OPPONENT PREVIEW: Raines Vikings Seek To Derail Cocoa Tigers With Balanced Offense, Attacking Defense
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // December 5, 2017
Raines seeking first state title since 1997
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of Raines 55-15 playoff win over West Nassau.
William M. Raines High School Vikings
Max Prep National Rank 226 State (FL) Rank 27
Head Coach: Deran Wiley
Coach Wiley is finishing up his eighth year at Raines and is 71-25 overall, 10-7 in Playoffs, State Runner-up in 2015
Team Captains: Ivory Durham IV, George Webb, Raynell Killian, Diop Kee
Road to Orlando: Round 1: Defeated North Bay Haven Academy, 43-0 Round 2: Defeated West Nassau, 55-15 State Semi-Final: Defeated Bradford, 53-13
Previous State Titles and Appearances: 22-30 all-time in playoffs, 1-2 in state championship games, State Champs in 1997.
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA —Last year at this time, the Cocoa Tigers were getting set to face a power house of football team from Jacksonville in the Class 4A FHSAA State Championship game.
The Bolles Bulldogs, winners of more state championships (11) than any other team in Florida high school football history could block, tackle, run, pass and score about as well as any team anywhere in the state of Florida, perhaps even in the nation for their classification.
As Cocoa gets set to face the Raines Vikings in the Class 4A State Title game on Thursday night in Orlando at Camping World Stadium, not much about the Tigers opponent this year is different.
In fact, Raines and Bolles are First Coast rivals. Bolles beat Raines 60-20 on their way to Orlando last year but you better believe the Bulldogs are pulling for the Vikings to come back home with a win. If they do win, Raines will have accomplished what their rivals, Godby and Glades Central, twice could not, beat the Cocoa Tigers in Orlando.
The Vikings certainly have the talent to do so.
ABOVE VIDEO: The Vikings are led by senior quarterback Ivory Durham IV. The Valdosta St commit is averaging 230 passing yards per game while completing 71 percent of his passes. He has accounted for 34 passing touchdowns while adding an additional nine touchdowns on the ground.
Raines enters the game with a well-balanced offense that is averaging 45 points per game and one that’s amassed 5,437 all-purpose yards and hit pay dirt 73 times on offense. Cocoa, whose offense isn’t too shabby either, put up 4,783 yards and scored 63 touchdowns and while that is 654-yards less than what the Vikings turned in, Cocoa played in one less game.
In reality, Raines (418.2 YPG) is only averaging 19.7 yards more per game than Cocoa (398.5).
The Vikings are led by senior quarterback Ivory Durham IV. The Valdosta St commit is averaging 230 passing yards per game while completing 71 percent of his passes. He has accounted for 34 passing touchdowns while adding an additional nine touchdowns on the ground.
Durham’s pass catchers are George Webb (SR), Kamaree Nobel (SR), and Matt Drayton (JR).
Webb is averaging 26.2 yards per catch for a total of 707 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Nobel is averaging 15.7 yards per catch for a total of 628 yards and eight touchdowns on the season while Drayton is averaging 17.8 yards per catch for a total of 463 yards and four touchdowns on the season.
If somehow the Tigers shut down the passing attack, Raines has a formidable ground game, which if it gets going, will open the passing lanes.
With that said, the backfield isn’t as deep as the guys that catch the ball. The Vikings rely heavily on one player, running back Brandon Marshall. The 5’9” 185-pound junior rushed for more than 1500 yards on the season while nearly averaging a first down every time he touched the ball (9.6 yards per carry).
Marshall also has a nose for the endzone scoring 21 touchdowns so far in 2017.
But if you ask any of the skill position players, none of this offensive production would be possible without the consistent play of the offensive line unit. The right side of the line is made up of junior guard Howard Ford and RT, Desmond Dembo. The duo both check in at 6’4” while Ford weighs 340 and Dembo, a senior, 295-pounds.
