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September 17, 2012

Five things we learned - week 3

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Special Teams can cost you

Special teams are just that - they are a unit specifically identified to execute a special play. But when they don't function correctly, it can be catastrophic. Just ask St. Thomas Aquinas - a usually reliable special teams squad had all but a complete meltdown in the second half of its game with Don Bosco Prep. Four special teams miscues, including a muffed punt in the fourth quarter led to the Ironmen knocking off the Raiders 20-10. Mark Barr's mishandled punt return put the Ironmen at the STA two in a tie game. Don Bosco scored the deciding touchdown - and later added a field goal after a muffed punt snap. It's the kind of plays that will drive coaches batty and cause premature male pattern baldness. For St. Thomas Aquinas, the game literally hung in the balance. The Raiders had over 250 yards of total offense, but the four miscues turned out to be the difference in the game.

Class size doesn't matter - still

Last week we discussed this issue as 3A American Heritage-Delray downed 6A Armwood. This week - we revisit it again, fresh off the 3A Trinity Christian Conquerors knocking off 8A power Sandalwood. Of course, the Saints can thank Baker County for dropping Trinity from its schedule - which created the matchup - or they could thank the Florida Times-Union for saying in its preview that Sandalwood was "looking at this game as a tune-up for next week's Fletcher matchup". Trinity Christian took the underdog role to heart and never trailed. The Conquerors sloshed through the mud behind QB Oshay Carter, Isaiah Ford and DB Nick Washington - out-besting Sandalwood's Donald Rocker, DeMarcus Walker and Parker Boehme. Sandalwood was blitzed on almost every play and never adjusted. The way it's beginning to shape up - 3A may be a slugfest before its all over - with Madison County (defeated 6A Edgewater 38-6), American Heritage-Delray (defeated 5A Glades Central 14-0) and University School (defeated 4A Cocoa 49-3).

It's not that you lost last week - it's how you play this week

Armwood (2-1), Plant (2-1) and Booker T. Washington (2-1) all three bounced back nicely after being upset last week. The Hawks dominated from start to finish against a very respectable Tampa Bay Tech squad, winning 30-0. Plant jumped to a 45-6 lead on Tampa Jefferson before winning 53-20 and Booker T. Washington traveled to Cedar Hill, TX and knocked off the Longhorns 38-21. All three teams were involved in somewhat emotionally-draining games the week earlier and all three performed flawlessly in the week after. There's an old football saying - put the game behind you 24 hours later. Credit the coaching staffs of all three state contenders for doing just that.

7A is going to be brutal, and so is 3A

Whoever wins 7A or 3A will have some big-time victories under their belt. Looking at the FlaVarsity Top 25, no less than nine teams from class 7A are ranked, including the top three - and six of the top 10. That would make the Class 7A the equivalent to the Southeastern Conference. In fact, add in Fort Pierce Central and that's seven of the top 15 teams in the state - or nearly half. In class 3A, you've got American Heritage-Delray (4th) Madison County (21st), University School (24th) and likely Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) after slaying Goliath Sandalwood. Add to the mix Ocala Trinity Catholic and Berkeley Prep -and that's some pretty high cotton.

The economy matters - when it comes to football

Take a small rural area of Florida, known for its black soil rich in nutrients. Mix in sugar cane harvesting and good jobs - and you have the 'Muck City'. Pahokee, Glades Central and Clewiston have long lived with the by-product of hard working sugar farmers and harvesters. From 1997 to 2009 - a 12-year span, Pahokee, Clewiston and Glades Central combined to make 15 state championship game appearances, winning nine. So - what is even more staggering is the combined record of these three juggernauts - 0-8. The Raiders - at one time, known as a pipeline to the NFL - have scored all of 22 points in three games. Clewiston is better, with 61 points in three games -and Pahokee is 0-2, but has mustered a meager 22 points. The key factor in all of this? A downward spiraling economy that has seen the area's largest employer - US Sugar - close up and take away thousands of jobs. It's sad to see - really - as the local communities rally around their football programs as a source of civic pride. With the loss of jobs and the downward trend in gridiron performance - could it be only a matter of time before we see one of these programs discontinued? We hope not.

My two cents

Duval County public schools are not allowed to shake hands after a game. Yes - you read that correctly. "It's a county policy," said First Coast head coach Marty Lee. "It was put in last year after the Middleburg incident. " That incident was a post-game shoving match that turned into a fracas following a Leon (Tallahassee) victory. The game ended 17-14 in a somewhat controversial manner, with Leon scoring the game-winning touchdown as time expired. As the two teams approached each other and began shaking hands - one thing led to another and - well, you get the picture.

But I have to go on record here - and say point blank - this is a policy that needs to be revisited. What does it say about today's youth - tomorrow's leaders - that they cannot understand that a football game is just a game. What does it say about our society in general when post-game brawls result in shootings, stabbings and other violence. Have we really reached the Apocalypse where sportsmanship is thrown out the window? A hand-shake is a sign of respect and sportsmanship - and regardless of the outcome of the game - is as integral a part of the game as the kickoff and final whistle.

There are more important things in life than losing a football game.

Got a rant or a rave? Want to vent? Want to sound off on something we said or wrote? Send us an email - flavarsity@hotmail.com - and we'll publish our weekly 'rants and raves' feature - starting Thursday.

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