THERE IS MAINLAND, AND THEN THERE IS THE rest of this region – and it is doubtful any coach or expert would question that. The Bucs are as strong on paper as they looked in 2004 when they returned nearly their
entire 2003 state championship team and only a loss to nation-
ally ranked Lakeland in the final four prevented a repeat.
The Bucs return quarterback Denzel Houston, who last
year accounted for more than 3,500 yards of offense and 46
total TDs, as well as their main threat in the ground game in
track star Adrian Killins.
Defensive linemen Kevin McCrary and Jachai Polite are
big-time college recruits and combined for an eye-popping
63 tackles for loss – yes, you saw the number correctly. And
junior safety Cyrus Fagan may be the best athlete of all and
the country has taken notice.
In general, Mainland excels on defense, where it held
opponents to single digits in 10 of 14 games last year.
The Bucs aren’t only a regional favorite; they should be
considered a serious state championship favorite.
OTHER THAN MAINLAND
If not for Mainland, Oakleaf would be the headline
maker because this relatively new program is now the
class of Clay County and went 12-0 before running into a
buzz saw at Niceville.
But just about this entire roster is back and seasoned.
There are so many studs returning it’s hard to keep track
of them all – and they are well-balanced on offense and
defense. Shaq Quarterman is the leader of the defense (137
tackles in 2014), while QB Jordan Johnson threw for nearly
2,000 yards and 18 TDs as a sophomore.
APPLES AND ORANGES
We felt it was a tough call between University High School
in Orange City and traditional St. Johns County powerhouse
St. Augustine. University returns a good contingent of talent
from its strong 2014 campaign, but is a relatively new
program. Defensive stalwarts Matt Zook and Qua Brown are
back, and this team smothered offenses in 2014.
St. Augustine may be the program that surprises us all
in this position. On paper, the Yellow Jackets have to do
a lot of work to replace a lot of great players from last
year’s district championship team. But the coaching staff
is outstanding and this is a program that has won 11
consecutive district titles. There are some key contributors back too, so don’t be surprised if St. Augustine shoots
up this ranking ladder quickly.
IT’S A TOSS-UP
Bartram Trail earns the No. 5 spot by a hair. This was the
toughest choice in the ranking. The Bears have been a traditionally strong program under head coach Darrell Sutherland, and
there is a solid group of talent back – but schools like 2013
state runner-up Clay, Fleming Island ( 47 lettermen back),
Orange Park ( 9 back on defense, QB and line back), Flagler
Palm Coast (one of state’s top returning RBs) and even upstart
Middleburg (could be one of best teams at school since 1980s)
deserve a mention here. – Buddy Collings and Brian McLaughlin
Denzel Houston accounted
for more than 3,500 yards of
offense and 46 total touchdowns in 2014.
QB Joey Gatewood, Bartram Trail
RB Trey Sneed, Fleming Island
RB Colin Wilson, Clay
WR Blake Hinson, Warner Christian
WR Mitch Bailey, DeLand
OL Marcus Tatum, Mainland
OL Seneca Smith, Deltona
OL Lawrence Edwards, Spruce Creek
OL Donovan Hovey-Franklin, Warner Christian
OL Je’Vionte Nash, Oakleaf
UT Adrian Killins, Mainland
UT Blake Morgan, Creekside
DL Jachai Polite, Mainland
DL Kevin McCrary, Mainland
DL Omar Calderon, Warner Christian
DL Evan Hinson, Deltona
DL C.J. Williams, Father Lopez
LB Shaquille Quarterman, Oakleaf
LB T.J. Robinson, Fleming Island
DB Darrynton Evans, New Smyrna Beach
DB Cyrus Fagan, Mainland
DB Nick Roberts, Oakleaf
DB Aris Duffey, Nease
UT Darrynton Evans, New Smyrna Beach
3. University High
4. St. Augustine
5. Bartram Trail