.
Kickoff for all games is at 7:30 p.m.