2022 Week 17 (Florida)

2022 Week 17 (Florida)

The end of my season hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Weekends where I expected to travel, I didn’t. And this week was supposed to be my trip to Texas. However, I knew at the PIAA Finals that I wouldn’t be able to leave Monday for Texas. At over 1200 miles the trip to AT&T Stadium would take two days. So, I would miss the Wednesday slate of games. If I could leave on Tuesday. But, I wasn’t going to be able to leave until Thursday. Which meant one day. So, instead, I went to Florida.

The drive to Fort Lauderdale is about the same distance to Texas. However, if I’m going to Florida, I’m going to Florida. I left home late Wednesday night and followed I-77 south through West Virginia and into North Carolina. I didn’t shunpike, as the WV Turnpike is much easier to just pay the toll. Also, south of Beckley, an accident had closed I-77 southbound for over an hour. So, I spent that time at the Beckley Service Plaza to wait it out.

Next morning, I was near Statesville and headed south through Charlotte and into South Carolina. Following I-77 to its end and I-26 toward Myrtle Beach. Then took I-95 south into Georgia. Where I first stopped to fill up and got food at the small Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. I got the burrito. And didn’t have a photo of it.

I got the carnitas with rice, cilantro, onion, sour cream and avocado. Their Habanero Butt Burnin’ Sauce was great. Not too hot. But good enough for the flavor it gave. I also had time to wait out yet another accident that happened on I-95 just before the state line of Georgia.

From there, it was lead foot through Georgia into Florida. Coming into Jacksonville during rush hour wasn’t preferable. But going straight through the city on I-95 was faster than the bypass. Which I-295 and 9B had several accidents. I-95 only had one and it was easily skirted by.

Then, it was the hellscape that is I-95 in Florida. At least until Daytona. From there, the traffic greatly diminishes and I called it a night about two hours north of Fort Lauderdale.

The next morning, it was an early drive south back to I-95 along US1 and another connecting road and then full throttle into South Florida. I got to the exit for the stadium about 90 minutes before kickoff.

The stadium itself is a bit convoluted to get to. As they restrict which lot you can enter depending on which direction you are heading. So, I followed the FL870 along the south of the stadium to my pregame meal spot: Pollo Tropical.

I got the half chicken with cilantro lime rice. And also the garlic cilantro sauce. They apparently didn’t have curry mustard. And without the sauce bar being open ever since covid, you had to ask at the counter and weren’t that helpful with what they had. But, I did know I liked the garlic cilantro. It’s my go to. I also had a strawberry tropichiller. Which is basically a slushie. But very good. Again, no photos. Not sure why. Just wasn’t thinking of it.

I didn’t want to give away where I was heading the week of the games. Because I wasn’t 100% certain I would be going to Florida. But, I did drive over to the stadiumtaking NW 31st Ave to Cypress Creek Rd to circle the airport and enter the stadium lot from the north. Then it’s down NW 10th past the stadium again to the Yellow Lot. The Yellow lot is prepay only. And with the fee, it’s a stiff $23.75 per car. Which is ridiculous. The Yellow Lot is entirely dirt and grass. And you follow a long route cordoned off by cones and rope to head toward the stadium from the south and are directed to park. The lot attendants didn’t even check or scan my parking pass. Just saw the email from Park Mobile and let me in. It made me question if I would need a new pass for the night game.

#100 – Lakeland v. Venice

Akin to the parking, the tickets were only sold online. Through ticketmaster. Luckily, I purchased them in advance, so they were $12 instead of $15. However, there were $5.25 worth of service fees for each ticket. A grand total of $41 to attend each game.

Knowing the restrictions that Inter Miami has on their stadium, I only entered with my wide angle lens. Security at first told me it wasn’t allowed, but then relented after telling me to remove the lens cap. Which didn’t make any sense but I wasn’t going to argue. I was in, with my camera.

Rain was in the forecast, and luckily the stadium has two rather formidable roofed sections on either side of the pitch. Or field. I followed the open concept encircling the stadium to the home side and walked up. The stadium is built as a temporary home for the soccer team. And it feels like it.

