No. 19 ranked Vanguard will be visiting Citizens Field on Thursday night to take on the Gainesville Hurricanes. {PHOTO: Ocala Vanguard Football Home Page/Facebook]

The 2019 Florida High School Football season is upon us and that means taking some looks into some of the top games this week with our Thursday preview of two of our 15 BIG matchups for Week 1.

No. 19 Vanguard vs. Gainesville

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Citizens Field, Gainesville


Records (2018): Vanguard, 12-1; Gainesville, 7-4

Rankings: Vanguard, No. 19 – Florida Top 25, No. 4 – Class 5A; Gainesville, Not ranked

Radio: WGGG 92.1 FM & 1220 AM, Gainesville; WMOP – 900 AM, Ocala

Webstream: via the NFHS Network (paid)

In what has become a rivalry, especially in district play has become a Week 1 game for the next two seasons at least with Vanguard now residing in Class 5A while Gainesville remains in Class 6A … The Knights are coming off a 12-1 season in 2018 after being defeated by eventual Class 6A State Runner-up Armwood in the regional finals … Gainesville is coming off a 7-4 season in 2018, losing to Lake Wales in a hard-fought Class 6A regional quarterfinals … Vanguard won last year’s meeting back on October 12, 2018, 49-28 … Gainesville has lost five straight to Vanguard, including a 2017 loss in the regional quarterfinals with their last win over the Knights coming in 2014 at home ….  The Knights are led by a nice roster of big-time prospects including Florida Gator commit Leonard Manuel (WR, Sr.), Miami Hurricane commit Antonio Smith (OT, Sr.), Desmond “D.J.” Dailey (CB, Sr.), Dewayne McBride (RB, Sr.), Bryce Langston (WR, Jr.), and Trevonte Rucker (QB/WR, Jr.) … Gainesville is led by USF commit Gentle Hunt (DT, Sr.), Tramel Brown (OT, Sr.), Caleb Washington (ILB, Sr.), and Alex Hood (P, Sr.)

Joe Pinkos’ Pick: Vanguard by 7 Pick: Vanguard 31, Gainesville 17


Escambia vs. West Florida

When: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. CT

Where: Marlon L. Bullock Stadium, Pensacola

Records (2018): Escambia, 9-3; West Florida, 6-3

Rankings: Escambia, No. 5 – Class 6A; West Florida, Not ranked


In what has developed into a nice rivalry of its own, these two Pensacola-area programs have made it a point to be the first ones to kickoff the football season in Escambia the last few years … In last year’s meeting, Escambia won by field goal margin, 23-20 … Escambia finished the season last year 9-3 that included a district championship, but fell to Navarre in the regional semifinals … West Florida is coming off a 6-3 season that included winning a district championship on a tiebreaker after a couple of games were canceled due to the impacts of Hurricane Michael in the Panhandle. They lost to Bolles in the regional quarterfinals … Escambia is led by a couple of key guys that include Ilyas Akbar (DE, Sr.), Frank Peasant (OLB, Sr.), and JoJo Blackmon (WR, Jr.) … West Florida is led by key player Simeon Price (ATH, Jr.)

Joe Pinkos’ Pick: Escambia by 1 Pick: Escambia 27, West Florida 24