- Jodie Wagner Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
In just its third season of Florida High School Athletic Association state series competition, the Oxbridge Academy football team is on the brink of making history — the good kind.
The ThunderWolves host Tallahassee-Florida State University tonight in a Class 3A state semifinal, with the winner advancing to the state championship game Dec. 9 in Orlando.
Oxbridge hasn’t played for a state title in football — yet — so a win against the Seminoles would mark another achievement in a season filled with them for the ThunderWolves.
Tonight’s game marks the first time Oxbridge will play a state semifinal game in football. Two years ago, the ThunderWolves lost in the regional semifinals, and last year they were beaten in the regional championship game.
“This shows the commitment of our team and the school,” coach Brendan Kent said. “It’s a big accomplishment, and we’re not finished yet.”
Oxbridge (9-1) enters the game against FSU High (7-5) as one of the area’s hottest teams.
Since a 14-13 loss to a state-ranked Pennsylvania team on Aug. 25, the ThunderWolves have won nine in a row.
In all nine of those wins, Oxbridge held its opponents to 12 points or less. Three of those games ended in shutouts, while the final two ended without an offensive touchdown for the opposing team.
Kent hopes his defense keeps up the pressure against the Seminoles, who scored 56 points in their regional championship win last week against Perry-Taylor County.
“We’ve got good players at all three levels of the defense,” Kent said. “Our defensive line has done a very good job, we’re good at linebacker, and we’ve got an exceptional secondary. We’ve got good players, and obviously that’s what it takes. But our coaching staff has done a good job of getting these guys ready every week.”
The same can be said for the offense. Though the unit has struggled at times, the ThunderWolves have enjoyed plenty of success getting into the end zone.
Oxbridge has scored at least 31 points in seven of its 10 games, with quarterback Gio Richardson playing a key role.
The junior looked sharp against Melbourne Central Catholic last week, throwing for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our offense goes as our quarterback goes,” Kent said. “If Gio’s playing well, our offense is doing well. Our offensive line has got to do a good job up front. But we kind of go as the quarterback goes.”
A big game for Richardson will boost the ThunderWolves’ chances of earning a trip to the state title game.
Kent said Oxbridge will be prepared for FSU High, which has knocked off two higher-seeded opponents in the postseason.
“We’ve got game film on them,” Kent said of the Seminoles. “We don’t know their personnel very well because they’re so far away. But they seem to be well-coached. Their kids play hard on film. They’re a tough group of kids. They’ve played some good teams this year.”