Two highly successful football programs will go toe to toe on Friday night.
After losing to eventual champion Bishop Moore on their home turf in the state semifinal a year ago, the Tigers are looking to avenge that bump in the road.
As for the Patriots, they are back in the state semifinal for the first time since capturing the crown in 2014.
Jesuit is averaging nearly 49 points per game offensively while allowing just under 10 points per game. The Tigers have turned up their offense with a 54-point average in three postseason matchups.
American Heritage has been sound on both sides of the ball putting up 32.5 points per game on offense and surrendering 10 points per game defensively.
How they got here:
Jesuit beat Immokalee 56-29. American Heritage took down Bishop Moore 20-7.
American Heritage has two state championships to its name over the past four seasons (2013, 2014).
Senior defensive back Michael Hicks earned a state title in 2014 and has been an integral part of a playmaking defense. The 5’10”, 170-pounder has two of the team’s 15 interceptions this season.
He told me the gameplan the Patriots have for this game is great.
“We have won states before but no one at American Heritage has finished an undefeated season in football,” Hicks said. “So this will be a special group.”
Jesuit has been fortunate to be in front of its home crowd for the entire playoffs. However, the Tigers are well aware the task at hand on the road.
“They [American Heritage] will be our toughest game thus far no doubt. We are just going to play our game and stick to what we know and execute,” senior quarterback Danny Boon said. “Our coaches are getting us well prepared for this game and it’s going to be a good one.”
“We are expecting a high-intensity game. We know that they are a well-coached team but we are ready,” Harris said. “We are just going to focus on the little things and make sure that we put up points on offense and create turnovers on defense.”
Former NFL veteran Patrick Surtain took over the sidelines at American Heritage this year. His son Patrick is part of the highly successful secondary.
Offensively the Patriots have four guys who can make plays with their legs. Juniors Jordan Johnson and Abraham Alce each have nine touchdowns while senior quarterback Jason Brown has 15 touchdowns (4 rushing) and junior Miles Jones has three.
“We will be ready to go and it’s no place like home,” Hicks said. “Our fans are the best and they will get us going early. We will be on our A game.”
Boon told me earlier this week that Jesuit will be providing a bus for its fans while others will be making the drive themselves for this big game.
Harris doesn’t care where the Tigers have to play, he just wants to take care of business.
“Yea we know that we aren’t home but our Blue Tide and fans are so awesome that it makes us feel like we are home,” he said. “But to be honest we are just ready. We can’t do anything about the home field advantage crap, all we have to do is show up and play football.”
The Tigers focus level all season long has been noticeable. Boon says everyone on this team is locked in and “more driven to achieve the goal in which we are all seeking, a ring.”
It won’t be easy to get points on the board against this American Heritage defense. The Patriots have allowed only four double-digit performances against them this season and a total of 30 points in the playoffs.
Junior defensive end Andrew Chatfield has been the heart and soul of this defense with a team-best 18 sacks.
For Jesuit, the mindset all postseason has been to focus on earning the win and moving forward. Harris has stuck with that throughout the process.
“Yes 12-0 sounds awesome but we are not where we want to be just yet,” he said. “Either we win or go home and we most definitely aren’t going home.”
Both teams are filled with athletes. American Heritage has speedy guys all across its offense and the defense features guys who flat out fly around the field.
Jesuit has been here before and with Davis, Harris and Boon the true leaders of this offense there’s a chance they can come out strong in this game. Harris is also part of a defense that has 18 interceptions. At corner, he has three picks along with sophomore Dane Belton.
Junior defensive end Anthony Nelson is going to be the x-factor for the Tigers defense with is team-high 16 sacks. Also, junior backer Braden Gilby (122 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles) is a guy to keep an eye on.
On paper, you look at what American Heritage has accomplished in the playoffs the past few seasons and you have to give them the slight edge. But Jesuit has been close and very strong the last couple of years.
Don’t ever pick against Davis and Harris or they’ll make you pay. The Tigers will have to get out of their comfort zone a bit to be able to score enough points in this game. For the Patriots, it has to be about sticking to the same mindset of shutting opposing offenses down.
This is going to be a dandy of a game.
Photo credit: Jesuit Tampa FL
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.