District Championship, Check. Next Up…

The Florida High Seminoles entered Friday night’s match up with district rival Marianna and with the victory ended the night as the 2S District 3 champions. However, there were no boisterous celebrations, photo ops with the district trophy or a sense of climax. Instead, the game felt and looked like we had not yet reached the highest of highs. To be sure, the Noles will embrace their district title, but it is obvious that they have much higher aspirations this season, and a shared sense that there is still work to be done toward the team’s ultimate goal.

To say that the game’s environment was unique compared to those we experienced during the Noles’ previous eight games is an understatement. In some ways, it was like watching a different team but getting the same results. Our defense, which has been as consistent as the North Star, held the Bulldogs to only one touchdown. But there were a lot of players on our defensive side of the ball whose numbers we have not yet heard called or even seen this year. These Noles didn’t come in at the end of the game with a large lead, as is usually the case with younger players seeing action under the Friday night lights… they were tallying lots of minutes – many at or not long after kickoff – and they held to the standard that fans are accustomed to seeing from a Florida High defense.

Among the defensive standouts on Friday night was sophomore linebacker Josiah Broxton. He was all over the field leaving his mark with hard hits and great reads. Sophomore linebacker Shaw Layerd got his first ever varsity start, and contributed with several solo tackles and numerous assists. A defensive constant all season, senior defensive lineman Eli Williams showed his usual grit, making it obvious that he will be a key factor in the Noles’ upcoming match-up with Lincoln and during the team’s post-season playoff campaign. He continued his role as a disruptor with a batted pass, several tackles, and pestered Marianna’s pass protection throughout the game as a singularly menacing presence in the middle of the line.

The Seminole offense, anchored by a line that has demonstrated toughness and stability, came out and played another outstanding game. Junior QB1 Jeremy Johnston, who is ranked first in the district with 1,364 passing yards, and is ranked tenth statewide in the 2S division, continues to make good decisions and protects the ball well.

In a departure from his five touchdown pass performance against Chiefland, three of the five Florida High touchdowns were the product of successful running plays. Senior backup quarterback Brooks Hickman saw several drives’ worth of action, bolstering the Noles’ depth at QB as we turn the corner from the regular season into the playoffs. Hickman was on the receiving end of one touchdown pass at his normal wide receiver position early in the second quarter, then launched the second of the night’s passing touchdowns to junior Ashton Hampton for the night’s final score.

The Noles’ tough-as-nails offensive line did not allow any sacks on Friday night, and more pancakes were served up than you’d expect to find at Cracker Barrel on a holiday weekend. This young, hungry group has worked hard this season and have stayed healthy. Friday’s performance demonstrated they are battle-tested and ready for the Lincoln Trojans this Thursday in our regular season finale and whatever opponents await our Noles as we move into November.

You read that correctly, fans…this Thursday night, we’ll be clashing with cross-town early-season powerhouse 3S Lincoln at Gene Cox Stadium after a short week of practice. Lincoln began the 2022 season blowing out opponents, but cooled off after losing its starting quarterback. Over the last 19 years, Florida High has faced off with Lincoln four times…and lost all four. With an undefeated regular season on the line for the Noles, the oddity of time and place on Thursday will make it feel like a “play-for-all-the-marbles” kind of game. This team is proven and ready to meet the challenge…all that remains for us is to fill the stands at Cox to the brim and make it a “home game” atmosphere finale for our Seminoles.

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