Cocoa Tigers Quest For 4A State Championship Runs Through 11-Time State Champ Bolles Bulldogs
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // November 28, 2016
who are the Bolles Bulldogs?
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – The Cocoa Tigers defeated Booker T. Washington on Friday night to advance to the Class 4A state finals on December 8 at Camping World Stadium. They will face the Bolles Bulldogs from Jacksonville.
While Booker T. was a familiar opponent to Cocoa and their fans, the Bulldogs are not. Two current members of the Tigers were a part of the last Brevard County team to face a Bolles team, Palm Bay’s, Heritage Panthers.
LaSedrick King and CJ Bartley wore Panther blue during the 2015 season and were key cogs on a team that barely lost 28-21 to the Bulldogs in Week 2 last season.
But who are the big bad Bolles Bulldogs? Why are they so much a part of Florida high school football history? What obstacles will they present to head coach John Wilkinson and his Tigers on December 8>
At 12-0 this season, Bolles is the No.2 team in Class 4A in the state of Florida determined by sports writers from across the state. They sit right behind the No.1 ranked Cocoa Tigers.
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
The Bolles Bulldogs defeated East Gadsden, Raines and South Sumter by a combined score of 131-51 in their playoff games to advance to Orlando. Their 11 total state championships is a record in Florida but they haven’t won one since 2011.
Advancing to the state championship game is an expected outcome for the Bulldogs every season. They are led by one of the greatest all-time head coaches in Florida High school football history in Corky Rogers.
Coach Rogers holds the most state titles (10) and wins 465 (through the 2016 season) among high school football coaches in Florida history.
Rogers list of accolades reads like no other coach at any level of football:
• Became the eighth coach in the history of high school football throughout the nation to reach 400 wins
• Named National High School Football Coach of the Year for 2004-05 by the National HS Coaches Association
• Most wins, state titles, and playoff victories among high school football coaches in Florida history
• National High School Hall of Fame (2015)
• Florida Sports Hall of Fame (2013)
• Robert E. Lee High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame (2013)
• Gator Bowl Hall of Fame (2012)
• Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame (2005)
• Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) Hall of Fame (2002)
• FACA Life Membership Award for outstanding contribution to high school athletics and the coaching profession
Since 2002, Bolles has reached the state championship game nine times, winning the title on six of those occasions.
Their most recent state title came five years ago but in 2012, 2013 and 2014 they lost to Booker T in the Class 4A’s final game.
ABOVE VIDEO: Bolles last trip to the state title game resulted in a loss to Booker T in 2014.
In school history, the Bolles Bulldogs have won the state title 11 times out of 16 trips to the final game, all since 1986.
It goes without saying but must be mentioned the teams that reach this point of the season are balanced in nearly aspect of the game and the Bolles Bulldogs are no different.
THE WING T
Bolles is very balanced on both sides of the football. Coach Rogers uses a very classic style of offense that the Bulldogs run to a (Wing) T. Bolles has scored 603 points so far in 2016 which amounts to 50 points per game.
In fact, the Bolles offense has scored 50 plus points seven times and 60 or more points in three contests.
Their backfield is vicious and it all starts with senior QB Mac Jones, who is committed to play for the No.1 ranked team in college football, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Jones only passed for 1,194 yards during the regular season but he had just one interception and 17 touchdowns. He completed 70 percent of his passes in the process.
Where the Tigers defense will have their hands full is stopping the three headed monster of Jaylen McCloud, Amari Terry and E.J. Porter.
McCloud leads the trio, including the playoffs with 1,402 rushing yards this season. His 242 rushing yards vs. rival Raines in the region semifinals helped his team take down the the Class 4A state runner-up 60-20. Terry and Porter combined to rush for nearly 1,200 combined.
Terry had a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown vs. Sumter in the last weeks Class 4A state semifinal matchup.
If you ask the legendary coach Rogers why his team is as prolific on offense as it is in 2016, he’d quickly tell you because of his offensive line.
“With football, with the Jaguars or anyone, it’s all based on the O-line,” Rogers said “When you don’t have it, those guys [the backs and receivers] are helpless back there.”
Rogers has “it” — Up front the Bulldogs offensive line is big and mobile. Senior center Cody Mercer returned this season after tearing his ACL last season. He is smart and athletic.
Offensive tackles Orlando Heggs (6’4 305 lbs.) and Nick Lewis (6’8 345 lbs.) are only juniors and have college recruiters ready to line up for their senior season.
Defensively, Bolles has allowed just 167 points in a dozen games (13 PPG). They are led by a playmaking former Miami Hurricane commit, safety, Ahman Ross.
On fourth down at the one yard line in the semifinal game, the senior defensive back led the charge that stuffed South Sumter inches short of the goal line to wrap up the game with 13 seconds left.
He had six interceptions during the regular season and has added several more in the playoffs.
— Jack Lundgren (@jak_lundgren) November 26, 2016
ABOVE VIDEO: The goal line stand on 4th and 1 vs Sumter in the state semifinal game.
COCOA HAS HISTORY TOO
Bolles history is rich, arguably the richest in the state. The Cocoa Tigers also have a rich history led by a head coach who owns a trio of state championship rings on his fingers and 10 straight trips to the state semifinals.
Tigers head coach John Wilkinson will finish his 12th season on December 8 and he will either end it with career win number 124 or career loss number 26.
His winning percentage of .837 barely eclipses that of the legend he’ll need to beat to win his fourth state title, Coach Rogers and his .825 winning percentage (465-83-1).
ABOVE VIDEO: Cocoa Tiger head coach John Wilkinson speaks with Steve Wilson of the Friday Night Locker Room and Space Coast Daily after his teams big win over Booker T.
Cocoa’s only loss this season came to Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in week two. The loss is certainly nothing to hang a head at.
The Gaels are the No.1 ranked team in the country and heading to their eighth straight Class 4A Nevada State championship game.
The only time Bolles and Cocoa met was back in November of 2009. Wilkinson’s Tigers bested Rogers Bulldogs 44-37 in overtime. Cocoa quarterback Matt Younger, who is now on the staff as a coach, threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns that day.
Bolles missed the playoffs that season but Cocoa went on to capture the second of three straight state titles a few weeks later.
Whatever happens in Orlando on December 8, Rogers and Wilkinson will have their teams ready to play and football fans will see two of the more storied high school football teams in the country much less Florida.
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