OAKLEAF - With area teams showing off a bit of muscle with Clay taking a doozy over Orange Park, 42-41, in a shootout and Ridgeview finally blasting the end zones with a 51-point win, area football …
OAKLEAF - With area teams showing off a bit of muscle with Clay taking a doozy over Orange Park, 42-41, in a shootout and Ridgeview finally blasting the end zones with a 51-point win, area football fans will be hard-pressed to attend their games with the Fleming Island at Oakleaf bonanza happening on Friday. Both teams sat last week with BYEs and that's a factor.
"We got the Florida Educational game at the last minute and wanted to kind of see if we had corrected the things we saw in the Clay game," said Fleming Island coach Chad Parker. "Even though we won that Clay game, we had a lot of penalties and miscommunications and we needed to have a road game scenario, we thought, under our belt before traveling into Oakleaf territory where it will be very loud."
Last year, with Drew "Captain America" Ammon flashing his shield and pulling off an upset of the decade in the Fleming Island High arena, there is plenty of "Get-back" available for the fans to anticipate one of the best games of the year on Friday.
"We know it's going to be a revenge, get-back kind of battle for them," said Oakleaf coach Chris Foy, who missed a Friday with Baker County opting out of last Friday's game for unknown reasons. "All I worry about is that you can't replicate game speed in practice and we will need to be sharp right from the start against Fleming Island."
Quarterback: Brandon Wallace Jr. OHS; Cibastian Broughton FIHS
Broughton is seasoned; been a starter since his freshman year. Wallace opened with a 42-0 win over Orange Park but has not been in the pressure cooker of tight games as the starter, especially with no games to rev the engine since the OPHS opener.
"Cibastian makes our offense multidimensional because he can attack with his arm downfield and with his legs," said Parker, noting Broughton's 70-scoring run against Florida Education. "Our receivers will be seeing a good group Oakleaf has in the secondary with a lot of experience so we will be on our A-game in the air."
Running back: Tyler Beverly FIHS, Dehmir Jackson FIHS; Chris Foy II OHS
Again, first time in such a game of magnitude for all three. Beverly has been proving that his time behind Sam Singleton kept him hungry for his start. Jackson has been a battering ram of a running back and even kick return as an all-purpose offensive weapon after a preseason that saw him mainly a linebacker. Against Clay, Jackson ran roughshod. What a find.
"We sat down after some of our summer team camps and made decisions on changing personnel just to see what it would look like and Dehmir was one of those guys we talked about," said Parker. "He can play anywhere."
Foy, for Oakleaf, is green to the big game as well, but well prepared on paper, but untested in pressure games. Wallace is the second leading rusher on just the Orange Park game; 39 for Foy, 26 for Wallace. Coach Foy is a guy who wants guys to rise above and Foy II will be needed. Others in the backfield will be scat backs that, if a corner comes, can go house quickly.
"We have plenty of weapons around Brandon and a great offensive front," said Foy. "I believe in making them stop us up front."
Offensive line: Battle of trenches, for sure, with a ton of big, mobile guys on both sides. This is where the battle will take place. FIHS: Cunningham, Couch, Reyes are formidable. OHS: Ambrose, Johnson, Neal, massive. Coach Chris Foy emphasized fourth-quarter readiness. That will be critical. Coach Chad Parker is a wrestling coach and knows what the grind is for late athletic readiness. This is the test of willpower and attrition.
"They are a little smaller than us on the defensive side, but the Fleming Island program is all about strength with their weightlifting prowess," said Foy. "We are aware of that."
Wideouts: FIHS has a handful of playmakers that can go on a dime; Trace Burney and Devaen Boykin have found the end zone on long hauls; Aiden Postemski could be the X factor as a super reliable undercover guy. Oakleaf has top-tier covermen; Kitchen, Kitt, and Jacobs, all very quick, athletic, and solid tacklers. If they keep everything in front of them, Fleming Island should get nothing past 30 yards. If they slip up, goodbye.
For Oakleaf, it is a handful of young pups that may want to show out for Wallace and Foy on the big stage. Micheal Connor is a freshman, and Jordin Price is a sophomore. Those two could have just enough insulation from big game paraphernalia that just playing their game will change the game.
