Another football season has come to an end, and I’m proud to see another Northwest Florida team fought its way to Camping World Stadium and the state championship game.
It was a long trip for Baker, one that could have been much shorter if the game was played at either the Gators’ stadium or at the stadium of Baker’s opponent, Madison County.
From Baker High to the giant Orlando stadium where the Class 1A football state championship was played was a 408-mile drive. It wasn’t as bad for Madison County. The Cowboys drove 223 miles. That’s 17 more miles than Madison County would have spent on a bus driving to Baker or vice versa.
I discussed this long haul in the spring when area softball teams drove hundreds of miles farther than their opponents, and a trip like this only proves that the Florida High School Athletic Association needs to take a harder look at where these games are played.
It’s understandable to play sports like basketball, soccer, baseball and softball in a centralized location because the final four teams get together in one place. But that isn’t the case in football, and that’s quite the haul for two teams for just one game.
The FHSAA should consider putting the football games back at the stadium of the top-ranked team. These kids aren’t longing for a trip to play at Camping World Stadium. They’re longing for a chance to play in the state championship, and putting these games closer to their friends and family could mean way more to them than playing in a bigger stadium hundreds of miles away.
It was a great season for Northwest Florida. Baker was a state runner-up, Crestview was a state semifinalist and Navarre made the region finals. Not too shabby.
Now, it’s on to basketball season where our boys and girls will fight for a chance to drive all the way to Lakeland. I look forward to watching.
Jason Blakeney is the executive editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News. You can reach him at email@example.com or 315-4404.