For those not aware of the high school football season, the late weeks of November mean one thing: playoff time. From Pensacola to Key West, teams across Florida dream of playing games during this time of the year. First, take a look at some numbers:
* 1: The number of Duval County public schools to win a state championship under the FHSAA (Raines, 1997).
* 5: The number of rounds in the playoffs (for Classes 5A, 6A, 7A, and 8A; Classes 1A-4A have only four rounds).
* 6: The number of Northeast Florida schools still alive in the playoffs as of November 22.
* 8: The number of classifications under the Florida High School Athletic Association’s system.
* 192: The number of teams qualifying for the state playoffs.
As the numbers show, Duval County public schools haven’t fared well when the playoffs kick off. But schools from surrounding areas (notably St. Johns County) and private schools often thrive in the knockout format. In 2013, Trinity Christian won the Class 3A state title game, while both Bolles (4A) and Clay (5A) finished as runners-up. In fact, at least one local school has claimed a championship in every season since 2008. Some of the strongest public school challenges recently have come from Nassau and Clay counties, where Yulee (2012) and Clay (2013) have made deep playoff runs and Oakleaf threatens to do the same in 2014.
On October 21, Oakleaf’s undefeated Knights entered their Region 1-7A contest against Fletcher with high hopes. In only their fifth year, Oakleaf had climbed from years of struggle to finish the regular season with a 10-0 record, surviving an amazing last-second finish in the process. But Fletcher’s reputation as a monstrously tough opponent on the road commanded respect. For the first half, Oakleaf ran into trouble, going behind 14-0 against the Senators’ pounding ground game. But the Knights turned everything upside down late, holding Fletcher without a first down after halftime and thundering from behind to a 28-14 victory. Their dream season will continue for at least one week more.