I must start off this week’s column with a personal note.
Some of you know that my wife, Grace, contracted COVID-19. She had a bad-flu version but is now, thankfully, on the road to full recovery.
We have had numerous offers from folks in the community to help us with any needed trips to the store or wherever. Those have been quite touching and I would have taken advantage of some of them, but we have a great family support system here with my daughter, Kristin, and her husband, Austin, and my stepson, Adam, and his wife, Angela.
Kristin and Angela both made grocery store runs for us, helping keep us supplied with what we needed.
Due to professional reasons, I had let a handful of people know about Grace’s illness. One of those I told was Apopka High football coach Jeff Rolson. I wanted him to know why I wouldn’t be at Apopka’s games against Dr. Phillips and Lake Brantley.
On Saturday, October 3, you may have seen my Facebook and Twitter posts about the incredibly thoughtful things the Apopka High football team did for Grace and me.
They dropped off a beautiful floral arrangement and two get-well cards, one of which all the players and coaches signed.
They also sent us a DoorDash gift card.
To say I was overwhelmed is a monster understatement. I can be an emotional guy when events are near and dear to my heart, and that brought tears to my eyes. Their thoughtfulness for Grace touched my heart tremendously.
I also called coach Rolson and thanked him personally. This will be something that I will always remember, as will Grace.
It’s great to live in a community with people who think of others in such wonderful ways.
Wekiva’s game against Edgewater was canceled last week due to COVID-19 cases within the Edgewater football program, but Apopka was able to play its game at Lake Brantley and came away with a 30-0 victory.
The Mustangs would have had a tough opponent in Edgewater, but the Eagles would have given coach Rich Bedesem and the Mustangs an idea of exactly where they are in trying to build toward the playoffs.
Apopka, meanwhile, got the shutout, but coach Rolson will say he wasn’t happy with a bunch of things.
The Blue Darters did throw the ball more and you can expect that from now on as the team looks to diversify its offense.
Both Wekiva and Apopka have tough tests facing them this week.
Not only are we talking about the playoffs in early October, but we already have the matchups set for the play-in games that will occur on November 13.
Because of COVID-19, every team in the state that did not opt out of the playoffs will be included in the postseason this year. A blind draw via a computer program was held
Apopka was one of three teams from Region 8A-2 that received a bye for November 13, so, on November 20, the Blue Darters will face the winner of Winter Park-East Ridge game the week before.
Wekiva wasn’t as fortunate and didn’t draw a bye, but will at least play at home on November 13, facing Melbourne High. While the Mustangs have the play-in game, they should be able to scoot by Melbourne pretty easily. The Bulldogs aren’t exactly a powerhouse and shouldn’t be much more than a small bump in the road for Wekiva. Then, a potential Region 7A-2 game would come on the road the next week against the winner of the Winter Springs-Tohopekaliga. Just like the game against Melbourne, Wekiva shouldn’t have any trouble with either of those teams.
After that, a possible matchup with New Port Richey Mitchell High in the third round could certainly be a tough one. If that game happens, it will be Mustangs vs. Mustangs.
While the FHSAA brackets aren’t marked as such, based on how the byes are listed, Apopka drew the No. 1 seed for Region 8A-2, which is probably the right place for the Blue Darters. I would expect Winter Park to beat East Ridge in the play-in game, meaning Apopka will have to go to Showalter Field on November 20.
The other side of the bracket has rivals West Orange and Ocoee facing off in a play-in game and Colonial and Timber Creek squaring off. As they did a week or two ago, I would expect Timber Creek to push Colonial out easily, but I’m not sure about the West Orange-Ocoee matchup. Those two teams play later this month in a regular-season contest so we’ll see how that one goes.
The Blue Darters won’t have a cakewalk to the regional final, but I think they’ll likely get there if they keep improving and are able to successfully diversify the offense and get stronger up front on defense. If that happens, Oviedo could be the opponent.
Wekiva at Dr. Phillips
The Mustangs hit the road for the first time this season and it’s a tough one as they will play the Dr. Phillips Panthers.
Dr. Phillips is 2-1 after outscoring Boone in the first game, falling in a defensive battle to Apopka, and then whipping outmanned Windermere last week.
The Panthers are solid on both sides of the ball and they are always a threat to make a deep run in the playoffs.
This game will be a good test for both teams and I think it should be a fairly close game.
Weliva’s got to get very good performances from its playmakers on offense and from its front seven on defense. Those will be the keys to the Mustangs being able to come away with a victory.
While I think Wekiva will battle the Panthers, Dr. Phillips will just have too much for the Mustangs.
Dr. Phillips by 9.
Jones at Apopka
The Blue Darters will, once again, be facing one of the top programs in the state. Last season, the Tigers beat Apopka 21-12, giving the Darters their only loss of the regular season.
This year’s Jones squad seems very similar to the 2019 version, which is not good news for the Blue Darters.
I expect another fairly low-scoring contest with a big play or two, or maybe a turnover or two being the difference.
Apopka must have some success moving the ball and that means the Blue Darters will need to throw the ball because the Jones defense is still very good. This Apopka team can’t just line up in the single wing and run it down the throat of a team like Jones.
It should be a close game, but I’ll go with the home team, but only if the Blue Darters play their best game of the season.
Apopka by 2.