ABOVE VIDEO: The Linebacking core is led by Elijah Spivey (VIDEO ABOVE) and Jovan Bonsell (JR) are fast and get after the passer. Spivey has accounted for 62 tackles and 4 sacks while Bonsell has racked up a total of 69 tackles, 10 sacks, and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
The Vikings defense has been stout throughout the year on its way to surrendering only 8.5 points per game. They pitched four shutouts this season including a 43-0 whitewashing in round one of the FHSAA playoffs over North Bay Haven Academy.
Raines is dominating from the line of scrimmage to the Secondary. They are fast, physical and create turnovers.
Janorris Robertson (JR) and Roderick Billingslea (SR) lead the way up front for the defense. Robertson has accounted for 33 tackles and eight sacks while Billingslea has added 37 tackles and 10 sacks.
The Linebacking core is led by Elijah Spivey (SR) and Jovan Bonsell (JR) are fast and get after the passer. Spivey has accounted for 62 tackles and 4 sacks while Bonsell has racked up a total of 69 tackles, 10 sacks, and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown.
The Secondary is led by Raynell Killian (SR), Dylan Schofield (SR), and Diop Kee (SR). Killian leads the way with three picked and 37 tackles. Kee has accounted for 52 tackles while Schofield has contributed 21 tackles and several pass breakups.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE A FACTOR?
Another big similarity between Raines and Bolles is one many overlooked last year but forced the pundits, myself included, to look at this year, is the strength of schedule factor. It’s there for a reason.
Like the Tigers, the Vikings have rolled into the state finals. They have outscored their opponents in three playoff games 153-28. The Tigers faced seven playoff teams in 2017 and were 6-1 against them, Raines faced two and went 1-1.
The combined record of Raines’ opponents this past season was 71-73 (.493) while Cocoa’s foes were a combined 85-42 (669).
In the Class 4A rankings Cocoa is No.1 and Raines No.2 but the strength of schedule number is too much to ignore.
Florida Class 4A Rankings
# School Overall Strength of Schedule
1 Cocoa 11-1 35.7
2 Raines (Jacksonville) 12-1 22.5
Doesn’t matter you say, well let’s finish where we started in that this year’s opponent for Cocoa isn’t much different than last year’s foe, Bolles. No one expected the Tigers to blow out Bolles, except for head coach John Wilkinson and his team.
When asked after the game if he thought they could rush for over 400 yards and dominate on the scoreboard the way the Tigers did Wilkinson said, “With 12 days to prepare, we saw some things on film we knew our speed and experience could exploit and we knew they didn’t face the teams we did during the season.”
Coaches like John Wilkinson don’t say things by mistake and they are gracious in winning and losing. If you know coach, you knew exactly what he was saying. The Bolles Bulldogs could not compete with his team and they knew it coming into the game.
ABOVE VIDEO: Cocoa wins 31-17 over Bolles to win 2016 FHSAA 4A Title.
Entering the title game against Cocoa last year Bolles wasn’t even in the top ten toughest schedules in Class 4A, while Cocoa’s was ranked 16th statewide. This experience showed in the playoffs as Cocoa outscored their opponent’s in last year’s run to a title, 158 to 78.
The only team in the Class 4A Top 10 rankings with a lower strength of schedule than Raines is Bradford, who the Vikings beat, 53-13 in the other state semifinal game to reach Orlando.
Cocoa, who played the third toughest schedule in Class 4A’s Top 10 has outscored their opponents in this year’s playoff run 175-29 and beat University 49-14 in the state semifinal. The Sharks owned the second toughest strength of schedule in the top 10 in Class 4A behind Booker T and Cocoa dominated University from start to finish.
While the Tigers need to be wary of the many weapons Raines possesses and not forget the whole saying that anything can happen on any givey day, with nearly two weeks again to prepare for another opponent and having played another top tier schedule in 2017, it’s hard not to favor and pick the Tigers to win back-to-back titles, their fifth overall FHSAA state championship.
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