PAHOKEE, Fla.- The avid high school football fan has heard the stories when it comes to ‘Muck City’.
Rural towns, sugar cane fields and chasing rabbits in the offseason as part of the legendary training. All that is part of the tradition over at Pahokee High School.
Something else that used to be traditional when it came to playing over in the Muck was winning state championships. For awhile, it was expected to compete for them annually.
Now the Blue Devils are back in the hunt for a title, this time in Class 1R and they’ll hit the road Friday night to face a familiar opponent against an undefeated Hawthorne team that stands in their way. At stake is a spot in the state semifinals next Friday and Pahokee head coach Emmanuel Hendrix knows it will take a lot to get past the Hornets in this Class 1R, Region 4 final.
“(Hawthorne) is a big physical team that expects to win every game,” Hendrix said. “They run the ball well and have a great defense. They have a real home field advantage because they pack there stadium.”
The player that Hawthorne will be leaning on in its quest to reach the state semifinals is dual-threat quarterback is sophomore CJ Ingram. Ingram, who also plays on the basketball team, has thrown for just under 900 yards this season rushes for another 252 with 15 total touchdowns.
Pahokee’s defense will have to be up to the task of slowing down the mobile quarterback, which Hendrix’s defense has done a solid job of doing. The Blue Devils’ defense has recorded a staggering 74.5 sacks and 21 interceptions. Leading the defense is senior star DeeJay Holmes, who leads the team with 103 tackles, 30 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.
“They are lead by their quarterback he is a duat threat,” Hendrix said. “They are big and athletic on the defensive line and they have the athletes on the back end to give them a chance against our passing attack so I do expect resistance. They run to the football and they make tackles in space. Our defense has to show up like it has all year. If our defense show up to play, we win. I expect them to play well.”
The others factors that come into play like the 251-mile commute and weather should play more into the Blue Devils’ this time around compared to last year.
Pahokee faced Hawthorne in the Class 1A playoffs last year, losing 51-12. Traveling up the night before and better weather conditions, all things considered could also make for an overall better game this time around.
“The weather should be nice so we definitely should be able to play our game,” Hendrix said. “We have to make sure we play as a team and make the plays that’s there. We are battle tested so we are ready.
Between Pahokee and neighboring Glades Central, the two schools have combined for 12 state championships. A win on Friday night against the Hornets inches the Pahokee program one step closer to its goal of winning a state championship for the first time since 2008.
The Blue Devils won a title in 2016, but were forced to vacate the championship due to an ineligible player. Now back on the big stage once again, a chance to do something the Muck City community has been waiting for is on tap and preparation has been the key this time around.
“A win like this would be epic for our community if we can make it to the state championship,” Hendrix added. “We haven’t won it since 2008. We are leaving on Thursday to get a good night sleep this year. Last year that was a big problem. We know they are a very good football team so we are making sure we are ready to play Muck City football on Friday.”
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.