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 40 straight games. Next up for Lakeland is Brandon Friday night in the first round of the State 5A Playoffs.

MICHAEL POUNCEY: I’m really proud of our team. We had a game that the team with the most guts was going to win. We had to drive the whole field in the last two minutes to win. It really shouldn’t have been a close game but we were like the Gators. We had a good lead and then we made some mistakes and let the other team back in it.

You know we’re always hearing Coach Meyer talk about how penalties and turnovers kill you. Well, we know that’s true from the way we played Friday night against Kathleen. We played this great first half and then in the second half four fumbles and I don’t know how many penalties. They killed us and we almost lost a game because of them. We can’t have that happen again. We’ve got the playoffs starting this week. You make mistakes like that in the playoffs and it’s all over. You don’t get second chances in the playoffs.

On the big drive at the end of the game, I gotta give some props to Blair Castle and to Paul Wilson. Blair is our quarterback and he was a great leader on that last drive. He wasn’t nervous at all in the huddle. He was calm and kept saying “this is our time.” The quarterback has to lead when the game’s tight. He did his part.

As for Paul, he made two amazing catches. That first one he fought back through two guys to get the ball. He’s a great athlete. If we threw the ball a lot, people would see he’s the best receiver out there. He’s a great athlete. We don’t throw much, mostly when we have to, but when we throw we know if you get it anywhere close to him he’s going to catch it somehow.

Paul’s catches got us to the six and then we ran “pro right special, 54 power” and they moved my brother to tight end. I went outside to get my guy and Chris Rainey just cut it up inside of us and got into the end zone.

It was another close call for us. Really it was too close. We can’t make all those mistakes again. Our goal is three straight state championships and now that we’re starting the playoffs, everybody on our team has to know that we can’t have a letup game. If we do, it’s all over. We have come too far for that. This is our time to step it up. We’ll be extra focused in practice this week. I think we’ll be okay. I think we’re going to be ready to go when we play Brandon.

This is our official visit weekend to Florida. We’ve been waiting for it and now it’s here for the South Carolina game. I think it’s going to be really good since the Gators won the SEC East. We’re going to see a lot of things, spend a lot of time with Coach Meyer and all the coaches and we’re going to get to hang around with the guys Saturday after the game. Our parents and our sisters are coming up. So are all our Gatornaughts. All our Lakeland guys are going to be here and I think this is John Brown’s weekend to visit, too. We’ve been talking to him a lot and we think he’ll decide to be a Gator, too. All of us are working him hard.

MAURKICE POUNCEY: We had another close call against Kathleen. We were up 15-0 at halftime and we should have put them away but our first drive of the second half we had the ball at the 20 and we fumbled. They recovered at our 15 and they scored. We got the ball back and the same thing happened again. We were on the 20. We fumbled. They got it back and they scored again.

I don’t know what it was about us but we almost gave that game away. We fumbled four times and when we didn’t fumble it, Chris Rainey would bust loose and they would bring it back because of a penalty. Penalties and turnovers will kill you and they almost killed us.

We were losing with about two minutes to go but that’s when Paul Wilson came up big for us. We ran a trick play with Chris Rich coming around on an end around reverse. He pulled up to throw and it seemed like he waited forever. My brother and I told him come on, run behind us but at the last second he threw it. Paul had two guys on him but he stopped and slid between both of them to catch the ball for about a 39 yard gain. I don’t know how he did it. We’ve seen Paul make some amazing catches before but this one might be the best one he ever made. He made another big play on an out pass and that got us down to about their six. We tried to throw it to Paul on an out pass but it just missed then Rainey ran it in from the six and we won the game.

Steve Wilks had an interception to set up a touchdown in the first half and then he had another one of those hits that people like to talk about. In the first half Ahmad Black came around on a punt return and Wilks got a crackback block that laid this guy out. That got Ahmad sprung to the three and we got another touchdown. Wilks is the hardest hitter I’ve ever seen in high school. He reminds me a lot of John Lynch.

We can’t have a game like that again, though. We start the playoffs this week against Brandon and they have a really good running back. We played them our freshman year so we know they always have a good team. We can’t take a day off in practice now. Lose in the playoffs and the season’s over. We got to make it three straight state championships. We’re not going to end our careers with a loss. We’ll do whatever we have to do to get ready in practice and then we’ll play one game at a time to win.

We watched the Gators Saturday and that was another close one, just like our game. That Ryan Smith is a great player for the Gators. We loved watching him play. He keeps making big plays when the Gators need them.

The Gators won and then we watched the LSU-Tennessee game. We were big LSU fans because when they won the Gators were the SEC East champions. It wasn’t too tough to pull for LSU since Jordan Hammond is going there. He’s a great teammate. We really wish he hadn’t hurt his knee so he could have played with us this year. He’s going to LSU next year. They have a great player.

We’ll take our official visit to Florida this weekend. Our whole family is coming up and so are all the other guys from our team that are going to be Gators. This is really exciting for all of us. All of us can’t wait to start school so we can play for the Gators.

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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.