Previewing The Top Half of the Bracket – FHSAA Playoffs Are Here!

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It’s hard to believe that in less than 15 days four boys teams and four girls teams are set to face off for the FHSAA Semi-Finals.  The next day is the JTAAsuper150ad Lacrosse Youth Clinic, followed by the annual FLN Senior All Star Games, which includes the first ever State-Wide Girls Lacrosse Seniors All Star Game.  The awesome weekend finishes up with the final two battles of the season.   One for the girls championships and one for the boys.

Nick Valletto Gulf Breeze 2016 Commit Pic
Gulf Breeze senior Nick Valletto

One of the boys teams is going to come from Districts 1-16.  Lee already previewed the southern brackets, so here is a look at the North half of the state.

Gulf Breeze vs Maclay

Gulf Breeze plays host for this one and seniors Nick Valetto and TJ Durst have guided Gulf Breeze to a first ever district championship.  They are going to have their hands full with the ball control disciplined offense of Maclay.  The Marauders can get it done at offense, defense, and they can win face offs with All American Chad Minter.  Austin Cook is solid in the goal as well.

Alex-Spiker oak Hall
Oak Hall’s Alex Spiker is one of many super talented young players on this roster

You’ve got to call Maclay the heavy favorite but anything can happen on the road during the playoffs.  As Gulf Breeze coach Matt Dorf said, “We have to play our game and play smart.  Chad Minter is great at the face off position and we need to slow him down.   Maclay is on a mission this year, but if we play smart ,relax and don’t get caught up in the moment, you never know.  But I look at it like this, its history for the area just being able to participate in Regional Lacrosse play in round .”

Oak Hall vs Bolles

A young and fearless Oak Hall team is set to host a battle tested Bolles team in this round.  Both of these teams have been up and down, both have won and lost big games this season.  None, however, was bigger than Oak Hall’s 12-9 win over Buchholz to win District 3.  They had dropped a regular season game to Buchholz making it the second year in a row they have dropped the regular season game to the Bobcats only to win the district championship later.

Lake Brantley Dis 8 Champs
Lake Brantley survived an incredible game against 2015 Final Four Lake Mary

Oak Hall has some quality wins over Creekside and the championship game over Buchholz.   The only prediction I’m making is that this one could go either way.  Home field advantage goes to Oak Hall.

Ponte Vedra vs Providence

Kudos to head coach Brian Theiss for righting the ship at Providence after a four game skid.  The guys stepped up and won two OT games back to back to win the district.  That is a memory I hope they hold onto long after the PV game is over.  This might be a bit of a mis-match.  Ponte Vedra is playing as well as anyone right now and Reid Smith has got to be the most effective shooter in the state over the last few weeks.  This team is playing lights out.

The bad news for everyone else? These guys are young.  The PV class of 2018 is unbelievable.  We’ll be writing about this group for a long time.

Matanzas vs Lake Brantley

If Lake Brantley gets better wing play at the face off X than they did against Lake Mary then Matanzas could be in trouble.  As we noted before, Matanzas has some vulnerabilities on defense.  If they allow the ball to find the stick of Jared Bernhardt on a regular basis then this one is over.  But, if the Pirates can win the face off and control the game between the boxes then they could make a game of it.  Matanzas does have some serious offensive threats.

Granite Porcher
Granite Porcher and the Hagerty Huskies have one big upset under their belts, how far can they go?

This one is played at Matanzas but if they don’t win the face offs and ground balls then home field won’t help.

Hagerty vs Timber Creek

This is going to be a battle.  Hagerty pulled a huge upset by beating Winter Park.  I’m calling it huge because I said, “Winter Park should emerge from District 9 to play the winner of the Timber Creek vs Boone game. ”  Well I was wrong.  There you go Hagerty, I said it.

Apopka Champs
Apopka celebrates their first district championship

I’m happy to be wrong when some good players step it up and take their game to the next level, which is what happened for the Huskies.  Ethan Geiger scored a hat trick, including the game winner, while Jordan Collins also had a hat trick and Granite Porcher had 2 goals. And in truly stunning fashion, Husky goalie Tanner Ward had 31 saves.

Timber Creek sports a pretty nifty attack unit.  This group, in my opinion, finally showed what they are capable of by getting that Boone monkey off it’s back in pretty serious fashion.  Timber Creek delivered a dominant victory, 13-4, to win it’s first district championship since the days when Jake Rooney was scoring goals at an alarming pace back  in 2012.

Plant v Newsome Carlson
Plant and Newsome both want to play a role in the second round

When it’s Hagerty and Timber Creek don’t expect these guys to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”   While these two programs may share some mutual respect for one another it’s certainly no love fest.   This is going to be a good one.

Apopka vs Lake Highland Prep

Lake Highland Prep turned in the kind of performance we have come to expect from them in the second half of the District 12 Championship.  The first half they looked average at best.  If the second half team comes out against Apopka then they are going to be hard to beat.  This is Apopka’s first district championship and they earned it, upsetting West Orange.

Before the district playoff I commented, ” I will say that although and upset is unlikely, it would not shock me if Apopka or even Monteverde won this thing.”  If Apopka has any chance of pulling back to back upsets it’s going to start with Caleb Hippensteel winning lots of face offs and the always entertaining Austin DeGross has to be ready to stand on his head to make saves.   The LHP shooters, if they get the ball on target, are going to be the best he has faced this season.

Dr. Phillips vs Newsome

Last week I said, “… but I’m calling a Newsome vs Dr. Phillips game a “pick ’em.” I’m sticking with that.  Dr. Phillips has some excellent offensive firepower but I’m just not sure how good Newsome is.  So, we’ll have to wait and see.

Plant vs Steinbrenner

Plant has beaten Steinbrenner twice this season but the second time it went to double OT.  So Plant may be just a bit nervous.  The Warriors may know how to stop that Plant offense, they are the only team other than IMG to hold Plant to single digits.  But they couldn’t get enough offense of their own going and dropped the OT game 6-5.  If they can put up the same defensive effort and get a little more going themselves they they just might have a shot to give the Panthers their second loss of the year.