When the Apopka Blue Darters line up against the Miami Columbus Explorers in the Class 4M State Championship game, it will be against a team it knows well. The Blue Darters and Explorers played for championships against each other in 2014 and 2019 - splitting their two encounters.
In 2014, Apopka rallied past Miami-Columbus 30-23, while the Explorers rallied past the Blue Darters 21-20 in 2019.
Both teams are no strangers to the pressure of a state championship game. This is Apopka's second straight trip to the finals and three out of the last four. Although winless in that time span, the Blue Darters have hoisted the trophy three times.
The Explorers are playing in their third championship in six years and its fifth in school history - winning one.
Teams that make it to the state finals are automatically on at least a four-game winning streak when they face each other. But both Apopka and Miami-Columbus have extended success stories beyond the postseason. Apopka has won nine of its last ten games, while Columbus is on a five-game winning streak.
Columbus enters the game with a 13-1 record, while Apopka is 11-3. The Explorers average 37.1 points per game while allowing only 12.9. The Blue Darters are averaging 20.3 points per game and allow 16.
Apopka has played in nine games decided by seven points or less this season and has a 7-2 record in those games, and have come from behind to win eight games this season.
Kickoff is at 7 pm this Saturday at the DRV PNK Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale. It's the same venue of last season's state championship between the Venice Eagles and Apopka - won by Venice 35-7. The Blue Darters are anticipating a better outcome in 2022.
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