Florida commitments Maurkice and Michael Pouncey are keeping a weekly diary for Gator Country for the remainder of the season as the Lakeland Dreadnaughts try to win their third straight state championship and their second straight USAToday national championship. Lakeland has won 33 straight games. Next up for the Dreadnaughts St. Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio, a nationally televised game on ESPN.

MICHAEL: We won 34-7 Friday night against Winter Haven. That’s the toughest team we’ve played so far and they came out ready to play. They always give us trouble because they have it in their mind that they can win. They made it a real dog fight. We played for four quarters. This was the first time this year that we’ve had to play in the second half of the game. We were really tired when it was over, but it was fun and we probably needed a tougher game before we go to Cincinnati this week to play St. Xavier.

On defense, Winter Haven wasn’t very big but they really have good tacklers. They decided they were taking away the outside so we had to throw the ball for the first time this year. They didn’t have anyone that could handle Paul (Paul Wilson, Lakeland wide receiver, Gator commitment). He caught a couple of touchdown passes. If you get the ball to him he catches it. He catches everything.

We ran the ball inside and we still had a good game but the yards were tough. Chris (Chris Rainey, Gator commitment) may be little but he’s tough and he can go inside. I think he had 125 yards and he carried more than 20 times, too. He really is a tough guy.

Maurkice and I had fun because it was pretty physical. We like games like that.

Our defense is really good. John Brown stripped this one guy of the ball and he started running down the sideline. I thought he was going to score but they got him about the five or the six. Ahmad (Ahmad Black, Gator commitment) had an interception and so did Wilks (Steve Wilks, Gator commitment). Wilks had two big hits. Other teams are afraid of him because he hits so hard.

We would have had a shutout except they scored in the last 30 seconds or so against our second team guys. I think that’s the only time they got in our red zone all night.

We’ve got St. X (St. Xavier) Saturday and it’s on national TV. They’re a big team up in Ohio. We’ll fly up to Cincinnati on Thursday. Our parents are leaving tomorrow to go up. My mom’s got family in Indiana and they’re going to see them and then they’re coming over to Cincinnati for the game.

It’s a big game for us against a really good team. When we were at The Swamp Saturday, DeShawn Wynn came over and talked to us about them. He said they’re big and physical but we just have to play our game and don’t worry. Just do what we do best and we’ll be okay. I thought it was great of him to come over and talk to us about it.

We look at this the way we look at every game. We aren’t afraid of them. We aren’t afraid of anyone. But we respect them. We know they’re good. Coach Castle (Lakeland Coach Bill Castle) always makes sure we respect the other team. He doesn’t care what their record is. Good or bad, he thinks any team can beat you if you’re not prepared and if you aren’t in a good mind frame. We’re number one in the country and they’re pretty highly ranked too but he doesn’t care about rankings. He says the only thing that counts is playing our best and doing what we have to do. So this week we’ll just work as hard as we can and get ready to go play against a good team.

The Swamp was loud Saturday night. I mean really loud. We had so much fun hanging around with Aaron Hernandez (tight end, Florida commitment from Connecticut) and Cameron Newton (quarterback, Florida commitment from Atlanta). Cameron is really cool. We met his mom and his dad. We’ve already been talking to him all the time on the phone.

Chris Richard came by to hang around with us a little bit. He’s really a good guy.

The game was great. Percy Harvin is really an impact player. Dang he’s fast. It’s going to be fun with him on one side and Rainey on the other next year. A lot of touchdowns.

MAURKICE: We really ragged on John Brown Friday night. He stripped the running back and he was running down the sideline. He almost scored but the quarterback grabbed the back of his jersey and yanked him down. We really got on him when he came off the field because he let a quarterback take him down.

We had a really physical game against Winter Haven but that’s the kind of game that I like. We didn’t get big plays on the outside because of the way they were playing so we took it up inside and we threw the ball. I was happy for Paul (Wilson). He didn’t see the ball the first two games but when we needed him Friday, he got open and caught the ball. He really has been waiting on his time to do something. We only threw the ball three or four times in the first two games.

They had a great quarterback but he got picked by Ahmad (Black) and (Steve) Wilks. Ahmad made a great play. He got a good jump and stepped in front of his guy. Wilks had one, too. He’s really hitting hard on every play. I’ve never seen anyone that likes to hit like he does and every hit is hard.

Rainey is really tough. Everybody knows how fast he is but he’s tough, too. Inside, outside. It doesn’t matter to him. Just give him the ball. They took the outside away from him so he went inside and he got all the tough yards. They hit him hard but he bounced back up and next time he went right at them. He did that all night.

We’re really going to work hard in practice this week. It’s going to be like every other week, really. We work hard every week. This is a big team with a big reputation but Coach Castle treats every team like that. It doesn’t matter if they’ve won all their games or if they haven’t won a game in two years. He treats them all like they can beat us and he works our butts off.

He’s like having another dad out there. He really cares about us and I think that’s why he works us hard and keeps us focused. We listen to anything he says because we know what he’s talking about. No second guessing him and nobody slacks off in practice.

Some time this week when it gets pretty tense in practice he will say something that’s really funny. He knows when he needs to take the edge off and he’s always got something funny to say when that happens.

This is an important game since it’s on TV and everything but Coach Castle is already letting us know that it’s just another game. What’s important is making it to the state championship game and winning that one. Win or lose Saturday we’ve got a long way to go before the state championship game.

The Swamp was really rocking. It was packed last week just like it was against UCF but it was louder this time. Everybody was really getting into it. The second quarter was really wild. Everything the Gators did worked. Percy Harvin makes a big play every time he touches the ball. The more he touches it the more you want him to get it some more. He’s like Chris. He makes stuff happen.

I really liked hanging with Aaron Hernandez. He’s a great guy and he can’t wait to come here. He’s glad he’s a Gator. Cameron Newton was there. A lot of guys were there that want to be Gators. We’re going to have a great recruiting class.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.