Apopka is a dominating reigning state football champion, winner of 21 consecutive games against Florida foes.
The Blue Darters (9-1) set a state record with 529 regular-season points, scoring 43 or more in every win after losing an August opener 51-36 at South Carolina power Duncan Byrnes (10-1). Apopka's average margin of victory is 41 points.
Yet I can't find one state or national poll that says the Blue Darters are favorites to repeat in a 32-team Class 8A state playoff bracket kicking off this week.
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- Apopka coach Rick Darlington does not put much stock in the state football polls, and really, why should he? (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Special to the Sentinel)
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Perennial power Bradenton Manatee (10-0) altered the landscape when it was reclassified from 7A to 8A. The Hurricanes have been atop the AP sportswriters rankings for 12 weeks and are everybody's favorite to win their sixth state championship under coach Joe Kinnan.
Apopka isn't even No. 2. Miramar (10-0) holds that spot, with Apopka third and Dr. Phillips (10-0) fourth.
The myriad national polls concur, with almost all ranking Manatee highest among 8A squads. USA Today has three 8A teams, Deerfield Beach (10-0), Miramar and Manatee, in its national Super 25 in that order. No Apopka.
Blue Darters coach Rick Darlington was asked Tuesday how much it bothered him that his reigning title team, with 15 starters back, is not No. 1. It took him a little while to stop laughing.
"I don't know where the polls are to read them or to be offended by them," Darlington said. "Unless you tell me we somehow jump FSU to No. 2 in the BCS [college] poll and we're going to play Alabama, it doesn't matter.
"Polls don't have anything to do with high-school football. They don't seed you. So why would I care?"
The Florida High School Athletic Association playoff matchups are based solely on geography. Polls and power ratings don't count. What does matter is getting hot in November, like Apopka did last season.
The Blue Darters weren't even in the 8A top 10 when they concluded an 8-2 regular season in 2012. Five playoff wins later, they were state champs.
I guess we'll let the games decide.
West Oaks steps up
Orlando's West Oaks Academy, a 2008 charter member of the Sunshine Independent Athletic Association schools playing outside FHSAA jurisdiction, has gone all-in for basketball again with the hiring of coach Shaun Wiseman.
Wiseman had four state championship teams in the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association, most recently with United Faith Christian of Charlotte. He brought with him an adidas apparel contract and college and international connections and quickly assembled a United Nations roster.
The Flame have players from Cameroon, Turkey, Spain, Canada, Colombia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Hungary, Ukraine and Egypt. They aren't short on prospects, with players such as 7-foot shot-swatter Anas Osama.
SourceHoops.com reported that coaches from Louisville, Auburn and Texas A&M attended an early-season game.
"This school values a good basketball program," Wiseman said. "They weren't afraid to jump in with both feet."
Dr. Phillips takes a 68-0 streak vs. Florida foes into Thursday's girls basketball opener at Olympia. That streak started after a Jan. 4, 2011, loss to Edgewater. The Panthers will host the Eagles, No. 1 in the Super 16 rankings, next Wednesday. . . .
I jumped the gun when I wrote that 14 football field goals made by Port Orange Spruce Creek senior Jagger Lieb is an area record. That tied a record, set by another Hawks kicker, Matt McClendon, in Creek's 9-4 season of 2007. Lieb could break it when Creek (6-4) hosts Ocala Vanguard (5-5) in postseason bowl play on Thursday. …
Edgewater alum Kendrick Perry was Horizon League preseason basketball Player of the Year and started strongly as a 6-foot senior for Youngstown State (3-0). He averaged 22 points, six rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals in wins vs. Kennesaw state, FIU (overtime) and Eastern Kentucky over the weekend in Atlanta.