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PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Class 7A sees interesting mix of games to lead off Regional Quarterfinals

Lake Nona will host Wiregrass Ranch Friday night to open up the playoffs. (PHOTO CREDIT: @LNHS_LION_FB)

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Although some think they know who will be the team to win this classification this year, things could be wide open here in Class 7A. Here are our previews and predictions for the Class 7A Regional Quarterfinals.




When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Backyard, Jacksonville
Records: Fleming Island, 8-2; Robert E. Lee 9-1
Rankings: Fleming Island received votes in the final AP Poll, unranked in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings; Robert E. Lee ranked No. 7 in final AP Poll, ranked No. 8 in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings
Last Playoff Appearance: Fleming Island: 2013; Robert E. Lee 2016
Quick Hits:
Fleming Island is back in the playoffs for the first time in four years after just missing out last year … The visiting Golden Eagles have a common opponent with the host Generals from this season: Ed White, which both teams took care of easily without much issue … Look for Fleming Island to run a balanced attack against Lee with running back Isaiah Walker leading the way on the ground, while Jake Libretto helps lead the way on the defense … Keep an eye out for dual-threat quarterback Derrick Jones for Lee, who has combined for just over 2,000 yards of offense and 30 touchdowns during the regular season.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Lee by 17 Prediction: Lee 31, Fleming Island 16



When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nemours Stadium, Orlando
Records: Wiregrass Ranch, 8-2; Lake Nona 7-3
Rankings: Wiregrass Ranch unranked in final AP Poll, unranked in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings; Lake Nona unranked in final AP Poll, unranked in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings
Last Playoff Appearance: Wiregrass Ranch: 2016; Lake Nona: 2016
Quick Hits:
The visiting Bulls after having a taste of success and the playoffs last season know the cannot take the host Lions lightly as both teams look for their first playoff win … Wiregrass Ranch finished as the 3rd place team in District 7A-8, but jumped the 2nd place team to get a higher seed due to the strength of schedule … For the Bulls keep an eye on junior quarterback Grant Sessum to lead things through the air while looking to balance things out on the ground by turning to senior running back Adrian Thomas … Keep an eye on junior quarterback Michael Kern, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 39 touchdowns this season, to potentially light up the scoreboard for the Lions.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Lake Nona by 3 Prediction: Lake Nona 38, Wiregrass Ranch 24



When: Friday, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Doral Academy Field, Doral
Records: Nova, 9-1; Doral Academy, 8-2
Rankings: Nova unranked in final AP Poll, unranked in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings; Doral Academy unranked in final AP Poll, unranked in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings
Last Playoff Appearance: Nova: 2015; Doral Academy: 2016
Quick Hits:
Nova is back in the playoffs for the first time in two years … the visiting Titans only loss came to West Broward for the District 7A-15 championship towards the end of the season … Doral Academy’s only two losses come to Class 2A power Champagnat and Class 3A power Chaminade-Madonna … A Nova win would give them first playoff win since 1993, going back to when none of the current players on the roster were even thought of yet. For Doral Academy, a win here would give them their first playoff win in school history.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Doral Academy by 4 Prediction: Doral Academy 30, Nova 24


Region 1
No. 8 East Ridge (7-3) at No. 1 Bartram Trail (7-3), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Bear Stadium, St. Johns — Records are deceiving here in this one. Bartram Trail has played a much tougher schedule than East Ridge here and this one could be a potential one-sided affair to open the playoffs. Host Bears ranked No. 4 in Joe Pinkos’ Power Rankings and No. 9 in the final AP Poll.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Bartram Trail by 31 Prediction: Bartram Trail 42, East Ridge 10

No. 5 Columbia (7-3) at No. 4 Lincoln (4-6), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Gene Cox Stadium, Tallahassee — Old foes meet once again in the playoffs. Although Lincoln got some momentum last week beating Godby along with claiming the district championship a few weeks back, this could be a messy one-sided game with Columbia who has played much better this season with their tougher schedule.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Columbia by 6 Prediction: Columbia 31, Lincoln 14

