The regional championships are this week.
Not only is a trip to the Finspanl Four on the line, but it’s the first game of the playoffs where the winner gets to raise a trophy.
With that being said, here’s a look at the top 10 regional playoff games.
How did I narrow the list to 10? Well, glad you asked.
I actually came up with a formula. It’s not exactly scientific, but it’s a little less arbitrary than just pulling pieces of paper out of a hat.
Here are the five categories I considered.
1. Eyeball test: Is this a game the casual high school football fan would be excited about?
2. Recruiting: Is this a game college fans would be excited about because of the number of recruits in the game?
3. Storytelling: Is there an off-the-field factor (rivalry/history) or compelling reason to be excited about the game?
4. Momentum: Are these teams with a big win streak or peaking at the right time?
5. Style: Is there potential for an exciting game that will go down to the wire (or at least a fun, high-scoring game)?
I graded each game in each category on a scale of 1-10. Here are the 10 games that got the highest total scores.
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10. Choctawhatchee at Columbia (Region 1-3S)
Total score: 33 points
This game scored high in Storytelling and Momentum, due in large part to Choctawhatchee’s stunning upset of top-ranked Pine Forest in the regional semifinal. Columbia, which boasts multiple Power 5 recruits, is riding a six-game win streak and looking for its first regional title since 2015.
9. Raines at Bolles (Region 1-2M)
Total score: 34
Raines vs. Bolles is one of two all-Jacksonville regional championships on the list. The score didn’t spike in any one category but received strong scores in all five. Bolles has won the second-most titles in state history; Raines won back-to-back championships in 2017-18.
8. Suwannee at Florida High (Region 1-2S)
Total score: 35
Another game that scores high across the board, especially Momentum. Florida High, a constant presence in the regional finals for the past decade-plus, is undefeated and the top-ranked team in Class 2S. Suwannee has won eight in a row, including late-season statement wins against Wakulla, Bradford and West Florida.
7. Chipley at Northview (Region 1-1R)
Total score: 36
It’s only fitting that these two undefeated teams that went back and forth for the top seed in the power rankings all year meet to go to the state semifinals. Northview has scored 490 points; Chipley has allowed 95. Something has to give.
T5. Cardinal Newman at Chaminade-Madonna (Region 3-1M)
Total score: 38
Cardinal Newman vs, Chaminade-Madonna is one of two matchups of undefeated teams on the Metro side — Blanche Ely vs. St. Thomas Aquinas is the other. This game features a lot of Power 5 talent, especially at the skill positions. It’s a rematch of last year’s regional final, which Chaminade won in a rout on its way to the Class 3A state title.
T5. Pahokee at Hawthorne (Region 4-1R)
Total score: 38
Region 4-1R was one of the deepest in the state, but it almost felt inevitable that these teams — the two top-ranked teams in the rural classification — would face off at the end. Undefeated Hawthorne has been the state runner-up for the past two seasons. Pahokee has won five in a row and has been focused on an eventual game against Hawthorne all season.
4. Buchholz at Bartram Trail (Region 1-4S)
This is the second time these District 3-4S rivals will meet this season. Undefeated Bartram Trail won the first matchup 21-6. Buchholz was a state semifinalist in Class 7A last season, and the Bobcats’ two playoff games have featured 156 total points. Both teams also feature Power 5 players at quarterback and both defenses have a future Florida Gator.
3. University Christian at Trinity Christian (Region 1-1M)
Total score: 40
Another rematch from the regular season; Trinity Christian won 20-13 last month despite not having quarterback Colin Hurley (LSU commit). Both teams rely on senior running backs who will play on Saturdays (Florida commit Treyspanun Webb for Trinity and Orel Gray for University). These two programs each have nine state championships in the trophy case, too.
T1. Cardinal Gibbons at American Heritage (Region 3-2M)
Total score: 45
Few regional finals were more expected or anticipated than this one. Cardinal Gibbons has won back-to-back state titles and is looking for a rematch after being shorthanded in a 21-2 loss to the Patriots earlier this season. American Heritage won a state title in 2020 and features the state’s top senior wide receiver (Ohio State commit Brspanndon Inniss) and elite running back Mark Fletcher Jr. Elite talent all over the field. Two really good, experienced coaching staffs. What more could you ask for?
T1. Jones at Edgewater (Region 1-3M)
Total score: 45
It’s appropriate that the region that statistically was the strongest in the state features one of the best regional championship games. Pick a category and it’s easy to see why they score so high. Undefeated Edgewater beat Jones 14-13 in the regular season, which was the Tigers’ lone regular-season loss to an in-state opponent. Edgewater has one of the nation’s top running backs (Texas commit Cedric Bspanxter Jr.) and Jones boasts the nation’s top linebackers (Miami commit Malik Bryant). That just headlines several Power 5 players on each team. Edgewater was a state runner-up in 2019-20 and Jones lost in overtime in the state semifinals last year. This has all the ingredients.