BAKER — To Matt Brunson, it's a disconcerting trend in the Baker-Blountstown rivalry.
Albeit a small sample size, the last three matchups between the teams have gone to the visitors.
Last year, Baker escaped Blountstown with a 20-19 win in the Final Four after Junior McLaughlin's game-winning 62-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left to play. Nearly three months earlier, the Gators narrowly defeated the Tigers 21-18 on that same field.
Rewind back to the 2015 campaign and it was the Tigers pulling off the road win, a 28-21 triumph in the second week.
"Two straight years, the visiting team has the edge," Brunson said. "That's got to end."
He would say that. After all, the Tigers come to Doug Griffith Memorial Stadium Friday night for a Final Four rematch set to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
"They're big, strong and physical and should be a very tough game for us," Brunson said.
That would be a change of pace for the Gators (12-0), who two games into the playoffs have outscored foes 90-34. On the season the margin of victory is 536-204, no team playing Brunson's crew to within a single possession.
Of course Blountstown boasts a similar résumé, the Tigers outscoring foes 450-105 en route to a 10-1 mark. Their only blip was a 35-21 loss to 3A Final Four qualifier Florida High way back on Sept. 1. Ever since then, they've recorded four shutouts and haven't allowed more than 21 points in any contest.
The 41 points a night comes on the shoulders of a dominant backfield led by senior Denzel Washington (quite the name, huh?). Washington is averaging 84 yards per game, which includes 9 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns. Overall the Tigers are averaging 291 rushing yards and four touchdowns a night.
"We gotta defend the run and that Denzel Washington kid," Brunson said. "They have three, four skills guys and we have to keep them in the 20s and be disciplined in the run game.
"It's going to be a four-quarter war."
Dual-threat quarterback Trent Peacock has kept the Blountstown offense from being one-dimensional. The junior has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns compared to three interceptions. On the ground he's churned out 326 yards and four touchdowns.
"We have to get after the passer and create some pressure," said Brunson.
Boding well for the Gators is last week's two defensive scores — one a pick-six by Kalee Ciurleo and another a scoop and score by Payton Rockwell — that followed three fumble recoveries in a 42-6 win over Jay.
Baker has no shortage of star power, too.
Ciurleo, wearing his brother's jersey, threw for three scores last week to give him 23 passing touchdowns on the season compared to two interceptions.
His go-to red zone is Derek Peoples Jr., who has 25 receptions for 553 yards and nine touchdowns.
As for the Gators' bell cow back, that'd be Junior McLaughlin. The junior has 1,085 rushing yards, 623 receiving yard and 24 touchdowns, accented by Jayson Moore's 662 rushing yards and 12 scores for a backfield averaging 260 yards a night with 42 touchdowns.
"We just need to play mistake-free football," Brunson said.
And, to buck the trend against Blountstown, embrace the home-field advantage they've rightfully earned.
"We do like the point system in getting to host three playoff games," Brunson said. "We love being at home and it's a great atmosphere. We just need to continue what we've done all year and play great football.
"The goal is still to get to Orlando and win it."