Florida high school football: What are the 5 toughest regions in the playoffs?

Jon Santucci
Florida Times-Union

The playoffs are here, the brackets have been announced and teams are ready to begin blazing their path to the Final Four.

But not every path is created equal. In fact, some regions are much tougher than others.

Here’s a look at the five toughest regions in the state, based on the FHSAA’s power rankings.

Honorable mention: Region 1, Class 4S

Bartram Trail's Nico Weiss (82) signals a first down on a late third quarter pass play. The Creekside High School football team hosted Bartram Trail at their Knights Lane campus Friday night, October 14, 2022. The Bartram Bears came away with a 59 to 27 victory over the Creekside Knights.

Average rating: 10.555

Top four seeds: Bartram Trail (10-0, 19.631), Niceville (9-1, 15.762), Buchholz (7-2, 13.509), Creekside (8-2, 12.021)

Why the honorable mention? Because the top seven seeds had an average of 12.336, which certainly would have been one of the highest numbers in the state. So why the drop? Flagler Palm Coast had to forfeit its first four games after self-reporting an academically ineligible player. The Bulldogs were on pace to be one of the top six seeds before the forfeit losses.

More: FHSAA Class 4S state tournament playoff preview

5. Region 4, Class 1R

Hawthorne Hornets celebrate a touchdown during the game against Union County at Union County High School in Lake Butler, FL on Friday, October 14, 2022. [Jesse Gann/Gainesville Sun]

Average rating: 10.867

Top four seeds: Hawthorne (8-0, 14.952 rating), Pahokee (8-2. 14.510), Chiefland (6-2, 10.657), Williston (10-0, 10.085)

Region 4-1R boasts three of the top five overall teams in the classification in terms of rating. Hawthorne has been the rural classification state runner-up the past two season and is looking to break through this year. Pahokee played the second-toughest schedule in Class 1R this season; Chiefland’s strength of schedule was No. 4. Undefeated Williston is coming off a 29-point win against Chiefland in Week 11. Fifth-seeded Wildwood (7-2, 9.172) had the No. 8 overall rating in the state and played the 10th toughest schedule in Class 1R.

More:High school football: FHSAA Class 1R state tournament playoff preview

4. Region 3, Class 3M

Fort Myers hosts St. Thomas Aquinas in high school football on Friday, Sept. 2, 2022, in Fort Myers.

Average rating: 11.735

Top four seeds: St. Thomas Aquinas (9-0, 21.451), Dillard (6-3, 15.215), Blanche Ely (8-0, 14.054), Atlantic (7-3, 11.882)

Aquinas, which is looking for its fourth consecutive state championship, had the second-highest rating in Class 3M and the third-highest rating in the state regardless of classification. Dillard played the toughest schedule in Class 3M and the fifth-toughest overall in the state. Ely wrapped up an undefeated regular season after winning three total games over the previous two seasons. Atlantic had the seventh-highest rating in the state and the third-toughest strength of schedule. Fifth-seeded Plantation was a regional finalist in 2021.

More:FHSAA Class 3M state tournament playoff preview

3. Region 4, Class 2M

Miami Central takes the field during the Class 5A state championship game against Merritt Island at DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale, FL  Dec. 17, 2021.

Average rating: 11.772

Top four seeds: Miami Central (9-0, 24.886), Booker T. Washington (8-2, 15.419), Miami Norland (7-2, 14.428), Miami Northwestern (5-4, 13.335)

This region deservedly got a lot of attention when the Metro/Suburban classes were announced, and it certainly lived up to the hype with four of the top six overall teams in Class 2M. Central has the highest rating in the state by more than 1.5 points and also played the second-toughest schedule in the state. Northwestern, which played seven playoff teams in 2022, had the toughest strength of schedule in the state regardless of classification. Booker T. Washington had its first winning season since 2019, when it won the state championship. Norland’s lone losses this season were road games at Booker T. Washington and Central. Fifth-seeded Gulliver Prep was a regional finalist in 2021 and played the seventh-toughest schedule in Class 2M this year.

More:High school football: FHSAA Class 2M state tournament playoff preview

2. Region 1, Class 1M

Trinity Christian Academy's Tyrone Summerall (10) makes the handoff to Trinity Christian Academy's Darnell Rogers (4) during second quarter action. Trinity Christian Academy hosted the Providence School of Jacksonville in Friday night football, October 28, 2022. Trinity went into the half with a 42 to 3 lead over Providence.

Average rating: 12.366

Top four seeds: Trinity Christian (10-0, 19.636), University Christian (9-1, 17.761), First Academy (8-2, 6.434), Orlando Christian Prep (6-4, 5.632)

This region, which has only four playoff teams, gets a big boost from District 1 heavyweights Trinity Christian and University Christian. Trinity, the 2021 Class 2A state champion, and University are the No. 1 and No. 3 overall teams in Class 1M, respectively. University played the toughest schedule in Class 1M, Trinity was No. 6 and Orlando Christian Prep’s schedule was No. 9. Orlando Christian Prep, which beat previously undefeated Northside Christian in Week 11, was a state semifinalist in 2021.

More:High school football: FHSAA Class 1M state tournament playoff preview

1. Region 1, Class 3M

Fletcher's Elisha Purdy (45) reacts to a defensive stop during the first quarter of a District 1-3M football matchup at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach.

Average rating: 12.4

Top four seeds: Edgewater (10-0, 23.011), Jones (8-2, 16.894), Oviedo (9-1, 12.993), Fletcher (8-2, 11.044)

This region is loaded. The top six seeds all won at least eight games. Edgewater, the Class 7A state runner-up in 2019 and 2020, is the No. 1 team in Class 3M and the No. 2 overall team in the state. Jones, a state semifinalist in 2021, is the No. 3 overall team in the class and played the third-toughest schedule in Class 3M. Wekiva, the No. 7 seed, played the fourth-toughest schedule and is coming off a Week 11 win against Apopka. Oviedo, the No. 6 overall team in Class 3M, is on the cusp of its first 10-win season since 2012. Fletcher has won seven consecutive games, including two playoff teams in the past four weeks. Fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Tech, the 2021 Class 7A state semifinalist, has just one loss on the field (it also had to forfeit a game). Wharton, the No. 6 seed, has won eight of its last nine games.