Prep Football Survey Says ... Their Choices for Best Players, Favorite College and NFL Teams

By Barney, Justin | The Florida Times Union, September 28, 2017 | Go to article overview

Prep Football Survey Says ... Their Choices for Best Players, Favorite College and NFL Teams


Barney, Justin, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Justin Barney

The Times-Union opens every high school football season at Baker's Sporting Goods media day at EverBank Field with our annual survey of prep players. This year, 146 athletes answered questions ranging from the area's best team and players, down to how many hours a week they spend on football. High school and assistant sports editor Justin Barney combed through the results.

Besides your own team, which school in the area has the best football program?

The results: Lee (19), Bolles (18), Trinity Christian (17), Bartram Trail (10), Clay (8).

Thoughts: Trinity's two-year reign as the players' top team ends. The Generals move to the top pick among area football athletes is the closest top-three voting we've seen. Typically, two teams are within a few votes of one another. This year, three are separated by two votes. Bolles was the pick from 2008-11, and shared top billing with First Coast in that final year in '11. The Buccaneers were the pick for the following three seasons before Trinity's two-year run. Lee is justifying that selection. It is 4-0 and the No. 1-ranked team in the Times-Union's weekly Power Poll. Bolles (3-1), Trinity (4-1), Bartram and Clay (both 2-2) follow.

Who is the best offensive player in the area?

The results: Bartram Trail QB Joey Gatewood (18), Flagler Palm Coast RB Trent Steward (6), Columbia QB Dylan Blair, Raines QB Ivory Durham, Providence TE Will Mallory (5 each).

Thoughts: Gatewood, a Super 11 selection and Auburn commit, is a runaway winner. He can pass, run, catch, anything Bartram needs him to do. The previous four winners: Yulee's Derrick Henry (2012), Sandalwood's Kain Daub (overall top player in 2013), First Coast's De'Andre Johnson (2014) and Trinity Christian's DJ Matthews (2015-16). Surprising that Lee QB Derrick Jones didn't even scratch the top 20 in this category after his stellar 2016 junior season.

Who is the best defensive player in the area?

The results: Trinity Christian ATH Tyreke Johnson (17), Columbia LB/DL SL McCall (8).

Thoughts: Like Gatewood on offense, Johnson was the dominant pick among area players. He's been playing varsity since eighth grade and is an elite college prospect. He has eight career interceptions and returned six for touchdowns. McCall was a surprise second-place pick, although his credentials in 2016 were stout - 60 tackles, 10 sacks, eight TFL.

Who is the best kicker in the area?

The results: Bishop Kenny's Matthew Brust (8), St. Augustine's Eli Ryan and Orange Park's Colin Buckley (both 5).

Thoughts: No surprise here. Brust is 4 for 4 on field goals this year and was a huge weapon for Kenny in 2016. He's also averaging 36.1 yards per punt. Ryan is 3 for 3 with a 37-yard game-winner in Week 5 to beat Bartram Trail.

Who is your favorite college team?

The results: Florida (50), Florida State (31), Georgia (9), Miami (8).

Thoughts: Florida's vote total was its most in terms of votes by the players, and almost identical in percentage of the vote to what it earned last year (34.2 this year to 33.6 percent in 2016). Florida State's percentage of the vote was virtually the same as last season (21.2 to 21.1 percent). Georgia and Miami continue to gain a few votes.

Who is your favorite NFL team?

The results: Jaguars (52), Patriots (10), Cowboys and Falcons (7 each).

Thoughts: The Jaguars earned the top vote from players again. They've done it every year of the poll, which should be a no-brainer as the hometown team. But support has gone up considerably this year, eclipsing the 44-vote-high they received in 2009. The Patriots are back up in the lead pack after dropping out in 2016 following a succession of top-four finishes. A total of 22 teams earned votes.

What is the best football rivalry in the area?

The results: Raines-Ribault (34), St. …

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