Everything is built into cargo containers. The stadium is one deck that’s all metal and feels flimsy. The seats, though, are nice. Flexible. No armrests. But despite the contoured deisgn, the way they flex when you sit on them makes them quite comfortable.

I at first was just up under the roof. However, the light mist that was coming moved me about ten rows further up. Well before kickoff.

I realized I typoed here. It was my 1,373rd game. Not my 1,343rd game.

All four teams playing the final day of games in Florida were new to me. One, the Lakeland Dreadnaughts have one of the coolest nicknames. Venice, however, were just the Indians. They were also the considerable underdog.

The FHSAA has just recently realigned their classifications. What previously was 8A through 1A, is now three separate groups for Suburban, Metro, and Rural. There’s no 4S through 1S, 4M through 1M, and 1R. The larger the number, the larger the classification. They do this by determining the 8 most densely populated counties as Metro teams. Rural teams come from rural counties. There is 34 of them this year. This means Florida will crown 9 champions.

For this one, Venice started with an interception on the first play and turned it into a 20 yard TD run. But Lakeland answered and it became a grueling back and forth. My experience with Florida teams is insanely athletic, but incredibly poor tackling. Everything seems to be a shoulder hit in open field. Which sometimes caused a fumble. But usually caused a missed tackle. However, both these teams were content to just run up the gut for a few yards at a time.

A 7-7 first quarter tie became a 14-14 halftime tie. But, Lakeland would score heading to the north endzone in the third to make it 21-14. And that would hold up. Venice was unable to crack the formidable defense of the favorites. Though they tried.

After the game, I’d have three hours to kill until the 7pm kickoff. So, I left through the midfield gate on the home side. Finding the roster sheets that I had missed entering from the southeast corner as was instructed online. I also got a few photos of the stadium facade.

Leaving the stadium was easy. 10th was blocked off, so that each lane of travel from the Yellow Lot would turn right unimpeded, and turn right onto FL870. And back to Pollo Tropical.

I’m not in Florida often. But, Pollo Tropical is my favorite fast food restaurant down here. I order the trio instead of just chicken. But found out they were out of cilantro garlic sauce. I didn’t take a photo of the food, because honestly, it didn’t look the greatest. What they make up for in taste, they certainly leave little for presentation. I also did get another strawberry tropichiller. Definitely a worthy drink.

After waiting in the restaurant for just over an hour, I headed back to the stadium to arrive early. I knew from seeing the long line of cars entering for the early game well after kickoff, I didn’t want to be stuck. The parking situation isn’t the greatest here. And the one lane entry for the Yellow Lot is most of the problem. You have to wait for each car to park in order to proceed forward. Which drags down the efficiency of the dozen or so attendants.

#101 – Miami Columbus v. Apopka

Before entering, I did walk down the 10th St side of the venue for photos. And then went in the same southeast lot. This time having no issue with the camera. Though I did leave the lens cap in the car.

I also, did, buy another parking pass. Though I figured I would probably breeze through on the original one. I was not about to get stopped without a pass and back up the Yellow Lot line any more than necessary. So, another $23.75 gone.

For this game, I elected to sit on the visitor side. With the 7pm start and overcast skies, there was no hope of sunlight. It also has a different structure. The home side has field level luxury suites. The visitor side does not. So, when you enter through the vomitory, you are at nearly ground level. Just a few steps up and then you’re at the first row of seats.

I climbed quite high as the forecast for rain had returned. And despite the clamminess of the air, the breeze from the southwest was nice.

I was a bit surprised that the two teams wore dark uniforms. Christopher Columbus were decked out in all red with navy lids. Named the Explorers. While Apopka was in all dark gray. With blue lids with Princeton stripes in white. Other than some city games with a team wearing all yellow have I seen a game with two dark uniforms. Also, Apopka had another interesting nickname for the day: the Blue Darters.

Being a bit more local, Columbus traveled well for this game. Filling their homeside. The official announced attendance was 6,904. Much better than the 3,704 of the earlier game.

Apopka, another underdog, got the scoring started with a 22 yard field goal. But Columbus would answer with a 50 yard TD pass to go up 7-3. In the second quarter, Columbus would add a 32 yard field goal to go up 10-3. Apopka would try for a field goal as time expired in the half. But it was blocked.

