Early Large Class Championship Breakdown

8A TitleVeniceApopka
Last Week35-7 over Columbus21-0 over Treasure Coast

The championship for Florida’s largest classification features two teams from the BCP region. When breaking down their full bodies of work from this season, the first thing I notice is that Venice and Apopka played two common opponents. Venice played Edgewater on September 3rd and won 41-7. Apopka played Edgewater on September 24th and lost 16-7. Venice played West Orange on November 26th in the third round and won 49-7. Apopka played West Orange on September 3rd and won 13-0. So for what it’s worth, Venice clearly played better against their two common opponents. Both of those games took place early in the season for Apopka. The Blue Darters are playing their best football right now. This is especially true for the defense. In last week’s shutout over Treasure Coast, Apopka held the Titans to 46 total yards including -3 passing yards, 49 rushing yards, and an overall average of just 1.3 yards per play. To put it into perspective, Treasure Coast averaged 42 points and 329 rushing yards per game coming into that game. It was Apopka’s sixth shutout of the season. 2022 LB Josiah Robinson led the defense with 8 tackles. 2023 DE Kaven Call and 2024 DB Antwone Robinson both recorded 1 sack apiece and the defense combined for 5 tackles for loss. Offensively, 2022 ATH Quincy Frazier had the greatest impact with 121 yards, 1 rushing touchdown, and 1 receiving touchdown. 

A couple of Venice defensive linemen had career performances against Columbus. 6’5” 250 pound 2023 DE Damon Wilson had 4 sacks and 5 total tackles for loss while accounting for 11 tackles. 2022 DL Makalynn Clayton also tallied 11 tackles to go along with 2 sacks. As a unit, Venice’s defense had 8 sacks last week. Offensively, the Indians’ o-line dominated the line of scrimmage allowing them to overwhelm Columbus with their dynamic stable of ball-carriers. 2025 RB Jamarice Wilder led the way with 115 yards on 11 carries. 2022 RB Damarion Escort carried the ball 12 times for 99 yards and 1 touchdown. 2024 RB Alvin Johnson III added 60 yards on 7 carries. 2022 ATH Omari Hayes managed the bulk of the scoring as he rushed for 33 yards and 3 touchdowns. 2022 QB Ryan Browne threw for 119 yards and ran for 39 yards and 1 touchdown. 

If you are a fan of old-school smash-mouth football, buy some tickets for this game. These are two very physical football teams who rely on a strong ground game and suffocating defense. This could end up being a low-scoring contest. Both teams are fundamentally sound. I don’t see either team giving this game away with turnovers. Both teams will have to open up the playbook to make some things happen, so I think Ryan Browne will be the x-factor for Venice. The 6’5” 203 pound senior has three times as many passing attempts as Apopka 2022 QB Andrew McClain

7A TitleTampa Bay TechSt. Thomas Aquinas
Last Week42-24 over Lake Gibson45-7 over Bucholz

This is the first state championship appearance for Tampa Bay Tech. They will take on a powerful St. Thomas Aquinas team whose only loss took place in Tampa against the Jesuit Tigers on September 3rd by a score of 24-21. The undefeated Titans have had equal success on the ground and through the air. They have thrown for 2,413 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 2,463 yards and 36 touchdowns.

2023 QB Xavione Washington is having an excellent season. The 6’1” 190 pound junior has accounted for 2,733 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. In their four playoff wins, he has accumulated 979 yards and 12 touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came against a very strong Lake Gibson team last week. 2022 RBs James Evans and Ronald Sims have delivered a solid one-two punch in the run game. Evans has 1,126 total yards and 15 touchdowns while Sims has 609 total yards and 9 touchdowns. 2022 WR Greg Gaines III is the primary receiving target. He is up to 830 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this season. We have thoroughly discussed Tampa Bay Tech’s defensive line this season.

They continue to be one of the best groups in the state. 2023 DT Jahiem Border led with 15 tackles last week. 2022 DE Keyon Clark had 8 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. 2023 DT Antonio Camon had 7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. 2023 DT Donteye Drew added 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. A freshman defensive back rose up and had the best game of his young career also. 2025 DB Johnnie Tyson recorded 6 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 fumble recovery against Lake Gibson. The defensive line will have another opportunity to shine against St. Thomas Aquinas, and I think they will once against make the difference.

It was a long time ago, but in the loss to Jesuit, STA gave up 7 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 3 fumbles, and even a blocked field goal. This will be the most talented defense the Raiders will have seen since that game and I think Keyon Clark and crew will cause just as much disruption.

6A TitleJesuitPine Forest
Last Week37-12 over Northwestern20-13 over Jones in OT

After following Jesuit all season, I am going to keep it real and say that the Tigers will have to play their worst game of the season in order to lose this championship. No offense to Pine Forest, but the Tigers are just that good. Their talent is off the charts, and they are as well-coached and fundamentally sound as any team in the country!

Since week seven, Jesuit has outscored their competition 344-21. In that same stretch, they have forced 24 takeaways while suffering only 4 turnovers. On the season, the undefeated Tigers are +27 in turnover differential. Pine Forest is a great football team whose only loss took place against West Florida on September 3rd by a score of 21-14.

Besides that game, they have only faced a legitimate challenge a couple of times this season. Their ground game is top-notch, but they have struggled to find balance during their playoff run. In fact, in their four playoff wins, they have only completed 11 out of 24 passing attempts for 106 yards and 1 touchdown. In those same four games, they have rushed for 1,316 yards and 7 touchdowns (329 yards per game). They won’t be able to gash Jesuit’s defensive front as they have with other teams. If the Tigers continue to play clean football, I have no doubt that they’ll make a statement in the championship game.

3A TitleBerkeley PrepChaminade-Madonna
Last Week42-14 over Lakeland Christian38-3 over Florida State High

We did a full preview of this game on Wednesday. Jump to it here