No. 7 Buchholz (5-5) at No. 2 Edgewater (8-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Frank E. Lough Stadium, Orlando — Buchholz was a borderline team all season long in getting in the playoffs, but for the host Eagles, going from winless to district champion in one season speaks for itself. It might be a close game against the visiting Bobcats, but Edgewater will move on most likely.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Buchholz by 3 Prediction: Edgewater 28, Buchholz 27

Region 2
No. 8 Winter Haven (6-3) at No. 1 Lakeland (8-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Bryant Stadium, Lakeland —
A District 7A-7 rematch from earlier this season that Lakeland dominated. We are thinking the same thing is going to happen here again where the visiting Blue Devils just get ran over by the Dreadnaughts.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Lakeland by 14 Prediction: Lakeland 45, Winter Haven 14

No. 6 East River (9-1) at No. 3 (9-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Dad’s Stadium, Tampa — Records here could be fools gold. Take a look at the schedules and you will clearly see on paper who has played the tougher schedule — that goes to the host Panthers. Expect this to be a quick exit for the visiting Falcons.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Plant by 27 Prediction: Plant 40, East River 10

No. 7 Gaither (7-3) at No. 2 Viera (7-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Hawk Stadium, Viera — It has been a nice turnaround season for the visiting Cowboys, but the host Hawks are just way more athletic here and should have no problem reaching the regional semifinals.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Viera by 34 Prediction: Viera 45, Gaither 17

Region 3
No. 8 St. Petersburg (6-4) at No. 1 Venice (9-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Powell-Davis Stadium, Venice — The only reason the fourth place visiting Green Devils from District 7A-10 got into the playoffs was due to a quality strong non-district schedule. However, the host Indians are not the team you want to face off against in the first round of the playoffs if you are looking for momentum. This one could get ugly.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Venice by 42 Prediction: Venice 52, St. Petersburg 7

No. 5 Braden River (8-1) at No. 4 South Fort Myers (5-4), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Wolfpack Stadium, Fort Myers — The only reason South Fort Myers is here in the playoffs is that they won their district. This is a game where the No. 5 seed is clearly way better than the No. 4 seed. Expect the visiting Pirates to run the night over the host Wolfpack.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Braden River by 28 Prediction: Braden River 45, South Fort Myers 10

No. 6 Palmetto (6-3) at No. 3 Pinellas Park (8-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Richard Allen Memorial Stadium, Largo — A quality matchup here, but if you are looking to see who played the tougher schedule, the visiting Tigers are the ones with that. Just not sure if the host Patriots will be able to keep up with a team that has knocked off some quality teams this season.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Palmetto by 27 Prediction: Palmetto 35, Pinellas Park 17

No. 7 Bloomingdale (7-3) at No. 2 Tampa Bay Tech (9-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Titan Stadium, Tampa — A district rematch from the regular season. The host Titans dominated the visiting Bulls in the last meeting and should be able to do that again to advance to the regional semifinals, most likely against Braden River.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Tampa Bay Tech by 24 Prediction: Tampa Bay Tech 38, Bloomingdale 14

Region 4
No. 8 South Miami (6-3) at No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (7-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Brian Piccolo Stadium, Fort Lauderdale — Nice job on the season for the visiting Cobras to get into the playoffs, however the facing a daunting task here with a trip to the host Raiders. This one will be over as soon as it gets started as it is a clear mismatch on paper.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: St. Thomas Aquinas 38 Prediction: St. Thomas Aquinas 45, South Miami 7

No. 5 Forest Hill (8-1) at No. 4 West Broward (8-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Flanagan High School, Pembroke Pines — The visiting Falcons are in the playoff for the first time in 21 years and only the third time in school history. The host Bobcats are back in the playoffs again as well. This game is a high quality matchup and should give fans their money’s worth.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: West Broward by 14 Prediction: West Broward 28, Forest Hill 21

No. 7 Mater Academy (6-4) at No. 2 Dwyer (7-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Blum Stadium, Palm Beach Gardens — The host Panthers should be able to control the visiting Lions easily despite the ups and downs the season has been for Dwyer, which will leave them preparing for another home playoff game next week.
Joe Pinkos’ Forecast: Dwyer by 26 Prediction: Dwyer 35, Mater Academy 10


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