It’s hard to believe that the start of high school football season is just a month away. While official practice doesn’t start until August 1st and contact practice doesn’t start until August 6th, it’s never too early to get excited about some of the matchups on the horizon.
Of course, you’ll have the classic games between Big Bend teams, but teams from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and St. Johns will make stops in Tallahassee to take on the best that Big Bend has to offer. Here are 10 encounters not to be missed this fall.
Trinity Catholic at Florida High (August 26)
The regular season begins with a replay of the 2021 3A Region 1 Championship game, which was one of the Seminoles’ closer results last season. Florida High walked away with a 17-12 win in Ocala.
Florida High brings a slew of top-notch talent to the grid with Rhyder Poppell, Micahi Danzy, Brooks Hickman, Donvan Barnes and many more. Additionally, first-year starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson will have a sophomore test against the Celtics. Trinity Catholic will have a new QB but is bringing back its top rusher in Beau Beard (786 yards).
More: Welcoming a big, young core, a state championship is still the goal for Florida High
Munroe in Wakulla (September 9)
This is one of two Munroe games to keep an eye on this fall as the Bobcats loaded this offseason. In addition to the offensive battle between Hayden Klees and Xavier Blake from Wakulla and Preston Waldron and Ostin Perkins from Munroe, to name a few, the defensive game will be spectacular.
Munroe senior cornerback Makari Vickers, one of the best prospects in the Big Bend, meets Wakulla senior defensive end Todd Williams. Williams put up some big numbers for the War Eagles last season, recording 106 tackles and 14 sacks. He’s also boasted offers from Minnesota, South Florida, Central Michigan and others.
This will be the kind of match-up both teams are looking for when it comes to putting together a solid schedule.
More: Christmas in July: Top 10 Way Too Early Prospects for All-Bend Defensive Player of the Year
Bartram Trail at Lincoln (September 15 at Cox)
Not only was this a good game from last season, but Lincoln spoiled a possible 3-0 start for the Bears. From trailing 31-14, the Trojans accumulated 23 straight points to come back and upset Bartram Trail on their home turf. These two teams were packed with talent and will have some to show this fall.
Lincoln is bringing back one of the top linebackers in the country in senior Raylen Wilson (139 tackles), one of his top rushers, Fredrick Alexander (400 yards in eight games), and a string of trades. One of the biggest names coming in is Godby’s senior wide receiver Kenneth Kelly. Bartram Trail was also struck by the senior bug but brings back junior Laython Biddle (409 rushing yards) and senior Zeke Cromwell (76 tackles).
Both teams didn’t have many players exploding in stat lines, meaning there was plenty of depth on both sidelines. As this is a Thursday game there will be great spirits for Godby/Rickards the day after.
More: The Obstacle is the Path: Lincoln was focused on building himself into the state’s Champion Caliber program
More: Lincoln’s David Hogan took first place in the ESPN SportsCenter top 10
Godby at Rickards (September 16 in Cox)
It doesn’t matter where the two teams are, what their record is or how good they are, this game will always be one of the best of the season. In this game everything really goes out the window and everyone can win. Last season, a 0-7 Godby team gave Rickards, who was 4-1, a run for his money when Rickards snuck away with a 21-16 win.
The Raiders are working with a very young defense but are welcoming an electric offense down the field consisting of quarterback senior Jakari Winters, wide receiver senior Rico Watkins and wide receiver senior Keyon Brown. There are some question marks for Godby after completing a handful of players and seeing a few transfers. Quarterback sophomore Christian Sims will be a key figure leading a young team.
Even though this game isn’t close, you still have the battle of the bands and just the general environment with this game that makes it special. It truly is a Tallahassee staple.
More: ‘Our goal in life is to win’: Jones’ focus at Godby was on building his character through football
More: 3 food stalls from Godby, Leon, Rickards Spring Football Jamboree
Miami Edison at Rickards (September 23 at Rickards)
Late September will be banging on Big Bend when Rickards Miami welcomes Edison to the Dead Sea after his week of rivalry. It’s always been a big deal when a South Beach school travels to Tallahassee, as showdowns against Miami Northwestern and Carol City have drawn huge crowds in the past. Since this game has that similar feel, Rickards made the decision to have this game on the blue turf.
Defensive development continues to be the big question for the Raiders at this point, but either way, you’re going to see a lot of talent in this game. Four-star senior wide receiver and Miami conscript Nathaniel Joseph will face off against four-star senior athlete and UMass conscript Tristen Sion.
Four-star defenseman Dinellson Exume is tasked with taking out Winters in QB and an exciting Raiders offense. Both teams are walking away from close to .500 seasons, so it should be a pretty even matchup.
