Florida high school football: 8 can't-miss games in FHSAA regional semifinals
The only negative to Plantation-American Heritage hosting Miami Central on Friday is it's a regional semifinal and not a state semifinal or title game.
No. 2 seed Heritage, which won the Class 5A state championship in 2020, will play No. 3 seed Central, the Class 6A state champion in 2020, in a Region 4-5A semifinal.
Both teams were ranked in the top 25 nationally to start the season and seemingly have been on a collision course since the FHSAA announced the new classifications in March.
Heritage is 6-3 with a four-game win streak. The Patriots dropped games to a trio of teams seeded No. 1 or 2 in their respective regions: Treasure Coast, St. Thomas Aquinas and Trinity Christian.
Central (8-2) dropped its first two games on road trips to nationally-ranked St. John Bosco (California) and Bishop Gorman (Nevada) but has dominated teams in Florida. The Rockets have outscored opponents 370-52 in the past eight games.
Both teams boast deep rosters loaded with Power 5 talent and it's not an exaggeration to say there may be no other game this postseason with as much college talent on the field.
Here's a look at the best regional semifinal game in the other seven classes.
Class 8A: Seminole vs. Lake Mary (Region 1)
Some coaches like to say it’s more difficult to beat a team twice in the same season. How about three times? Seminole, the defending Class 8A, will host rival Lake Mary on Friday. It will be the third time since May that these two will meet. Seminole won the first two — the spring game and a 29-12 result in the de facto District 2-8A championship on Oct. 22. Can the Seminoles complete the hat trick or will Lake Mary and senior quarterback Gunnar Smith (USF commit) return to the regional championship for the second consecutive season?
Class 7A: Edgewater vs. Lake Gibson (Region 2)
Two of the premier running backs in the state will square off in this one and the defenses will be focused on trying to make the opposition throw the ball. Good luck. Edgewater’s Cedric Baxter Jr., one of the premier recruits in the class of 2023, has rushed for 1,450 yards and 17 touchdowns and is averaging more than 160 yards per game. Glover, a Utah commit and Lake Gibson’s all-time leading rusher, has 1,532 yards and 19 scores this season.
Class 6A: Naples vs. Northwestern (Region 4)
Undefeated Naples has been one of the most dominant teams in the state, scoring 480 points and allowing only 45. The Golden Eagles smallest margin of victory this season is 29 points. On the other side is perennial power Northwestern, which scored 71 points against Fort Myers last week. The Bulls are 8-3 with its losses coming against Miami Central (twice) and IMG Academy. Either Central or Northwestern has ended Naples’ season four years in a row. Will this be the year the Golden Eagles snap that streak?
Class 4A: Bolles vs. Gadsden County (Region 1)
On paper, this is a mismatch. Bolles is 6-2 and the No. 2 seed in Region 1-4A. Gadsden County is 3-6 and their .491 RPI was one of the lowest in Class 4A. A deeper dive though reveals that Bolles has played only two games since Oct. 1 and lost both of those games. Gadsden County has won two in a row and six of its four losses are against teams that were playoff teams. Both teams have tested themselves against quality opponents. This could be a really good game.
Class 3A: Walton vs. Florida High
Walton and Florida High are very similar from a statistical standpoint. Both teams are 9-1 with their lone loss being a September road game against teams still playing in the postseason. Walton averages 32.2 points and allows 11.2 points per game; Florida High scores 33.7 points and gives up 12.7 per game. This is a rematch of last year's first-round playoff game when Florida High won 64-7 but it would be stunning for this one to play out the same way.
Class 2A: Trinity Christian vs. St. John Paul II (Region 1)
Trinity Christian is the No. 1 seed in the region, but enter the playoffs on a rare three-game losing streak. Still, the Conquerors have one of the most talented backfields in the state with freshman quarterback Colin Hurley, junior running back Treyaun Webb (Oklahoma commit) and sophomore running back Darnell Rogers. St. John Paul has won seven consecutive games, including a 40-35 win against North Florida Christian in the regional quarterfinal. Sophomore quarterback Tremaine Hughes Jr. has thrown for 1,484 yards and 21 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Class 1A: Port St. Joe vs. Madison County (Region 1)
Port St. Joe is 8-1 and has won four in a row since a 40-36 loss to South Walton, the No. 1 seed in Region 1-4A, in Week 6. Madison County, a perennial power, has won five in a row -- a streak that includes wins against Columbia, Rickards and Bradford. Port St. Joe has a balanced offense with senior quarterback Colin Amison (1,512 yards, 19 touchdowns) and senior running back DJ Oliver (1,611 yards, 20 touchdowns). Madison County's defense, led by seniors Jahyren Lee and Jeremy McKnight, has 99 tackles for loss and 37 sacks this season
Individual matchups featuring top recruits
Buchholz 2022 WR Quan Lee vs. University 2022 DB Noble Thomas
Lee (UCF commit, No. 65 USA Today Florida Network midseason top 100) has been one of the top playmakers in the state this season. The 6-foot, 175-pounder leads the Bobcats with 38 catches for 683 yards and eight touchdowns and has rushed for 226 yards and three scores. The 6-foot, 180-pound Thomas committed to Iowa State in June. Thomas has 57 tackles, two interceptions and three passes defended.
