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Over a dozen local high school football teams fight for a state title

There is no margin of error for these high school teams. It’s win or go home. As the bitterness of cooler temperatures sets in, so do the bitter thoughts of losing. One bad play could end the season.

Classes 1-4A have 24 teams fighting for a championship with 32 teams battling in classes 5-8A. Only one in each class will come out unscathed by mid-December. The odds are slim. That’s why there is no margin for error.

Small School Dominance

It’s an unusual year for the local high school football teams. A majority hail from smaller classes. Union County, Hawthorne, Trenton, Newberry and Chiefland all secured postseason births in 1A.

Oak Hall and St. Francis matchup in the first round in 2A.

Ocala Trinity Catholic is the lone local team in 3A.

Bradford and Keystone Heights made it in 4A.

Only three teams made it in the upper classes. Vanguard and North Marion in 5A and Columbia in 6A.

No team has an easy path to the title. Of the thirteen local high schools to make the postseason, only one is a top-two seed (Newberry). Hawthorne, Trenton, Oak Hall, Trinity Catholic, and Keystone Heights all have home games in the first round, but that home-field advantage can’t be secured through the regional finals like it can for Newberry should the Panthers win out.

Hornets Involved in Controversy

Hawthorne should have had a bye in the first round, but one of its opponents didn’t enter a score into MaxPreps on time. The game was not counted and Hawthorne received a lower RPI score than it should have, resulting in the Hornets receiving the third seed in their region. Head coach Cornelius Ingram was not happy about the situation.

The Hornets host Wildwood in the first round tonight.

Columbia Feels Prepared After Tough Schedule

The Tigers come in to their first playoff game as the underdog. That doesn’t matter, at least to the team. Head coach Brian Allen said the team played a tough schedule this season to prepare it for the high-level competition waiting in the playoffs.

Six of Columbia’s ten games were against teams that made the playoffs. The Tigers face a talented Ponte Vedra team that has won at least eight games in each of the last four seasons. A win tonight would be the Sharks’ eighth of the season.

Keystone Heights Thrives With Limited Roster

It was a tough start to the season for the Indians. The roster sat at around 20 or so players and has slightly increased since. Still, participating at the Class 4A level where most teams have around 45 to 60 players is a disadvantage, but Keystone Heights has managed to overcome it. Head coach Charles Dickinson notes the size disadvantage his team has compared to its opponent, Astronaut.

He’s also concerned about the team’s lack of consistent play. While Dickinson said his team has played well at times, he hasn’t seen it for an entire game.

This goes back to having no margin for error. Dickinson realizes this and reaffirms that his team needs to play almost perfect in each playoff game. The first postseason victory in school history is on the line.

Only Newberry is locked in to the next round. It will be interesting to see how the first round plays out with the seeding based around the new RPI format.

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