A high school football playoff primer

Lake Wales will host Gainesville in the opening round of the high school football playoffs Friday.

Now that mathematicians have had their say – and Ridge Community is certainly disappointed although not surprised how the numbers have worked out – it's time for a little football primer for the handful of local high school football teams that have earned spots in the post-season.

Winter Haven and Ridge battled on the final week of the regular season, with the Blue Devils taking a 26-20 win. With that, it left the Bolts (at just 4-6) on the outside of the Class 8A, Region 2 standings at ninth. Only the top eight teams qualify. Winter Haven, who actually won, finished 11th in the rankings and George Jenkins (7-3 overall), was 10th.

That left Frostproof, Fort Meade and Lake Wales as the only non-Lakeland area schools invited to the dance.

Lake Wales (9-1) would be favored to go farthest, but only if they dramatically step up their game from a sluggish win over Bartow last Friday. The good news is the Highlanders have the tools to do just that when they host the Gainesville Hurricanes, who, like Lake Wales, know a thing or two about offense.

The Canes have outscored their last three opponents by a combined score of 175-36. Yup, you read that right, 175 points in three games, and the scoring wealth is spread among at least a half-dozen different players, and Luke Matthews is a pretty effective signal-caller, with four TD passes in his season finale.

Gainesville has two backs with at least 10 touchdowns each, and six different receivers with at least double digits in receptions this year. Lake Wales, meanwhile, is averaging over 36 points a game themselves.

And lest you think the Hurricanes just fattened up on cupcakes during the final part of their schedule, their last two wins came over teams that are also playoff bound.

Frostproof will ride the Josh Jenkins express into the post-season. He's a force – he scored four touchdowns in the Bulldogs rivalry win over Fort Meade last Friday – but he'll need help, especially if they get by Wildwood in the opening round. Why? Because a road trip to dreaded Pahokee – a true Frostproof nemesis – would await in round two.

Fort Meade (4-6)has found a way, despite not quite being Fort Meade good this year, which is a testament to the kids who have the unenviable task of taking the long bus ride to Crescent City (8-2). The Miners have lost their last three straight. Dearrick Howard and Kamron Simmons will have to be at their best, but a win isn't out of the question.

All kickoffs, including the games at Legion Field in Lake Wales and Faris Brannen Stadium in Frostproof, are Friday at 7:30 p.m.


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