Lehigh 2023 RB Richard Young vs. Wharton 2022 ATH Daveon Crouch
Young is one of the top junior recruits in the nation. The 6-foot, 200-pounder has rushed for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns and is averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Young's offers include Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. Crouch, a Boston College commit, is one of the primary reason why Wharton's defense allows less than 10 points per game. He leads the team with 14 tackles for loss and is second with 52 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Miami Central OT Daughtry Richardson vs. American Heritage DE Richard Thomas
Richardson, a Florida State commit, is No. 63 on the USA Today midseason top 100. Thomas, an Indiana commit, is No. 66. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder has 13 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 23 tackles for loss. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Richardson has good footwork and will be counted on to keep Thomas out of the backfield.
Western 2023 QB Collin Hurst vs. Columbus 2024 DL Daylen Russell
Lake Mary 2022 QB Gunnar Smith vs. Seminole 2022 S Demari Henderson
Mosley 2023 TE Randy Pittman vs. Lincoln 2023 LB Raylen Wilson
Homestead 2023 WR Richard Dandridge vs. Dillard 2024 DB Antione Jackson
Northwestern 2023 WR Andy Jean vs. Naples 2022 DB Devin Moore
Booker T. Washington 2023 WR Adam Moore vs. Gulliver Prep 2023 DB Daniel Harris
Miami Edison 2023 WR Nathaniel Joseph vs. Chaminade-Madonna 2022 DB Ryan Turner
Regional semifinal pairings
(Note: The higher-seeded team will host)
(1) Seminole vs. (5) Lake Mary
(2) Bartram Trail vs. (3) Apopka
(1) Palm Beach Central vs. (5) Vero Beach
(2) Treasure Coast vs. (3) Boone
(1) Venice vs. (5) Riverview
(2) West Orange vs. (6) Osceola
(1) Western vs. (5) Columbus
(2) Palmetto vs. (3) Deerfield Beach
(1) Buchholz vs. (5) University
(3) Niceville vs. (7) Nease
(1) Edgewater vs. (4) Lake Gibson
(2) Martin County vs. (3) Melbourne
(1) Tampa Bay Tech vs. (4) Palmetto
(2) Lehigh vs. (6) Wharton
(1) St. Thomas Aquinas vs. (4) Miramar
(2) Homestead vs. (6) Dillard
(1) Pine Forest vs. (5) Riverside
(2) Mosley vs. (6) Lincoln
(1) Vanguard vs. (5) Lake Wales
(2) Auburndale vs. (3) Jones
(1) Jesuit vs. (5) Braden River
(3) Sumner vs. (7) Hillsborough
(4) Coconut Creek vs. (8) Plantation
(2) Naples vs. (3) Northwestern
(1) Baker County vs. (5) West Florida
(2) Raines vs. (3) Wakulla
(1) Merritt Island vs. (5) Rockledge
(6) Satellite vs. (7) Bishop Moore
(1) Clearwater vs. (5) Nature Coast Tech
(3) Sebring vs. (7) Gibbs
(1) Killian vs. (5) Stranahan
(2) American Heritage vs. (3) Central
(1) South Walton vs. (4) Baldwin
(2) Bolles vs. (6) Gadsden County
(1) Cocoa vs. (4) South Sumter
(2) Villages Charter vs. (3) Keystone Heights
(1) Lakewood vs. (5) Glades Central
(2) Lemon Bay vs. (3) Clewiston
(1) Gulliver Prep vs. (4) Booker T. Washington
(2) Cardinal Gibbons vs. (6) Pine Crest
(1) Trinity Catholic vs. (4) P.K. Yonge
(2) Walton vs. (3) Florida High
(1) Lakeland Christian vs. (4) Frostproof
(2) Benjamin vs. (3) First Academy
(1) Berkeley Prep vs. (4) Bishop Verot
(2) Clearwater Central Catholic vs. (6) Tampa Catholic
(1) Chaminade-Madonna vs. (4) Edison
(2) Florida Christian vs. (3) Cardinal Newman
(1) Trinity Christian vs. (4) St. John Paul II
(2) Munroe vs. (3) University Christian
(1) Orlando Christian vs. (4) Holy Trinity Episcopal
(2) Zephyrhills Christian vs. (6) Victory Christian
(1) First Baptist vs. (4) Seffner Christian
(2) Northside Christian vs. (3) Community School of Naples
(1) Avant Garde vs. (5) John Carroll Catholic
(2) Champagnat Catholic vs. (3) Glades Day
(1) Baker vs. (4) Northview
(2) Chipley vs. (3) Holmes County
(1) Blountstown vs. (4) Liberty County
(2) Port St. Joe vs. (3) Madison County
(1) Chiefland vs. (4) Lafayette
(2) Hilliard vs. (3) Union County
(1) Hathorne vs. (4) Wildwood
(2) Pahokee vs. (3) Bradford