Sometimes I get it right. Sometimes I get it really right. Sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I get it really wrong. If you were ready to toss your phone or laptop through a window because I either A) ranked you too low or B) ranked you too high in your district, maybe this will set your mind at ease.
Or not. Perhaps only a healthy dose of tryptophan, football and pre-Black Friday shopping will do that (actually, if you can avoid the pre-Black Friday shopping, do).
Anyway, let’s set the Wayback machine to a year ago today — give or take a day or two — and see how I did with last year’s predictions. Let the laughter ensue! (or not). But first, a little data…gotta have a little stuffing to go with that turkey…
We were 9-for-11 on picking champions last year (essentially the same as a year ago, when we were 8-for-10). The two misses were both on teams we had projected for thirds in their respective districts. In one case, Flagler Palm Coast in 3A-District 2, they just grew faster than we thought. In the other case, Columbia in 2A-District 2, the Tigers have always been very close in the mix. Last year, they just found a way on the weekend that they hadn’t been able to achieve in prior years.
We were 8-for-11 on picking last-place teams last year (solidly better, 13% better, than the previous year’s 6-for-10). The three misses were comparatively smaller. None of the actual last-place teams was picked higher than sixth in their eight-team districts in which they competed.
So, if I picked your team to win today, you should be pleased but not too over-confident. If I picked your team last, in any of our 11 districts, go get to work, kids.
It’s usually the middle where things get muddled. Last year, we had three districts with the top three in order correct; this year, there were two. We only had one right all the way down, and that was the revamped 1A-5.
If you don’t like where you are, take heart.
Think about Bishop Kenny’s story. Last year, essentially a new team. New head coach. String of district wins snapped. I knew they’d come back, but sometimes it takes a while. The Crusaders were tabbed for sixth in 1A-District 3. They stormed past that ill-thought suggestion and battled back to a second straight runnerup finish. Or take Robert E Lee. I had the Generals sixth in 2A-District 3. They’d had some significant graduation losses. No matter; they patched up and soldiered to their best district finish they’ve had since I started the site. Think about Rocky Bayou, which ignored its sixth-place prediction and took third in 1A-District 1. Or Deltona, which was placed seventh in 2A-District 4 in November, but pushed into a top-half spot (fourth).
Or, staying in that district, St Augustine. St AUGUSTINE! The Yellow Jackets were picked for fifth (and maybe to have to battle to keep fifth). Moved all the way up to second. I still am shocked … but nowhere near as much as mid-February.
Where you’re projected today is just that: a projection. And not always a very good one at that. Old Matmen really don’t know everything. Some days, he don’t know anything.
So. Dig in, not too much, to your dinners today. While you don’t have competition until next week, I’m sure you’ll have practice at some point soon, and you don’t want a full belly. Leave that to us old folks. I’ll see you on the mats soon enough.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Arnold. 2. Rutherford. 3. Bay. 4. South Walton. 5. Wewahitchka. 6. Rocky Bayou Christian. 7. North Bay Haven. 8. Bozeman.
Last year’s actual: 1. Arnold. 2. South Walton. 3. Rocky Bayou Christian. 4. Rutherford. 5. Bay. 6. Bozeman. 7. North Bay Haven. 8. Wewahitchka.
Analysis: This district is always the toughest one for me to predict. At least this past year, we got the champion right, a rarity for us. South Walton filled more weights than expected and Rocky Bayou was the surprise of the district in finishing third. We had Bay finishing behind Rutherford correctly, but mid-pack as opposed to challenging for the title. I mostly had the bottom half right, just in a jumbled order.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Wakulla. 2. Florida High. 3. Suwannee. 4. Marianna. 5. Godby. 6. Baker Cty, with no projected finish for Maclay or Rickards.
Last year’s actual: 1. Wakulla. 2. Suwannee. 3. Florida High. 4. Marianna. 5. Baker Cty. 6. Godby. 7. Maclay.
Analysis: The chalk district somewhat held up, although there was movement last season, as Suwannee found a way to push past Florida High and jump into second. We thought Godby would have enough points from stars to hold off Baker Cty, but the Wildcats filled a lot of weights and had a few first-year kids perform above expectations. Wakulla and Marianna held serve, so to speak, and while Maclay isn’t back this year, they had just a couple of kids and I would have picked them seventh had I been sure they were going to compete in the post-season.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Yulee. 2. West Nassau. 3. Episcopal. 4. Raines. 5. Fernandina Beach. 6. Bishop Kenny. 7. Ed White. 8. Paxon.
Last year’s actual: 1. Yulee. 2. Bishop Kenny. 3. Raines. 4. West Nassau. 5. Episcopal. 6. Fernandina Beach. 7. Ed White. 8. Paxon.
Analysis: Another champ correct and we got the bottom two correct, but Bishop Kenny was one of the surprise teams of the year, moving from sixth projected to second, which it pulled off in both dual and traditional formats. West Nassau and Episcopal had a little less depth than I thought, and I wasn’t aware of all of Raines’ star power when we made the picks. The Crusaders’ move up, though, was the big news of the district,
Last year’s prediction: 1. Clay. 2. Bolles. 3. Ridgeview. 4. Bishop Snyder. 5. Wolfson. 6. Bradford. 7. University Christian. 8. Baldwin.
Last year’s actual: 1. Clay. 2. Bolles. 3. Ridgeview. 4. Wolfson. 5. Bishop Snyder. 6. University Christian. 7. Baldwin. 8. Bradford.
