For Oak Hall and St. Francis Catholic, a new season begins Friday night. Under the lights in early November, the Eagles and Wolves will start their journey toward becoming Class 2A state champions.
The Eagles (6-5 according to MaxPreps) will host Trinity Christian Academy (6-4) from Deltona, Florida, while St. Francis will travel south toward Tampa to take on Zephyrhills Christian Academy in Zephyrhills.
While the season is on the line for all teams, St. Francis’ head coach Scott McDaniel said on Wednesday his team is ready and deserving to be in this situation.
What’s in front of St. Francis
The Wolves will not have an easy task ahead of them on Friday. Zephyrhills Christian Academy, a 36-man squad with plenty of senior leadership, are trying to get back on track after having their season-long five-game winning streak snapped last week at home.
Prior to their 31-6 loss against Admiral Farragut, the Warriors were outscoring their opponents by large sums during their winning streak. During their reign, Zephyrhills didn’t have a single game decided by less than one score and averaged more than 27 points per contest during the stretch.
Experience should also help the Warriors on both sides of the football. On offense, four seniors have toted the rock on 15 or more occasions. In total, the Warriors have combined for more than 2,300 yards on the ground this season.
What does St. Francis bring?
The Wolves have a very balanced offense and can attack opposing defenses through both aspects of passing and running the football. Senior running back Calvin Littles provides a dual-threat aspect for the Wolves offense. Littles has run for more than 1,000 yards this season and thrown for nearly 700 more. In addition to Littles, junior Tyler Stone has been a solid piece under center as well. Stone has thrown for just over 500 yards and collected nine touchdowns through the air.
In order to keep the season going, the Wolves will have to rely heavily on a solid game from Littles and a balanced attack from the passing game.
Oak Hall vs. Trinity Christian Academy
While the Wolves will have their hands full on the west coast of Florida, the Oak Hall Eagles will welcome a Deltona-based squad in Trinity Christian Academy to Gainesville. Oak Hall is coming off a loss to Rocky Bayou Christian last week. The tune-up for the postseason came with a few notes for the Eagles.
Oak Hall’s senior running back Ryan O’Leary is nearing the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Prior to the Eagles game against Rocky Bayou, O’Leary had over 900 yards on the ground and was close to eclipsing four digits. Now, the rushing attack for the Eagles could be the deciding factor this Friday. Along with O’Leary, senior Thomas George has seen an uptick in carries during the late portion of the season. Prior to the Rocky Christian game, George carried the rock 59 times to the tune of 372 yards and five touchdowns.
The Eagles have also put the offense in the hands of a freshman quarterback. Cole Gonzales, a two-way player for Oak Hall, has thrown for eight touchdowns and only five interceptions. His ability to throw the ball could provide a solid change-of-pace from the usual run heavy offense head coach RJ Fuhr likes to deploy.
Who is Trinity Christian?
Similar to the Oak Hall Eagles, the Trinity Christian Eagles also enjoy a run-heavy offense with a splash of passing every so often. Led by senior Jacob Mullee, who has collected over 1,100 yards on the ground, Trinity Christian also leans on Mullee’s ability to throw the ball. This season, Mullee has thrown for more than 600 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Expect a reliance on Mullee and a dual-threat ability from the senior leader.