ALL-FIRST COAST TEAM
FOR AS MUCH SUCCESS AS AREA TEAMS HAVE had in producing college and NFL players, there remains a number that is almost incomprehensible – one. That’s the number of state championships earned
by public school programs in Duval County.
Among the 17 schools in what is known as the Gateway
Conference, all but two have been around for 25 years or more.
And yet just one program, Jacksonville Raines, which beat
Belle Glade Glades Central 32-27 to win the Class 4A state title
in 1997, has managed to bring home a championship trophy.
Mr. Football stars have tried to end the jinx and each one
Sandalwood running back Frankie Franklin got the Saints
to the Class 6A title game in 1995, only to lose to Miami
First Coast quarterback De’Andre Johnson took the
Buccaneers to the 7A championship in 2011 and took a 40-0
beating at the hands of Bradenton Manatee. Johnson got an
unbeaten First Coast to the 8A regional finals last year, only
to get pulverized by Apopka.
NO NEW RECORDS?
The First Coast’s sterling three-year run of record-chasing and
record-setting football performances could be a thing of the past.
In 2012, Yulee running back Derrick Henry rewrote the state
record for rushing in a single game (502) and demolished the
national career rushing mark, garnering Mr. Football honors.
One year later, Bishop Kenny quarterback John Wolford set
the state record for passing touchdowns, among a slew of
other marks. And in 2014, First Coast quarterback Johnson
came along and broke most of Wolford’s records, although
he settled for second in state history to Lake Nona’s Tucker
Israel in things like career passing yardage and passing
touchdowns. Johnson, too, earned the Mr. Football award.
Those wondering if the First Coast will generate a fourth
consecutive season of state or national records can rest easy.
Sixteen area programs are poised to open the season
with new starting quarterbacks, making even single-season
attempts at any sort of record unlikely. And despite a Henry-like pace – for a while at least – from Providence running
back Jamauri Wakefield in 2014 ( 2,537 yards), that number
ranks fifth in area history.
A RARE TRIPLE
Teams with three consecutive state championships remain
something of a rarity in Florida football. Only 11 times in
state history have teams won three or more straight titles.
Along the First Coast, it’s never been done.
Trinity Christian may just put an end to that streak this fall.
The Conquerors have won back-to-back Class 3A state
championships, and they’ll be poised to join a short list of
titlists if they can add another this year.
TURING BACK THE CLOCK
Former Jacksonville Jaguars football players Mark Brunell and
Tony Boselli remain two of the most recognizable and popular
players in franchise history. Sure, they haven’t played together
since 2001, yet they continue to resonate with area fans.
But this season, a Brunell and a couple of Bosellis will be
on the same field as teammates at Episcopal.
Joseph Brunell, Mark Brunnell’s son, is the starting
quarterback for the Eagles. Tony Boselli’s son, Andrew, who
end. – Justin Barney