More: Flagships: Inside Rickard’s Tristen Sion, Rico Watkins’ commitment to UMass football
More: Rickards is looking for veterans to raise a younger group after completing the senior large class
Madison County at Florida High (September 23)
Nine minutes southeast of Rickards, the Seminoles take on the Cowboys in what is now a classic duel. In the past we’ve seen great performances from this game against two of the best smaller programs in Big Bend. Last season, Madison County broke Florida High’s 4-0 record with a 21-14 win, which helped them emerge from defeat.
Both teams are in different places than last season but similar now. Both work with large young groups to fill in older holes but still have some strong pieces. Florida High is bringing back a deep rushing and receiving core, and Madison County is bringing back its starting quarterback, senior Jamie Hampton, and its top utility, senior Jonathan Akins. Akins, who is committed to Maryland, will be a general eye-catcher this entire season.
As this is halfway through the season, this will be a very healthy matchup for both teams and should make for a great game.
More: While Madison County has a new look with a new coach and younger players, the state title standard remains
More: Christmas in July: Way too early watch list for All-Bend Offensive Player of the Year
Crestview in Chiles (7 Oct)
You may be wondering why this game is on here because it seems really random. These teams are very similar in the fact that they are both programs on the rise and return to the field as experienced teams.
Crestview went 6-4, but a 0-3 midseason slump kept them out of the playoffs. Chiles went 4-6 but could easily have gone 6-4. The Timberwolves return with Tre’avis Jones, junior kicker, Bobby Engstler, defenseman Rayqwon Smith, a very deep offensive line and an overall stronger team with big plays.
Ditto for the Bulldogs as nearly their entire roster is returning, including top rusher and scorer senior Jason Jones (758 yards, 13 TDs), starting quarterback senior Jerome Brazen (1239 passing yards, 12 TDs) and top Defenseman Senior Jake Edwards (67 tackles). Crestview is losing some players at the receiver, but that’s also an area Chiles are working on.
This will not only be a good matchup, but an important one for both teams.
More: The Chileans bring an older side to the grid after an impressive spring season
Munroe in Gadsden County (7 Oct)
For the first time ever we will see the Battle of Gadsden County on the Gridiron. When the Jaguars tried to increase their RPI score last season to get into the playoffs, they tweeted to Munroe to try and build a game, but in the end it just didn’t materialize. This year it’s set in stone.
Gadsden County is in a period of rebuilding after Corey Fuller resigned for a job at Florida State and a handful of players dropped out of the program. Senior running back Cedric Byrd is the biggest piece in the process and will most likely help a younger core forward. Munore, on the other hand, is packing a ton of talent and looks set to have another historic season.
The last time the Bobcats played in Gadsden County, they defeated University Christian for the program’s first-ever playoff win. We may see the county’s little brother win this game, but in rivalry games you never know what might happen.
More: 4-star cornerback Makari Vickers makes the move to Munroe, highlighting Bobcats recruitment
More: Change of head coach, PAC 12 commitment, Power 5 takes Munroe football to new heights
Dillard in Lincoln (October 28 in Cox)
This is another match between South Florida and Big Bend that is sure to be entertaining. Dillard, one of the state’s top programs, travels to Cox two weeks before the playoffs to take on the Trojans. Similar to the Rickards/Edison game, this will be a duel with a lot of talent.
Wilson is the biggest name out of Lincoln, complemented by a handful of returning players and transfers. Christopher Johnson at four-star running back, Arthur Jenkins at three-star wide receiver and Florida Atlantic, Antione Jackson at four-star wide receiver and Oregon State, and Antione Jackson at four-star safety and Miami commits are just a few of the names you know you’ll want to look out for in this star-studded Panthers roster.
Lincoln will have his hands full, but since this is a postseason tweak, we’ll see how this Trojans team will look in near-full form. Lincoln has a lot of great pieces that just need to get that experience and development. This is definitely going to be a game that needs to sit before we know how good it will be.
Christian in North Florida in Munroe (Oct. 28)
In what could be a prelude to the Suburban 1 Region 1 Championship game, we’ll see some of the little school’s best Big Bend talent square off just before the playoffs. The Eagles make the short drive north to Quincy to take on the Bobcats in a much-anticipated duel.
Vickers will once again face senior wide receiver Traylon Ray while the rest of the defense is tasked with taking out quarterback JP Pickles, pushing back Devon Jackson and executing a very quick NFC offense. Ditto for what NFC’s defense will be up against in a four-star wide receiver, and Stanford sign Ahmari Borden, quarterback Waldron, running back Keishawn Mashburn and many more.
From what I’ve seen so far in the off-season, this is going to be an amazing game. I can’t wait to see the matchup between these two teams.
More: Newfound confidence has given the North Florida Christian soccer veteran a deeper identity
Jack Williams covers prep sports for Tallahassee Democrat. Reach out to him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.