Apopka running back Robert Thomas receives a gift from the Blue Darters' mascot Friday. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel)

Apopka running back Robert Thomas receives a gift from the Blue Darters' mascot Friday. (Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel) (December 13, 2013)

What: Class 8A state football final

Schools: Apopka vs. Homestead South Dade.

When: 7 Saturday night

Where: Florida Citrus Bowl

Records: A 13-1, SD 13-1

Coaches: A — Rick Darlington; SD — Nate Hudson Jr.

TV: Bright House Sports Network, Ch. 47

Tickets: $12; $17 reserved seats. Parking $10.

Playoff path: A — d. Orlando University 77-21; Winter Park 31-7; Jacksonville First Coast 42-20; Tampa Plant 45-29. SD — d. Southwest Miami 42-7; Miami Killian 13-7; Coral Gables 6-0; Palm Beach Gardens 37-10

Playoff records: A – 31-18, 2-0 in finals. SD – 16-19, first final.

Players to watch: A — TB Robert Thomas, 5-10, 175, Sr. (212 carries, 2,307 yards, 30 TDs); QB-FB Chandler Cox, 6-1, 220, Jr. (1,097 yards rushing, 1,051 passing); WB J.J. Simmons, 5-7, 150, Jr. (91-1,113, 19 TDs); OL Martez Ivey, 6-6, 280, Jr. SD — QB Kahlil Render, 6-2, 195, Sr. (128-223-12 passing for 2,523 yards, 36 TDs); RB Johnnie Hankins, 5-10, 190, Jr. (184 att., 1,125 yards); WR C.J. Worton, 6-1, 180, Sr. (36 catches, 893 yards, 12 TDs); WR Tyre' Brady, 6-4, 205, Sr. (33-541-9)

The Buzz: Apopka attempts to be first area school with three state championships, and first to repeat. Blue Darters became first with three 1,000-yard rushers last week. Thomas rewrote Metro Conference record and needs 49 yards to be 2013 state leader. Apopka has over 7,000 offensive yards and 724 points, 22 away from state record of 746. Hudson is second-year head coach who played under Larry Little at Bethune-Cookman. He has two brothers as assistants, including former FSU linebacker Jerel Hudson. Buccaneers ends Cayman Battle (6-1, 210) and Tyree Horton (6-4, 215) have combined 27 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

Prediction: Apopka by 14

Buddy Collings