Just as the Apopka band had taken the field. The announcement of a lightning delay was made. So, the whole stadium had to vacate the seating area and huddle under the stands.

Luckily, there was no rain at the moment. The lightning was to the east near the ocean. Though the temperature did feel a bit of a drop. With the stoppage happening at halftime, there wasn’t much to do. Though, the FHSAA did finish the timed halftime for warmups once it was over. A light mist had fallen during the break. But was dry when I returned roughly to where I had been sitting. And then the skies opened. A heavy mist followed for the next quarter or so.

In the fourth quarter, still trailing 10-3, Apopka would break through finally on a 4th and 4. A 46 yard QB run up the gut would spring free and would rumble in for the touchdown. There was no question Apopka would go for the PAT, and tie the game at 10-10.

At the end of the regulation. With the clock winding. Apopka had the ball and again drove for a field goal attempt. And as had happened in the first half, with just one second left, the 33 yard field goal was blocked. The game was heading to overtime.

I had made the comment in a tweet that the fourth quarter was my last quarter of 2022. Again, I was wrong.

At the end of the rain delay, the Columbus student section had coalesced into the south endzone. So, after winning the toss, Apopka elected to play with the backs to the north endzone. Also, their student section was along the sideline to the north.

Apopka would settle for a field goal on their possession. And then, Columbus would get a big run on first down. A 5 yard run to the right. Second down would go for a slight loss. and third down would be a little flip to the right flat where the receiver was wide open going away to the endzone to corral the ball into his mits.

It was an exciting and fitting way to end my 2022 season. In the end, I was glad that I had made the trip. Even if I did miss out on the Texas games. So many of them were teams I’d seen before. And even repeat matchups. And by missing at least the first two days of games. Arriving for just the last day felt like a let down. So, I’m glad I made my way to Florida.

After the game, I stopped for another Tropichiller before heading back north to Vero Beach. Where I spent the weekend and will leave Florida probably on Tuesday. Haven’t decided yet.

Best State Championships

Having seen 23 states’ state championship games. I was asked to rank them. And though my experience spans many years now. I thought I’d rank them in terms of my enjoyment and cost for them. Both the venue, the atmosphere, the food, the cost and not factoring in the trip as well.

#1 Texas

What needs to be said. First, there’s twelve games setup as four tripleheaders. The downside is the cost (now $20 tickets, and $20 parking). Though I did get in parking for free with a friend who is media the past few years. The atmosphere is second to none. And it’s at the end of the season. The only real CON is that due to the large crowds, getting in and around the stadium can be an issue. Though if you arrive early and get a front row in the mezzanine or club level, you have the best view in football.

#2 West Virginia

This may be a headscratcher for some. Wheeling Island Stadium is perfectly sized for the crowds. The tickets are reasonable at $23 for the three game weekend, or $10 per game. The parking is free. And a casino is across the parking lot to kill time between the Saturday games. The only real downside is the scoreboard lacks a usable video board for replay. And that there’s only three games total. But, Wheeling treats you well. And as media, it’s high on my list for accommodations.

#3 Iowa

Iowa plays both their state semifinals and finals at the UNI-Dome. It’s not centrally located. But the seven games are spaced well over two days. The single ticket per session is a bargain. And parking is plentiful and free if you arrive for the first game. The dome is a dome. That seats about 23k. Never overly crampt. And the football is good if you like the old hardnosed wrap up tackling. The state does lack for speed, though. But the tackling is taught well in a state known for wrestling.

#4 Indiana

Centrally located, in a dome, great seats. Six games over two days in three game sessions all on one ticket. The parking is a bit of an issue. Not that it lacks, but that it’s expensive. Tickets were $10 per day when I was there as a fan. And their media treatment was good when I went. Though, I’ve been told the pressbox has declined post covid.

#5 Delaware

Delaware only has two classifications. And the games are held as a doubleheader at University of Delaware’s Delaware Stadium. The crowd for the large school game was impressive. Far greater than I was expecting. And vocal. The tickets were reasonable. Parking was easy. It was setup as a doubleheader. And the crowd was good. The games were decent. But with only two games you can only go with what you have. Delaware does not have a lot of high schools. But, for a single doubleheader to crown all the state champions? It was good.

