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It’s Play-Off Time! Here’s a Round Up of the North Bracket

Written by Lee Roggenburg on . Posted in .
Above – photo courtesy of Lynn Damm photography Districts 1-8 make up the North Bracket and one of these teams is going to the Final Four!  So who is it going to be? I have some opinions on this subject and I love to share – so here you go.
photo credit Ray DiMonda
Garritt Schwarz and Maclay were road warriors this season with only six home games – photo credit Ray DiMonda
District 1, this newcomer district is going to be a battle.  Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Catholic are two schools with a good multi-sport rivalry.  They are out in front of the rest of the district and will end up playing in the championship.  They split the regular season each winning on their home field. Gulf Breeze is hosting the playoffs so…advantage Gulf Breeze.
Robert Anhalt Buchholz
Robert Anhalt and Buchholz will try to duplicate their regular season success against Oak Hall in the district 3 championship
Creekside Bonilla 2016_opt
Creekside’s Jullian Bonilla is an elite level player. Could this be Creekside’s time?
Unfortunately for the winner of District 1, whichever team it is will be playing Maclay in the second round.  Maclay will win District 2.  The other teams are improving but they haven’t caught up yet.  Maclay is a methodical ball control team and that means they need the ball.  Chad Minter at the Face Off X can get those possessions.  They dropped a surprising game to Fleming Island but don’t worry about that.  Fleming Island is a good team and played great.  They may be the fourth seed in District 6 but District 6 is the best district in the state this season.  Maclay is tough and they will advance to meet the winner of District 3 vs 4.
Lake Brantley Jared Bernhardt
Lake Brantley’s Jared Bernhardt
District 3 is a great story.  Oak Hall is super talented and young as well as the defending District Champs.  Last year Buchholz took the regular season game in a fantastic home game.  It felt like the entire Buchholz student body was out there and the young Oak Hall team appeared to wilt under the pressure.  The youngsters didn’t wilt when it counted, however, and won the championship only to advance and get whooped by Maclay 15-2.  This year the regular season game was on Oak Hall’s home turf. Buchholz went in there and came away with the win again!  Are we in for repeat?   This is another “too close to call” ‘championship game and I can’t wait to see what happens.  But I don’t expect either team to get beat by Maclay 15-2 again. Maclay be both Oak Hall and Buchholz by the same score in the regular season – 9-7.  I’d say this is a pretty even match up. If the winner of this district can get past the district 4 winner, most likely Bolles, then Maclay will have a small advantage. District 4 looks to be owned by Bolles this year.  Bolles played a very tough schedule to finish 7-8.  Episcopal had the better record but Bolles beat them 14-9 in the regular season.  Bolles should pull out the district championship but they are going to have their work cut out to advance after that.  The played a tough out of district schedule but dropped the majority of those tough games. I don’t normally make predictions but I’ll go out on a limb with District 5.  I predict Fletcher tops Mandarin 6-4 in the first round and Providence squeaks by Sandalwood in OT.  What??? Those games were last night.  I was not aware. Anyway, it looks like Providence is limping into the playoff season.  They dropped four in a row to end the regular season and went to OT with a team they had doubled up 8-4 during the regular season.  It comes down to Providence and Fletcher tomorrow night.  The winner goes onto face the winner of the State’s top district so this is likely the end of the road.  As someone who has coached in this situation before I can assure you that both of these teams understand that and are going to approach tomorrow as if it’s for all the marbles.  Should be a fantastic game with both teams laying it all out there. Wow, District 6.  Do you need anymore evidence as to how far lacrosse has come in North Florida than district 6? Bartram Trail went 8-5 outside the district and didn’t even make the playoffs.  Ponte Vedra ran the table and sits at 17-0.  Did I mention that is with a roster that features nine sophomores? This program is built to last and is going to be around for a long time.  These guys are super fast and just as talented.  Creekside is the number two seed and played PV to a three goal game during the regular season.  Three goals isn’t much and a couple of lucky bounces, a mistake by one side or the other, and it goes either way.  Creekside only lost to PV, Maclay, and Oak Hall and all three losses were by a combined 7 goals.  These guys have been in every single game this season.  But they have to get past Nease in the first round. Nease is 12-6 and played Creekside to a TWO goal game in the regular season.  New head coach Max Gurowski is a former JU standout and he looks like the guy who can get this program to the next level. Ponte Vedra faces Fleming Island in the first round.   This is a team who just knocked off Maclay and looks to be peaking right now.  Anything can happen tonight in this first round.  PV has a bunch of sophomores but FI has one of their own.  Patrick Schreiber just blew up with a first quarter hat trick against Maclay.  The difference is, however, if PV gets behind early they are the kind of team who can play super fast and no lead is safe.  Maclay, as good as they are, likes those long possessions and that doesn’t really lend itself to coming from behind. We think PV is the best team in the best district.  In fact, I think they are the best team in the North bracket.  But the competition is close enough that any misstep could cost them.  Even with a relatively easy second round, the winner of District 6 has a tough route to the final four. Matanzas has the top seed in District 7 and should advance.  They are an offensive minded team but has some defensive issues.  They  ran into a couple of top shelf face off guys at the Florida Georgia Showdown and could never get their offensive weapons going.  They did play Lake Mary to a one goal loss in the regular season but I think that was a bit of an off day for the Rams.  I think the Pirates take the district but they will really have their work cut out for them against Lake Mary or Lake Brantley in the next round. District 8 is Lake Mary and Lake Brantley.  Both teams are way ahead of the rest of the district.  Lake Brantley is a huge story this season.  The Patriots came out of the gates with an upset of the defending state champs.  At the time, we didn’t know that LHP would have such a tough season.  But then LB turned around and lost to Bishop Moore the next game.  The Patriots only had two other losses this year, one to IMG and one to Jupiter.  They have, one of the state’s best players in Jared Bernhardt.  They have athletes and a very good face off guy. The loss of Alex Forehand had a huge effect on the Lake Mary Rams.  Charlie Ragault was going to have a great year regardless but he has had to really step up to the next level with the loss of Forehand.  Guys like Kyle Sande and Walker Mays have also stepped up and scored goals this year too.  But a player like Forehand would have made these guys even better. Lake Mary got it done last year and went on the final four.  It’s a long shot for them to repeat but I wouldn’t be shocked.  Gary Robinson is an excellent game planner and his team has the discipline to go out and try to execute.  On the other side there is not a more intense competitor that I have ever met than Jake Bernhardt. Overall I think the North Bracket is just about tied with the South in terms of competitiveness.  And the addition of Lake Brantley to the North this year made it even more competitive.  Whatever team emerges from the playoffs to make it to Jupiter will have traveled a tough road.    

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