GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA -- If you are looking for some of the nation's top prep talent one of the best places to be is the Florida high school football finals. This year the seven title games are being played at Florida Field in Gainesville. Warchant.com was on hand Friday afternoon for the 2A championship.
Even though the divisions in Florida go all the way up to monster programs in 6A, the 2A finals matched up two of the state's best. In fact, Madison County and Hollywood-Chaminade represented the No. 1 and No. 2 overall teams in the state, based on the most recent rankings. Unfortunately the marquee showdown was marred by over-officiating.
The two teams combined for a record 39 penalties for 318 yards. That, and Madison's 20 penalties for 165 yards, set a new FHSAA finals records.
Chaminade got rolling early and never looked back. After the Eagles scored an early touchdown on a trick halfback pass, Madison drove within scoring range but penalties killed the drive. After another Chaminade score on a Alex Broomfield touchdown run, defensive back Stevie Williams blocked a punt and took it in for the score and suddenly it was 20-0 and Madison could never get back on track.
Despite a penalty flag being thrown on nearly every other play and the lopsided score, the talent on display was still a pleasure to watch.
For Madison the No. 1 man was once again Jonathan Warren. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder was all over the field on both sides of the ball. Although he is primarily a defender, the super athlete has been used on offense late in the season. On Friday he rushed for 81 yards on only five carries (16.2 average). He also had a chance to pickup a 60-plus yard touchdown reception after running by a Chaminade defensive back that had the unfortunate assignment of having to cover him one-on-one. However, a perfectly thrown ball from quarterback Brian Peacock fell harmlessly through his hands.
From his safety spot the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder led the Cowboys in tackles with nine, with at least three coming on jarring hits. His final one would have made the WWF proud when he picked up a 200-pound Eagle running back and slammed him to the ground. That tackle might have been partially borne out of frustration as it came late in the game with Madison trailing 27-0.
When it comes to recruiting the hard-hitting safety has seen his stock go through the roof. Improving grades and impressive play on the field has two of the state's top programs hot on his trail. Warren still won't say which school holds the edge at this point.
"I'll probably go to either Florida or Florida State," Warren told Warchant.com after the game.
With the Gators recently getting commitments from safeties Tony Joiner and Kyle Jackson, and Warren growing up a Seminole fan, you have to believe FSU is in the driver's seat. That may be why one reporter told him after the game "good luck at Florida State".
Next up for Warren is a trip to California to play in the January 2nd Cali-Florida all-star game.
Although very few people outside the panhandle have heard of Marquis Powell, on Friday he showed why he may be one of the state's top running backs. Despite the loss, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound tailback rushed for 133 yards on 17 carries. Through the regular season he rushed for 1,156 yards and 10 TDs, which means he probably finished the season with well over 1,500 yards rushing.
Sophomore tailback Desmond Gee is one to watch in the future. He also finished the season with well over 1,500 yards rushing, to go along with 20-plus touchdowns.
For the state champion Chaminade Lions there are several Division 1A prospects. Leading the way was Mr. Everything John Dunlap. The three-star athlete lined up just about everywhere but did most of his damage from the wide receiver spot. He caught only two passes but both went for touchdowns. The first coming from 24 yards out on a halfback pass. The second came in the third quarter, a 25-yarder, and put the Lions up 27-0 and effectively clinched the game for Chaminade.
Dunlap was also a difference-maker on defense from the linebacker spot and displayed a good combination of speed and strength. Officially, he picked up four tackles and recovered a fumble.
After the game Dunlap told Warchant.com that his top schools are Miami, N.C. State, and Florida. When all is said and done you have to believe that the 'Canes will be the team to beat.
Perhaps the player making the biggest statement was tailback Alex Broomfield. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound sleeper isn't a hot name in the recruiting world, but he put on an impressive running display against what many consider the state's top defense. He racked up 120 yards on 19 carries, including a 4-yard touchdown run. His stats would have been even more impressive if not for a 62-yard touchdown being called back on a holding penalty. On the season Broomfield rushed for nearly 1,500 yards.
Defensive back Stevie Williams, who is probably the fastest player on the Chaminade team, also had an excellent outing. The two-star cornerback was all over the place on defense breaking up two passes, recording a tackle for loss, and blocking a punt. He also picked up a touchdown on his punt block, which put the Eagles up 20-0 in the second quarter.
At last check Williams had scholarship offers from Pittsburgh and Auburn. He is also being heavily recruited by Iowa and Wake Forest.
Many consider Octavius Darby the top tight end in Florida. With Chaminade's ground game clicking on all cylinders, Darby didn't get to show off his receiving skills but utilized his dominating blocking to help the Eagles rush for over 200 yards against a stingy defense.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end said after the game that his top five schools are Florida, Tennessee, Miami, N.C. State and Iowa.
If there's one junior to keep your eye on for Chaminade it's Chris Pommells. The outside linebacker led all players in tackles with 11 and picked up a tackle for loss.
Highlights from the other state finals
* Florida State commitment Lamar Lewis rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries against Fort Meade to lead Trinty Christian to their second straight 1A state title. That was enough to give the three-star tailback over 1,600 yards rushing and 22 TDs this season.
* Seffner Armwood won its first state title Thursday night for Division 4A. The Tampa area team racked up nearly 300 yards rushing against Lake Gibson en route to a 29-21 victory. Armwood offensive lineman Jacob Griffin was a big reason for Hawks success on the ground. He has been offered scholarships by both Florida and Florida State and lists the instate rivals as co-leaders.
* Mainland running back Vince Wilson had one of his quietest games of the season Friday night rushing for only 83 yards on 20 carries. Although that was not near his usual average of 150 yards a game, it was enough to help the Bucs to a 24-13 win and the 5A state title. On the season the three-star tailback rushed for over 2,000 yards and 25 TDs. At last check Wilson listed his top three schools as Florida State, USF and Oklahoma.