Week 11 of the prep football season is reserved for most teams looking to end on a high note. For five area squads, it’s a tune up for the playoffs.
Three of those teams, Blountstown, Port St. Joe and Vernon, secured district titles, the latter two doing so in games Friday. Cottondale and Liberty County also advanced to the postseason as district runners-up.
Each of the five teams play in Class 1A’s Rural division with semifinal matchups beginning Nov. 15. All games begin at 7:30 p.m. local time as mandated by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Area teams are split up into Regions 1 and 2. Vernon and Cottondale will compete in Region 1, while Blountstown, Liberty County and Port St. Joe are in Region 2 with both regions on course to meet in the state semifinal Nov. 29.
The top-ranked Tigers finished 4-0 to secure the District 3-1A title in their first season in the grouping. Blountstown is 9-0 overall and hosts defending 1A state champion Bratt Northview this week to close the regular season.
Blounstown draws a home regional semifinal against its rival across the bridge in Liberty County (7-2), which placed second in District 4-1A behind champion Port St. Joe after the Tiger Sharks’ 24-7 win over the Bulldogs last week. Blountstown defeated Liberty County 21-7 in the teams’ regular-season meeting Sept. 27.
Blountstown averages 36 points and 254 yards rushing per game with an offense that reeled back its production after several blowouts were decided in the first half. Liberty County, which advanced to the state semifinal last season, also averages 36 points per game but faces a Tigers’ defense that yields only six per contest with five shutouts.
The winner of that game faces the survivor of Port St. Joe-South Walton in the Region 2-1A championship game Nov. 22. The Tiger Sharks (7-2) are making their first playoff appearance since 2008, when Vern Barth coached them to the state semifinal before falling to Tallahassee North Florida Christian.
They entered this season with high hopes but trepidation with a roster that was undersized against each foe. Port St. Joe overcame the size difference with a bevy of speedy talent, which includes leading rusher Dwayne Griggs, to sweep the three-game district slate.
Port St. Joe, winners of four in a row, didn’t play South Walton this season. The Seahawks (7-2) finished behind Blountstown and feature a high-scoring offense under quarterback Johnathan Ortner, who has passed for more than 2,200 yards and 30 touchdowns. Port St. Joe will counter with an offense amassing 231 yards rushing per game in an attempt to keep Ortner on the sidelines as much as possible.
The Yellow Jackets (6-3), coached by former Blountstown mentor Bobby Johns, have won their last six games since opening the season 0-3 and won their second district title since 2011. They defeated Sneads 35-19 on Friday in finishing 4-0 in District 2-1A games.
Vernon, averaging 26 points per game, will draw Northview in the opening round. The Chiefs (3-5) will enter with a losing record regardless of what happens against Blountstown.
The winner plays either Cottondale or unbeaten Baker (9-0) in the Region 1-1A final Nov. 22. The Hornets (6-4) finished their regular season last week and are making a return trip to the postseason. They lost to Northview in the opening round last season.
The 1A state title game will take place Dec. 6 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.