FLASHBACK: Cocoa Tigers Defeat Bolles Bulldogs in the 2016 Class 4A State Championship
By Space Coast Daily // December 3, 2021
Bolles Bulldogs at Cocoa Tigers - Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET
ABOVE VIDEO: Cocoa High School Football – 2017 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In lead up to tonight’s Class 4A State Semifinal between Bolles at Cocoa, the last time these two teams squared off the Tigers claimed their fourth state championship in school history.
The Cocoa Tigers football team entered the 2016 season with one mission, win the state championship. After all, winning state titles was not a new concept to head coach and Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer John Wilkinson.
To start the season, the Tigers were thought of as the third best team in Class 4A, behind the Bolles Bulldogs and Cocoa nemesis Booker T. Washington High School.
Both teams would have to be dealt with before the Tigers could once again hoist another trophy.
But before Cocoa could even think about November and December, Coach Wilkinson had once again lined his scheduled in August and September with top teams from around the state and country.
The Tigers’ demonstrated “True Grit” early in the season when, led by quarterback Bruce Judson, they beat the two time defending state champs and top ranked Class 3A team in Florida, the Trinity Christian Conquerors, 26-23 in overtime in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
Two weeks later the Tigers headed to Las Vegas where they faced the eventual season ending No. 1 high school football team in the country – the Bishop Gorman Gaels.
The Tigers hung with the eventual Nevada state champs for a half but fell short in the end for their only loss of the season.
The experience gained in playing two great teams was invaluable and the Tigers showed how much they had learned over the next eight weeks.
Except for a tough game vs. one of Brevard County’s new football powers, the Viera Hawks, a game the Tigers won 17-7, Cocoa outscored the rest of their opponents by 200 points, 250-50 over five games.
Heading into the playoffs the Tigers were 8-1 and 4-0 in district play outscoring district foes by nearly 40 points per contest.
BEAT BOOKER T. 24-21, DOMINATED TITLE GAME
After an easy win in the first round of the playoffs, the Tigers fell behind early in the second round against Jones, but pulled it out in the end to set up a third round rematch Judson and the rest of the Tigers knew deep down inside they were preparing for all year.
Booker T. Washington again stood in the way of Cocoa’s quest for another gridiron state championship.
ABOVE VIDEO: SCD SPECIAL – Cocoa Tigers Football State Championship Game Rewind In 3 Minutes.
The game lived up to the hype, with Cocoa on its home field breaking the Tornadoes’ five-year hold on the playoff series with tenacious defense, opportunistic offense and a few favorable “bounces” that resulted in a 24-21 Tiger victory and a showdown date at the Citrus Bowl with 11-time state champion, Jacksonville Bolles.
The championship game turned out to be anti-climactic as the Tigers controlled the Class 4A state title game from start to finish. As it was all season, the 31-17 championship win was a team effort with sterling performances by the offense, defense and special teams.
The accolades and awards that come with a championship win followed. Coach Wilkinson was named the Friday Night Locker Room–Space Coast Daily Co-Coach of the year.
On defense, Cocoa was led by Friday Night Locker Room–Space Coast Daily Defensive Player of the Year CJ Bartley. The District 12 MVP and All-District quarterback, Bruce Judson earned the Friday Night Locker Room–Space Coast Daily Player of the Year for 2016.
Numerous other Tigers, including nearly all of the starters from both sides of the ball were either a first or second team Friday Night Locker Room–Space Coast Daily winner or made honorable mention.
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