#6 Tennessee

I saw the games at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. They’ve since moved to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga. I’ve been there, and not a huge fan of the place. But the state has nine title games over three days. One day of private schools and two days of public/non-scholarship schools. The tickets were cheap. Parking was… easily accessed for free. Lots to do around campus before or after the games. Venue is similar to Wheeling or Iowa. Great size for the crowd. No restrictions on cameras. And good games, as well.

#7 Illinois

I questioned where to put this one. But if you’re only going for one game, it has an advantage. I went for all eight, and they let you leave and reenter. So, my ex at the time and myself went for dinner between games. Tickets were only $10 when I was there at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. After a game is over, the teams are rushed off the field to a large publically open tent behind the home sideline where family, friends, fans, etc can congregate with the players and coaches. Which is a nice thing that many other states have trouble accommodating in a multi-game state championship. The stadium they were at was pretty basic for major college venues. They’ve moved starting next year to Illinois State.

#8 Minnesota

It’s the dome. The price is high. But it’s Minneapolis. But like Iowa, you have semifinals and finals at US Bank Stadium. The two day Prep Bowl has an all-day ticket. And parking is variable depending on which lot and how far you want to walk. The year I was here was the year the old Metrodome had been demolished and US Bank Stadium had yet to be completed. So the finals were at TCF Bank Stadium. An open air venue. My ex and I walked over to the Buffalo Wild Wings between games. In the end, it’s mostly a more expensive Iowa experience.

#9 Mississippi

I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi during covid for their state titles. Six games over two days. The games were relocated from the two alternating college venues due to covid. The size of Jackson’s Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium allowed basically unrestricted access for fans. Tickets were decently priced despite covid. I think in the $12 range. Good for all day. It’s a simple bowl. Weather was acceptable. Games were good. Grass field. Only real negative was the one light standard to the southwest corner was out both days. Which gave the field a bit of a darker corner than you’d expect. But with covid there wasn’t much that could be done. And the stadium did let me bring my camera. Very easy getting in and out of the stadium lots, too.

#10 Georgia

Expensive tickets. At $23 they were the priciest. But you got to stay for 4 games all day. The games were relocated to Georgia State Stadium (formerly Turner Field) from Mercedes-Benz Stadium due to costs. The baseball configuration leaves little to be desired. But the overhang from the upper deck provided relief from the rain on the first day. They also let me leave for my car because I forgot to bring in a memory card for my camera. Parking was expensive. Games were great. Especially if you like field goals. I’m not sure what it is, but Georgia HS Football kicks a lot of field goals. It’s a trend we picked up on the entire weekend. I had previously gone to games at the Georgia Dome, but that was one day for $20 and was only two games. Overall, the cost is the biggest negative here. Both tickets and parking. Games were great. Fans were great. Even in an open air baseball stadium.

#11 Ohio

I’ve seen games at Canton and Massillon when they co-hosted for years. And also the Division II game this year at Tom Benson Stadium. The increased costs really dampen the value you get. The old setup was $56 for your ticket book and $10 parking pass good to move between venues. Now, I paid about $18 for one game and $10 to park. The stadium is nice and I got a good view from the second deck. The scoreboard is weirdly plain for the things like down, distance, etc. The games are spread out over three days. With large gaps between games on Friday and Saturday. All so they can clear the stadium to charge another ticket. Atmosphere is good, for the most part.

#12 Michigan

Can’t put Michigan above Ohio, can I? For PROS, it’s a dome. It was only $10 for tickets. And parking was reasonable for Detroit. The atmosphere ebbed with the matchups. Definitely a fun trip. The CONS are that it is detroit. I damaged my car on Michigan’s unlit roadways since they’re trying to save money. Potholes are no joke. And be aware for missing manhole covers. Thieves like to steal them for scrap metal.