"Our receivers are young guys, but Merlin (Smith, Oakleaf Junior High coach) has those guys in big games year after year," said Foy. "That will be something we will have to see on Friday. I think they like the big show."
FIHS with Kaylib Singleton in the lockdown, Sebastian Cruz, the centerfielder with range, has much more field play than Oakleaf's youngsters and that will be the factor.
Defense: The defensive line and linebackers are both top-notch on both teams; J.J. Marsh-Mensie for Oakleaf on the line; Neal Whyte and Dajun Brown at linebackers are quite the trio on the chase.
"We are a zone block kind of front; touch the linemen and then go after the linebackers," said Parker. "Braden Cunningham is about as big and athletic as any athlete I have ever seen and he leads that group. They love to get downfield."
For Fleming Island, even if Joey Couch is on the offensive line, I'm sure Chipoletti will be hard-pressed to keep him from exploding on the defensive side if needed. Nate Van Hof, Cohen Cioffi and Willian Newman were destruction against Clay and have the chip of dominance on their shoulders to chase out Wallace.
In situations, Chipoletti has a "Big" package with the likes of Cunningham, Reyes and Mackey as a very large defensive front. That alone is a factor for fourth-quarter attrition.
In other games, Clay will be answering the ball again in a tough game when district-foe Gainesville is in town Friday. Coach Kyle Kennard and his Blue Devils have had the will to be back in the tradition of Blue Devil football dominance and Orange Park brought out the attitude by reading off names backward through most of the game Friday.
The murmur on the sidelines was the disrespect and Orange Park paid the price for the slight.
That being said, both teams were heightened by the rivalry end of the game and the new stadium end of the game with Clay pulling off a crazy finish for the 42-41 thriller.
Gainesville is 0-3 and with substantial losses; 34-20, 21-0 and 49-7 against two undefeated (Braden River 2-0, Leon 2-0) so they may show up with their aspirations of upset in the vaunted Clay High arena. No snoozing here for Kennard's boys.
Kennard's duo quarterback system has been effective and newcomer ball carriers Geno and Iyen Addison have undertaken the Blue Devil aura.
Ridgeview got their first offensive explosion in a while with their 51-18 win and will be hoping for a springboard effect from the win. Running backs Rayhn Hutchinson (169 YDs, 3TDs) and Kimal Marshal (103 YDs, 1TD) ran roughshod against Gateway (0-2). Great kick-out blocks from lead block Braylon Hawkins got the Panthers downfield off the corners with Hutchinson going 60 on a direct snap for a score.
For Ridgeview, Beachside is a dangerous foe (2-1) with strong wins in the last two games; 34-15 over Fernandina Beach and 38-7 over Menendez so that is cause for concern with Menendez knocking the socks off Ridgeview 34-8 in the opener.
Looks like Ridgeview could be settling in and finding its mojo. Beachside is a good test.
Keystone Heights (0-2) got smooshed by Fort White (2-0) with a 49-26 loss at home fueled by a wicked pass attack and is still looking for the first win for coach Steve Reynolds.
Bell (0-2) comes to Keystone Heights to offer up two teams destined to have one win after Friday. Indians need to let Cartez Daniels loose; up to the offensive line.
Middleburg's schedule last year and thus far this year offers no extra breaths with the first four games against top-tier teams.
Bradford County was the second of two with the Tornadoes whipping up a 32-7 win in the house of 'Burg. Bradford got up fast, 26-7, by halftime with some Bronco miscues. Bronco defensive end Tucker Cody's fumble recovery in the third slowed Bradford.
Next up is Ponte Vedra (1-1) who also ran a gauntlet with a 20-17 loss to Bartram Trail (2-1, loss 28-24 to Daytona Beach Mainland) and a 23-22 win over Florida State University High School to open their season with tough teams.
Ponte Vedra again has a potent offense with dual-action quarterback Benjamin Burk with 416 yards in the air (2TDs) and 148 on the ground. Burk hit four 40-plus yard passes against FSU High.