While the intention always is to win, the focus for Nease and Ponte Vedra high football teams shifted dramatically last week when both learned they will play in the state playoffs regardless of their records.
Instead of using the regular season to fight for a spot in the postseason, every team in Florida had the option to be part of this year’s championship tournament or to sit out. Every school in St. Johns County wanted to play.
The Florida High School Athletic Association then used a blind drawing to create the brackets.
While games on Oct. 7 count as far as the overall record and with building momentum, neither affected the playoffs.
But make no mistake: Nease (1-3) wasn’t happy with a 31-17 loss at Creekside and Ponte Vedra (4-1) was disappointed with a 33-17 loss at Bartram Trail.
The Panthers, who’ve given up at least 31 points in each of their last three games, caught Creekside at the wrong time. The Knights upset top ranked Bolles on Sept. 25 and played then-undefeated Fleming Island close before losing 26-23 after Fleming Island scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
Both will have the opportunity get back on track — and continue to use their remaining games as a dress rehearsal for the postseason — this Friday. Nease will play at Englewood at 6 p.m., and PVHS will be home against Bartram Trail at 7 p.m.
The Panthers have four regular season games remaining until they travel to Oakleaf for a first-round playoff game on Nov. 13. Both teams will offer a preview with a regular season game, also at Oakleaf, on Oct. 30.
Nease now features a two-quarterback threat with senior Will Carn (30 of 51 for 352 yards and three touchdowns) and junior Gabe Ohlson (35-64, 317 yards)
Ponte Vedra also has four remaining games before hosting the winner of the Lake City Columbia-Englewood play-in game on Nov. 13.
Seniors Jacobi Myers (60 of 93 for 927 yards passing and 11 TDs) and Campbell Parker (95 carries for 558 yards and six touchdowns) continue to spark the Sharks’ offense.