Ready for some football? It might seem hard to believe, but the first set of spring games will be on deck.
Northeast Florida’s first three high school spring football matchups are coming Friday, followed by several more in the coming week, as the gridiron schedule heats up.
Gateway Conference programs Sandalwood and First Coast face off in the first of these games on Friday night, along with Union County’s trip to The Villages.
For those thinking that First Coast and Sandalwood played each other not so long ago, there’s a reason for that. The former state finalists (First Coast in 2011, Sandalwood in 1995) met in the 2021 regular season finale, a 35-14 Saints win behind 168 rushing yards from Jordan Bean and 106 from Christopher Calhoun.
On the same night, Impact Christian takes to the gridiron for the first time in 11-man competition under 2018 state champion Bobby Ramsay, facing TDH Academy at Adolph Wurn Park.
Also on deck in the next week are Eagle’s View at Wolfson on Saturday and a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday clash between Creekside and Baker County, both coming off notable playoff seasons.
This year’s spring games are spread out widely over a two-week period leading up to May 27, games matching Oakleaf-Bradford and Yulee-Tocoi Creek.
Gridiron action:See spring game schedules for Northeast Florida
Mandarin set for flag finals
There’s more than one kind of football kicking off Friday on the First Coast — and this time, there’s a trophy at the end of the action.
Championship action arrives in Jacksonville Friday for the only time during the 2021-22 high school season.
The FHSAA flag football tournament will take place at Mandarin over the weekend, with four semifinals on Friday and the Class 2A and 1A championships Saturday afternoon. Admission is $10 in advance or $13 on the day of the event.
This year’s tournament is the second consecutive edition at the Corral. Mandarin was also scheduled to hold the 2020 state finals before they were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lacrosse finish thriller for Bears
Meghan Jackowiak might not have thought any other finish could top Bartram Trail’s first-ever state girls lacrosse championship.
But title No. 2 sure came close.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Bartram Trail’s longtime girls lacrosse head coach said. “Didn’t think that would happen again.”
The Bears have had a few days to let the emotions sink in after Saturday night’s Florida High School Athletic Association Class 2A championship, when they downed Vero Beach 8-7 at a storm-soaked Paradise Coast Sports Complex.
Six years ago, Bartram Trail edged Vero Beach 8-7 in overtime for its first-ever state title on Lexi Marcionette‘s championship-winning goal.
This time, it was the turn of Izzy Difato, putting away a free position shot with 1:22 to go.
Jackowiak said she didn’t worry about whether Difato would come through under pressure.
“Izzy is definitely one of the players we’d want taking a free position shot,” Jackowiak said of the senior, who netted 41 goals this season. “She’s one of our best shooters, and if it’s going to be in somebody’s stick, she’s definitely one of those.”
It’s the third consecutive year with a team state championship for Bartram Trail. The Bears won Class 7A girls soccer titles in 2020 and 2021.
The victory not only brought Jackowiak her second FHSAA title, making Bartram Trail the first-ever Northeast Florida team to win more than one, but also marked an emotional comeback from a 2021 campaign that left several Bears facing injuries and uncertainty.
Attackers Ryann Frechette and Leyton Payne missed the end of last season with anterior cruciate ligament injuries, but both returned to combine for 139 goals in this year’s run to the trophy. Bartram Trail also played for much of the year without key defensive contributor Chloe Pender, who has committed to Berry College.
“It means so much more, more than even winning a game, for them to experience a state championship together,” Jackowiak said. “That’s what makes it so special.”
Scantling tops decathlon list
One year after placing fourth at the Olympics, Garrett Scantling isn’t slowing down.
The Episcopal graduate recorded a world-leading 8,867 decathlon points over the weekend at the USA Track & Field Combined Events Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., punching his ticket to the world championships.
Scantling now stands third on the all-time decathlon list for American men, behind only Olympic gold medalists Ashton Eaton and Dan O’Brien.
He is scheduled to represent the United States this July in Eugene, Ore., along with teammates Kyle Garland of the University of Georgia and 2016 and 2021 Olympian Zach Ziemek.
Pitch count rule sinks Bolles
For the second time in three years, the FHSAA pitch count policy threw a curveball into Northeast Florida’s baseball postseason.
