JACKSONVILLE — As First Coast High senior linebacker (and University of Miami verbal commitment) Reggie Northrup rumbled 75 yards down the sideline for the touchdown that would put away state powerhouse Lakeland on Friday night, his teammates were just shocked that the 230-pound defender was able to gather up enough steam to get his big frame all the way to the end zone.
“We never thought Reggie would score a touchdown,” said First Coast senior running back Derrell King. “We were praying for a turnover, but we never knew he was going to score.”
But score he did, as Northrup picked up the turnover by Lakeland quarterback Raheeme Dumas and was led by a convoy of defensive teammates for the final points of the evening. The Buccaneers (13-0) upended the visiting Dreadnaughts (13-1) by a score of 24-14 in a FHSAA Class 7A state semifinal. In the process, First Coast earned their first state finals bid in school history.
“We’ve played for this all season. We deserve to be in that state championship game next week and it’s a tremendous feeling,” said senior wide receiver Chris Black, a verbal commitment to the University of Alabama.
Still, Lakeland made First Coast earn that trip to Orlando for an entire 48 minutes.
After an early touchdown run by Dumas to get the Dreadnaughts on the board, First Coast freshman quarterback DeAndre Johnson quickly got to work. He completed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Brooks, and followed that up with an eight-yard touchdown run to give the Buccaneers their first lead of the game at the 2:13 mark of the first quarter.
The steady presence of Johnson – who has already emerged as an intriguing college prospect for the Class of 2015 with his play for First Coast this fall – has been cited as one of the keys in a breakthrough season for the Buccaneers.
“DeAndre is phenomenal,” Black said. “He’s so mature. Me, him and the rest of the team have built a great chemistry. As you can see, it definitely paid off.”
Dumas had some highlight-reel moments for Lakeland on Friday night as well. A 52-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ian Bacon knotted the score back at 14 all in the second quarter. But First Coast would head to the half with a three-point lead following a 30-yard field goal by Jeris Scott.
At the break, Lakeland appeared to make the necessary adjustments to foil an upset bid by First Coast. The Dreadnaughts played keep-away from the First Coast offense for the majority of the third quarter. After getting good field position on their first full possession of the final period, Lakeland appeared poised to at least come away with three points until the Dumas fumble, and subsequent return for a touchdown. After that, a wild First Coast celebration was underway in northeast Jacksonville.
“We deserve it. Now we’re going to go to Orlando and win it all,” King said.
First Coast will now advance to play Bradenton Manatee (12-2), a 19-14 winner over Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer on Friday night, in the FHSAA Class 7A final. The pair will meet for all the marbles at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Sun Sports.
Prospects to watch
QB DeAndre Johnson – Still a little on the small side at probably a shade under 6-foot, and around 165 pounds, Johnson showed incredible poise and ability for a high school freshman. Johnson is very comfortable in the pocket, displayed above-average arm strength and has the potential to make any throw on the football field in time. Most impressive was the fact that he was regularly making two or three reads when First Coast passed the ball – certainly not an easy task for a freshman to pick up. Although Johnson is a pass-first quarterback, he showed he can make plays with his feet if need be with that nifty eight-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give First Coast their first lead of the ball game. It’s easy to see why Clemson has already extended an offer to Johnson.
LB Daniel McMillian – Looks to be in the 6-foot-2, 215-pound range. McMillian was hampered a bit by a knee injury, but still turned in a good effort against Lakeland, getting in on several tackles. The playmaking ability is hurt a bit by the fact that McMillian is on such a deep and talented defensive group. It will be interesting to see how he fares once teammate Reggie Northrup moves on to the next level.
OL Evan Goodman – Simply put, the very definition of what an interior offensive lineman should look like. Goodman is not tall (right around 6-3), but he has become a massive presence on the line (at least 285 pounds) and he moves well for a guy his size. He was regularly pancaking the guy in front of him and Goodman has all the makings of a true road-grader at the guard position moving forward. Despite the firing of Dennis Erickson at Arizona State, it seems Goodman is still solidly committed to the Sun Devils for the time being.
WR Ricquan Southward – His film is impressive, and while Southward didn’t really break loose against First Coast, he certainly showed glimpses of the talent that have convinced a number of major programs to offer. The Ohio State commitment did have one big mistake, muffing a First Coast punt that was recovered by the Buccaneers late in the third quarter. However, a penalty nullified the play. Looks to be in the 6-foot-1, 180-pound range. Sturdy frame that will get bigger and stronger in college. Definitely a guy who Florida figures to be in the mix with moving forward, depending on how the board shakes out at receiver.
Justin Wells hosts a weekly recruiting video chat with Andrew Spivey on Tuesday nights from 8:30-9:30 p.m. EST. You can view the show live on the Gator Country TV page. You can also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org—or follow him on twitter @j_wellsGC.