Mirror mirror on the wall. Who is the 2022 All-Big Bend Player of the Year?
Well, I can’t tell you that. However, I can give you a few other bold predictions I have for the upcoming football season. We’re only halfway through the summer season, so there’s tons and tons of football to be played, but these are some guesses I have so far.
Remove the crystal ball and mark the wire lighting. Here are my five bold predictions for the Big Bend football season.
#1: Jefferson Co. posted first winning record since 2018
It’s been a tough 2018 for the Tigers. Since 2018, after going 7-5 and reaching the 1A Region 2 championship game, Jefferson County has gone 5-26, going 0-9 in 2020. However, there has been a change in the tides at Monticello, which reflected well on the program at the beginning of.
The hiring of Lenoris Footman as the program’s next head football coach was the school district’s first official hire as an independent body. Footman was a quarterback when Jefferson County won the state title in 2011 and rejuvenated the program from a coaching standpoint. There is new life and new hope in Jefferson County and new confidence to win.
Add in the return of Juvon Pettway, one of Lincoln’s best receivers from last season, and you have a pretty rich team taking over the net this fall. Considering the Tigers are playing in the rural classification this year after being in 2A last season, it is a very real possibility that this team can finish the season with a winning record and a playoff spot.
I know the Jefferson County faithful are eager to get back to the postseason and I believe this could be the start of something great.
No. 2: Chiles reaches the playoffs
There are a lot of good things going on in Chiles right now, and it all started with the program going undefeated in the Spring Jamboree. Despite playing only half each game, the Timberwolves outplayed powerhouses like Lincoln and Wakula, which stands as a statement in itself.
Chiles returns a good 80 percent, maybe even more, of the team from later years and boasts some of the biggest turnout numbers in the Big Bend, returning its 1,000+ yard, five-star kicker and very strong offensive line . There are some questions when it comes to the defensive unit and passing, but that’s the goal of the summer.
The Timberwolves were in a handful of close games last year, but saw the bottom line slip away in the second half. They went 4-6 but could have easily finished 6-4 as they had big leads over Rickards and Creekside before the game slipped away. They are playing a pretty manageable schedule this season and have the experience to win those tight games. I believe Chiles will make the postseason for the first time since 2019.
No. 3: Monroe, NFC play for regional title
Before I go into that, I just want to say that this region is going to be an absolute battle. You have three of the best small school programs in Big Bend, Monroe, North Florida Christian and St. John Paul II, all vying for a state semifinal bid, and you don’t have to go through Trinity Christian or University Christian anymore.
Then you have two teams that people don’t know too much about in FAMU DRS and Maclay that could easily flip the script. However, with the way things are lining up early on, AND THAT COULD CHANGE, the NFC and Munroe seem pretty much destined for each other. Both have hired tremendously, are now experienced and have a lot of talent.
Munroe already had big-time talent in Ahmari Borden, Keishawn Mashburn, Kelvin Crawford and others, but he also added the likes of Makari Vickers and Makhi Brown to explode his depth chart. The Bobcats made that huge leap from a good small school to a state title contender.
A few miles south in Tallahassee, the NFC did the same, keeping talents like JP Pickles and Traylon Ray while adding guys like Leon Washington and Zion Paret. The Eagles performed strongly as a. young group last season, going 6-5, but having that experience now and only adding more talent, the window has opened even more for this team.
JPII is still very much a horse in this race, but right now it’s between Munroe and the NFC as to who will win this state semifinal. I would even go so far as to say that the winner of this region has a very good chance of winning state. These two teams face off on Oct. 28 in Quincy, just before the playoffs. You’ll want to bookmark it.
No. 4: Despite new coach, Madison County returns to state title game
Madison County is unlike any other small school program in the state. Sure, my colleagues in Plam Beach and Gainesville would probably say Pahokee, Hawthorne or Chiefland are different, but there have been very few programs that have dominated like the Cowboys over the past five seasons.
Things are different when Mike Coe isn’t at the helm after coaching this team for a decade, but I’m not sure if that will hit the program as hard as many suspect. Price Harris is not new to the Florida high school football scene or success in it. Dunnellon is a strong program that actually picked up one of its three losses on the year.
That being said, Madison County still maintains a lot of talent with guys like Jamie Hampton, Jonathan Akins, Jahon Jackson and so many more. These guys still know how to win and so does his new coach. The Cowboys nearly went unchallenged until the title game, and there’s nothing to say the same thing can’t happen again. It’s become almost an expectation in Madison.
I don’t see why this team can’t get to the state championship again.
No. 5: Florida High wins 2S state title
The Seminoles have had some senior losses, graduating Tre Donaldson, Drew Faureau, Jordan Gilley and others who have played a major role in the program’s success over the past four seasons, but this program is by no means down. In fact, with the metro/suburban split, I believe this is the year for the Seminoles to bring a state title to Southwood.
While you see teams like Gadsden County, South Walton, West Florida and Wakulla move into the same classification, Florida High is still experienced, talented and well-coached enough to withstand a change. Keep in mind, this is a team that consistently faces teams like Trinity Christian, Chaminade Madonna and other South Florida private schools deep in the playoffs.
Donovan Barnes and Chris Cotton will lead the defensive effort, while the offense returns huge weapons in Ryder Popel, Micahi Danzi, Brooks Hickman and Ashton Hampton. It’s a bit risky with this prediction as Florida High will be moving a new quarterback into the starting role, but I believe the pieces around him are strong enough to make up the difference, and he should be able to adapt fairly quickly.
This is the year for Florida High. Since this may be the only year that these metro private schools do not compete in the same classification as the Seminoles, Florida High is the overwhelming favorite to take that crown.
Jack Williams covers prep sports for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.