Bolles exited the District 3-3A tournament after one game, the latest victim of FHSAA Rule 4.1.3 — otherwise known as the association’s baseball pitch count policy. The association voted in 2017 to implement the rule, a table that takes into account pitcher age, pitch number and days of rest, in an attempt to reduce wear and tear on developing arms.
At issue, statistics indicate, was the appearance of Bolles pitcher Patric Menk. Records compiled in statistics application GameChanger indicate that the senior threw 85 pitches in the April 28 regular season finale against St. Johns Country Day, a workload that would require a rest of four days under FHSAA regulations. However, Menk subsequently pitched an inning and two-thirds out of the bullpen in the May 2 district tournament opener, getting the win over Wolfson, 3-2.
Under the complicated provisions of Rule 4.1.3, Bolles was thus excluded from the next round — and so, too, was Wolfson, which had lost the game on the scoreboard. The result is that top seed Providence received a bye to the district final, where the Stallions lost 9-4 to Episcopal.
The loss marks the first time Bolles has missed the playoffs, other than the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, since 2014. On that occasion, Bolles went 17-8 but lost its district semifinal to Trinity Christian.
Bolles was far from assured of a qualifying berth even without the forfeit. Their hopes took a hit when Ocala Trinity Catholic won District 4-3A, a result that likely would have forced Bolles to win the district outright by beating Providence and Episcopal.
The rule also reared its head in 2019, when Sandalwood was forced to forfeit its Region 1-9A baseball quarterfinal victory against Spruce Creek after pitcher Tyler Mills surpassed the FHSAA’s cap of 105 pitches.
Bolles’ forfeit may not have been the weirdest of Florida’s week, though. In District 1-5A, Gulf Breeze exceeded the pitch count limit in its semifinal against Milton, which in effect handed Pensacola Pine Forest a district championship by walkover.
Playoff first round:First Coast, Columbia move on
Weekly trivia challenge
It’s time for the latest edition of the First Coast Varsity Weekly trivia section, a look back through the history of high school sports all around the area.
This week’s topic: Baseball championship time. Answers will appear in next week’s First Coast Varsity Weekly.
1. Between 1962 and 1987, what was the only Duval County public school to win a state baseball championship?
2. What was the highest-scoring state baseball championship game?
3. How many times have Northeast Florida schools won back-to-back FHSAA baseball championships?
Answers to last week’s questions
1. Union County graduate Gerard Warren leads all Northeast Florida first-round NFL Draft selections with 163 career NFL games between 2001 and 2011. Next are Raines’ Kenny Burrough (156, tops among players from schools within Jacksonville), Palatka’s John L. Williams (149), Lee’s Earl Leggett (132) and Raines’ Lito Sheppard (126). Note that Burrough and Leggett began their careers before the NFL shifted to the 16-game (or present-day 17-game) schedule.
2. No Northeast Florida player from Florida State has been selected in the NFL Draft’s first round since Reinard Wilson of Columbia went to the Bengals at No. 14 in 1995.
3. The only college outside Florida to send more than two Jacksonville-area players to the NFL as first-round draft picks is Clemson. Those players are Terrence Flagler (Fernandina Beach, 1987, No. 25, San Francisco), Rod Gardner (Raines, 2001, No. 15, Washington) and C.J. Spiller (Union County, 2010, No. 9, Buffalo).
Around the area
Ribault’s Marquis Harris signed with Livingstone men’s basketball and Kahlyl Samuels signed with Indiana Tech men’s basketball. … Christ’s Church lineman Hayden Brown committed to Southeastern football… Menendez kicker Bryce Addison signed with Mercer football and running back Tabias Brown signed with Bluefield football. … Columbia lineman Jaycob Jones committed to Clarke football. … Bishop Kenny’s Alexis Holmes, Clare Coyle, Gabrielle Johnson and Ka’Myya Haywood broke the school record in the girls 4×400 relay, running 3:56.82 in the Region 1-2A meet. … Fleming Island’s Maliyah Deas set a school record in the girls triple jump with a leap of 36 feet, 5 1/2 inches. … Former Bolles left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco is out for the remainder of the University of Florida baseball season, undergoing Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm. The sophomore (5-2, 2.50 ERA) was ranked as a top-10 collegiate MLB Draft prospect by Baseball America. … Former Columbia cornerback Roger Cray received an invitation to Chicago Bears rookie mini-camp. … Duval County Public Schools director of athletics Tammie Talley received the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association State Award of Merit during the Florida Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (FIAAA) state conference.