#13 Pennsylvania

I saw so many games at Hershey, that I’ll try to temper my grade based more on this year. The stadium is small, but suitable for the crowds. The parking is free. Tickets were reasonable. In years past, you could get in for $7 for the early game and use your ticket stub to get into the night game. They’ve done away with that a few years ago. Cumberland Valley definitely treats media much better than Hershey did at the end. For the talk of having a video board, not having live video or replays was a disappointment. Overall, a decent middle of the road setup.

#14 New Jersey

Now, to be fair, the New Jersey titles I saw were the Group titles since NJ just started full state wide titles in 2022. But, I did see two South Championships at Rowan and two years worth of North finals at MetLife Stadium. Looking back, I wish I had seen games at College of New Jersey or Kean. or even Rutgers. For what people talk about New Jersey, the crowds were great and tickets were cheap. MetLife was only $9 for tickets. I don’t remember the parking cost. If there even was one. But if it were, it wasn’t sufficiently high enough that I would remember. The love of four-game days for $9 made this a great deal. I may or may not check out the games in the future. The biggest cons are that East Rutherford is a bit troublesome to get to depending where you’re coming from. And from the Turnpike, the special exit lanes to the stadium are closed for the high school games. My ex-wife got lost here. I also witnessed a fight that I recorded with my camera and the police asked for a copy to identify the man who fled. So, that was emorable.

#15 New York

It’s a dome. it’s centrally located. Tickets were reasonable. I want to say it was $10 and parking was fairly cheap in the garage across the street that included a skywalk across the street to the stadium. No walking up all the stairs. Stadium is pretty simple. On most years, games were on Friday and Sunday. Though now there’s a week later and games are on back-to-back days. Football isn’t the greatest. The western teams tend to be more ‘old school’ and slight advantage over the eastern schools. There are some private schools in the New York PUBLIC High School Athletic Association. Crowds are minimal. But it’s an enjoyable, if somewhat average weekend. Having covered it for media, nothing special either. Easy to get into once I knew which gate to enter. They didn’t really inform me well in the instructions and no one at any of the gates seemed to ever hear of a press pass and never asked where they’d enter the stadium at. it’s by the docks. Just as in Fargo.

#16 Nebraska

The games are on Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This gives you the opportunity to see more games than you’d otherwise see. And three games a day over two days is a nice schedule. But, like Ohio, they’re spaced out to clear the stadium betwee games. Tickets were cheap when I was there ($7 a piece). Parking was a struggle as school was in session. Stadium is a concrete bowl. Very little in the way of amenities. Located right downtown with a lot of options to walk to for between game meals. The Thai place was really good. Games were okay. Nothing memorable from the lone year that I was there.

#17 South Dakota

Similar to Nebraska, the games are spread out so that the stadium can be cleared. Tickets were a whopping $15 for session. With most sessions just being one game. The two years I attended, the 9B and 9A games were a doubleheader on Thursday morning in one session. Games are aired over South Dakota Public Broadcasting, so despite being located in the far southeast corner of the state, it’s not a huge impediment. Plus, South Dakotans are used to long drives. The price is an issue, but parking is free. In the lots or the streets around the stadium. There’s a Pizza Ranch across the street. The Dakotadome is small. Only seating about 8,000 the first year I attended and about 9,000 or so the second. Most seats are true seats. Though they have two bleacher sections on the home side. All tickets are assigned seats, but you’re free to relocate to the bleachers and stretch out. The small dome makes for very cramped seating. Other than price it’s my biggest gripe.

#18 Louisiana

Five games in New Orleans. The four private school games (Select) were held the week prior. Some years all 9 would be held on the same weekend. Not this year. Two games on Friday and three on Saturday. Tickets weren’t bad. I think about $10 or $12. Parking was a hassle as the lots are beneat the Superdome. The stadium is small and cramped. The seats are very tiny. Football was good from what I remembered. This was post Katrina. So, the stadium had some touchups. But, it feels ancient. The stadium and getting into and out of it is the biggest issue.

#19 Arkansas

Arkansas is another state with games on multiple weekends. They’re all held at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. But, also spaced out so that a new ticket is required. I stopped on my way home from Texas during Covid. A 1pm game and a 7pm game. So, I only went to the afternoon game in a driving rain. They let me bring a tarp in, and though they questioned the camera (I brought my big lens), they let it in without issue. Tickets were okay, but I remember parking being charged high. Maybe $7? Could have been a covid excuse. The single game I saw was okay. The stadium is just old, the concourse is under the stands.