Analysis: Got the top three teams right (to be fair, they were fairly chalk), and in the right order, and got the bottom three teams right, just in jumbled order (I still think Bradford’s fullest team might have filled enough weights to hold sixth). Flip-flop between Wolfson and Snyder. The real surprise in this district came in the duals, when Wolfson qualified out for its first Region 1 quarterfinals appearance.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Atlantic. 2. Palatka. 3. Pedro Menendez. 4. Keystone Heights. 5. FSDB. 6. Lake Weir. 7. Interlachen.
Last year’s actual: 1. Atlantic. 2. Palatka. 3. Pedro Menendez. 4. Keystone Heights. 5. FSDB. 6. Lake Weir (Interlachen didn’t compete).
Analysis: This was the first year that we predicted this district while treating all the teams within it as area teams, and while feeling the newness of it did make us a little bit leery, we felt pretty good about our choices with this one, and as it turned out, we had good reason, as we held serve all the way throughout, hitting 1-6 correctly. I did want to see more kids competing, though, and the loss of FSDB this year is a tough one to bear.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Pace. 2. Gulf Breeze. 3. Ft Walton Beach. 4. Niceville. 5. Tate. 6. Crestview. 7. Choctaw. 8. Milton.
Last year’s actual: 1. Pace. 2. Ft Walton Beach. 3. Gulf Breeze. 4. Niceville. 5. Tate. 6. Crestview. 7. Choctaw. 8. Milton.
Analysis: After trying to hit this Panhandle district accurately since we started covering the area with our now-defunct Northwest FL site, we came as close as we’ve ever come in 2019-20, with only Ft Walton Beach and Gulf Breeze switching places, just 16.5 points apart in the final standings (to be fair, we did get this right in the duals setting). Everybody else was dead on. The most accurate we’ve been about the Panhandle since we started.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Lincoln. 2. Orange Park. 3. Columbia. 4. Chiles. 5. Mosley. 6. Middleburg. 7. Leon. 8. Gainesville.
Last year’s actual: 1. Columbia. 2. Lincoln. 3. Mosley. 4. Orange Park. 5. Chiles. 6. Middleburg. 7. Leon. 8. Gainesville.
Analysis: Well…we got the bottom three right. Chiles might have been the best bottom-half team in the coverage area. But of course, it was Columbia that shook up the established order last February in our first district miss that we’ve had thus far. I also have to give a shout-out to Mosley here. While the Dolphins’ move up against expectations was also unexpected, the un-expectation was due to the fact that Mosley was moving up in class into what I thought was the toughest district top-to-bottom in the north. I just didn’t see the Dolphins being able to hang, but they did well.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Fletcher. 2. Westside. 3. Englewood. 4. Ponte Vedra. 5. First Coast. 6. Robert E Lee. 7. Terry Parker. 8. Stanton.
Last year’s actual: 1. Fletcher. 2. Robert E Lee. 3. Ponte Vedra. 4. First Coast. 5. Westside. 6. Englewood. 7. Stanton. 8. Terry Parker.
Analysis: You’d think as often as I see these teams, I’d know something more about them. Getting Fletcher right and the bottom two teams right, if not the order right, was something. But the push that Lee made was not something that I expected (new blood in the lineup, which I didn’t expect, was a big part of it). Ponte Vedra, I thought, would be a year away yet from its push, at least as of last year, and the Sharks wanted to gain more ground than I thought they would. Even First Coast, though only moving up one spot, gained more ground against those expected to finish above it.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Matanzas. 2. Seabreeze. 3. New Smyrna Beach. 4. Belleview. 5. St Augustine. 6. Pine Ridge. 7. Deltona. 8. Mainland.
Last year’s actual: 1. Matanzas. 2. St Augustine. 3. Seabreeze. 4. Deltona. 5. New Smyrna Beach. 6. Belleview. 7. Pine Ridge. 8. Mainland.
Analysis: Our push into Volusia & Marion Counties had us picking up several new teams in this district, and while we were right at the extremes of it, it was a journey getting there. Seabreeze validated my runnerup call with a district duals win, but the Sandcrabs lost some folks down the stretch. St Augustine was the big mover in a positive way up the group; I still remember being pretty gob-smacked when I saw the final result. Not as a big of an impact, but Deltona, also, made a big move up.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Bartram Trail. 3. Creekside. 4. Sandalwood. 5. Oakleaf. 6. Mandarin. 7. Nease. 8. Atlantic Coast.
Last year’s actual: 1. Fleming Island. 2. Oakleaf. 3. Creekside. 4. Bartram Trail. 5. Nease. 6. Sandalwood. 7. Mandarin. 8. Atlantic Coast.
Analysis: Well, we got the 1 right and the 8 right. Seems to be a theme on that front. Oakleaf I hoped would not but thought could be in some disarray after a coaching change and some personnel leaving, but the Knights recovered faster than I expected. The teams that made moves up almost neatly replaced those I thought would hold together better, as Nease also made a move up in a positive way, thanks to some new infusions and a couple of old heads returning. Bartram Trail was better early in the season, but cooled off down the stretch, unexpectedly.
Last year’s prediction: 1. Buchholz. 2. University (Orange City). 3. Flagler Palm Coast. 4. Seminole. 5. West Port. 6. Forest. 7. DeLand.
Last year’s actual: 1. Flagler Palm Coast. 2. Buchholz. 3. University (Orange City). 4. Seminole. 5. West Port. 6. Forest. 7. DeLand.
Analysis: This was the other portion of our expansion into new counties (Volusia, Marion and Seminole) and I thought chalk would be the watchword. We thought Flagler’s year would come this year, but the Bulldogs were not willing to just wait for our timetable, but made their own instead. That shuffled up the top half somewhat. Otherwise, though, we had a pretty good feel for it, though the flow never felt right with the bottom four teams in Year 1. They’re in now, though, so we just need to keep working to bring them into our way of doing things.