Across the state of Florida, Class 6A is loaded with high-caliber teams.
Headlined by Daytona Mainland (6-0) and Sefner Armwood (6-0), there is no exception for 6A competition when it comes to the Panhandle.
In fact, after the first week of district play there is a myriad of possibilities for who could be the best 6A team in not only the PNJ coverage area, but the Panhandle.
“We like the competition, I think it’s great for the Panhandle in general,” Tate coach Jay Lindsey said.
Navarre (6-0) leads the way, with a key win over Choctaw — which made a run to 6A state semifinals last season.
Navarre still has Escambia this Friday and Niceville (5-1) on Nov. 7.
Choctaw holds a win over Pine Forest, and still has Tate and Niceville on the schedule.
Pine Forest’s (5-1) close loss to Choctaw (4-2) almost mirrors Tate’s close loss to Niceville — which makes the debate for best team Escambia county even tougher.
“Everyone is strong this year,” Lindsey said. “It’s very impressive. It says a lot about football in this area.”
Of course, Escambia High (4-2) boasts the toughest strength of schedule as both of the Gators’ losses come by combined total of 15 points.
All teams mentioned above have appeared in the AP Top 10 rankings for Class 6A at some point this season, with the exception of Pine Forest which has been on the bubble all season.
“It’s honestly a compliment for northwest Florida,” Lindsey said. “We are not getting overlooked.”
Catholic’s adjustments paying off under strong leadership
Last season, the Catholic Crusaders (2-4, 1-0) conducted a relentless passing attack which featured arguably the strongest receiving corps as the Crusaders put up more than 2,700 passing yards.
This year, the Crusaders have a new look with freshman RB Abram Smiley accounting for a majority of Catholic’s offense in recent weeks.
It’s caused an adjustment for the whole team, which responded nicely with a 19-13 win in Catholic’s first District 1-3A test of the year.
“(Going to a running game) is what we had to do,” Catholic coach Greg Seibert said. “It is a testament to their work ethic and mentality. A lot of it goes to the offensive staff and to coach (Matt) Adams in being confident in those guys and teaching those guys.”
To keep Catholic’s offense focused, Seibert has relied heavily on a blossoming offensive line.
“We really thought during the offseason and the summer that the offensive line had a chance to be a good group,” Seibert said. “Blake Brazwell and Ethan Watson were both returning and we had a really solid center that we unfortunately lost. But we’ve been able to work Dax Davault into that position and he has good size and feet and snaps it well. It’s comforting to know that my center, guard and tackle on the left side will all be back.”
District 1-5A up for grabs, with Panama City teams leading the way
As soon as the new district alignments came out, few thought that Pensacola teams West Florida and Pensacola High would be at the bottom of District 1-5A standings after the first district games were played.
Bay (6-0, 2-0) might be the biggest shock, as the Tornadoes rank No. 9 in Class 5A in the state after besting PHS ( 3-3, 0-1) last Friday.
But Tigers coach Mike Mincy and his team won’t dwell on the loss, and it won’t change their goals.
“Our kids won’t read a whole lot into it (tough loss at Bay) one way or the other, except they know we have to get back out this week and get better,” Mincy said. “We’ll look at the film and see what went on and get it fixed. The season is not over. There is a still a way to get there (into playoffs).
“Our goal is still to be in the playoffs and make a deep run in the playoffs. We’ve got the open week and we know we have to win our remaining district games.”
West Florida (2-3, 0-1) is still in the mix despite a loss to Mosley ( 3-2, 1-1).
The Jaguars had an open week last Friday and will get their next district chance at Bay on Oct. 16.