20 North Carolina

They’ve changed things since I was there. Before, they had 8 titles spread over three venues. The year I attended, it was at Duke, UNC, and NC State. NC State had a tripleheader on Saturday. While Duke and UNC both had Friday night games, and single or doubleheaders on Saturday. So, i went to UNC on Friday night and NC State on Saturday. Primarily due to the rain. Kenan Memorial Stadium had a slight overhang from the top deck to the lower level. Which provided protection from the heavy rain. The grass fell apart just one game into the weekend.

Having to miss state title games to attend others is a big negative for me. The price wasn’t exorbitant. But I remember it wasn’t great either. So, of the eight finals, I attended three of them. The final game at NC State had a long wait for it, and with the rainy conditions and a Browns game on, I elected to leave. Plus, I was driving to Texas for the next weekend.

#21 Maryland

At the time, Maryland was hosting games at M&T Bank Stadium. Four games over three days. All on separate tickets. One Thursday night, one Friday night, and two on Saturday. The parking was high, at $7, and tickets were $10 each. Getting to the game was a nightmare. The Thursday night rush hour extended into the arrival times for those going to the game.

Inside the stadium, it seemed the Ravens did everything possible not to make it enjoyable. No lightboards or videoboards were turned on. Just one little scoreboard on each side to show the score and down and distance. No music, either. They’ve relocated to the Naval Academy. But not sure if they’ve improved since this trip in 2014.

#22 Wisconsin

My biggest complaint about this was that I missed the first game due to their procedures. In the long long ago, the internet wasn’t the greatest at relaying information. And for this game, the address was listed for the parking lot where a shuttle bus would take you to the stadium. Given the parking restrictions, parking at the arena far from town and taking the bus was preferred. I arrived late for the first game and paid for parking. And then, when boarding the shuttle, was informed they had to wait for more people or for the first game to be over before they’d head over. I didn’t know where to go, so I stayed on the busy. The game entered a running clock, when ate the clock and I didn’t arrive until the game was just ending. It’s also just an open bowl with the wind whipping you. It’s four games on Thursday and three on Friday. The tickets were only $8 if you didn’t want to leave and reenter. That was the only positive.

#23 Florida

All of the negatives listed above account for this. The games are spaced so tickets are required for each game. $17.25 if bought in advance. $20.25 if bought the day of the game. Online only. Parking was $23.75. Online only. The stadium is not centrally located. Getting in and out is an exercise in futility. The crowds were smallish for the two games I attended. The game play was poor. Though each was exciting. It was more the lack of execution that kept things close. The weather was miserable. Hot enough to not be cold. But humidity high enough to make it uncomfortable. A rain delay. And not all the games are scheduled for the same weekend. The previous weekend were held in Tallahassee. Just 456 miles away. To see all five games this weekend would’ve cost over $200 between tickets and parking. And it wasn’t good football.


2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida

2022 HSF WK 17 Florida


Because this weekend wasn’t just about football, the expenses are a bit skewed. Total cost was $318.97 to attend the two games. This included transportation costs, including gas, the unreal ticket fees, and parking. Whcih was $82 total. Transportation costs were $153.88 to get there. Food was a hefty $63.09 for the day. I ate out three times, so that adds up fast. Overall, just on Saturday, I drove 263 miles round trip from where I was staying in Vero Beach to the stadium and back.

For the games, it was a new stadium and four new teams. It was also the first games in Florida I had seen since the three Burger King Bowl games that were held after the 2014 season in Boca Raton. A predecessor name for the Geico State Champions Bowl Series. Which was also held on Saturday at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas.

Next Week

That’s it. There’s nothing more until 2023.

2022 Statistics

101 Games
194 Teams
40 Stadiums
16 States

98 New Teams
25 New Stadiums

1,495 different teams
468 different stadiums

1,374 total games

For more, and larger, photos from this weekend, click HERE.

For photos from previous weeks and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

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