Thanks to an early six-game win streak, Freeport (6-3) is set to host its first playoff game since 2010 when Graceville (7-3) comes to town at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
FREEPORT — Walking about town, Shaun Arntz can feel a difference in the air, in the energy.
Freeport is buzzing. The first home playoff game in 3,270 days is coming to the high school’s stadium on Friday night. Almost a decade of labor has finally bore fruit.
“All of our players were waiting on the dadgum Tooth Fairy and learning how to tie their shoes the last time we hosted a playoff game,” said Arntz, the Bulldogs coach. “Our community’s been behind us and shown up for every home game, so we are really excited to be able to do that with the crowds that we’ve been having.”
Considering Freeport’s (6-3 overall) last playoff win came on the road in 2015, home field advantage won’t exactly be critical, but it’s a nice perk nonetheless, especially with a talented Graceville team (7-3) coming to The Port for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in the opening round of the Region 1-1A playoffs.
The two teams haven’t faced off since September 2018, the Tigers taking an early season matchup 44-19; Freeport running back Brandon Siples had 115 rushing yards and a touchdown in the loss.
Siples will again be key to the No. 4 Bulldogs’ success Friday. Averaging 177.5 rushing yards a night, the senior has run for 1,420 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. He’s also caught 11 balls for 248 yards and five scores, thrown a touchdown pass and housed a 99-yard kickoff return.
With 24 total touchdowns, Siples has accounted for 52% of Freeport’s scoring offense.
That said, Freeport has not won a game since Sept. 27, dropping its last three regular season games to No. 1 Baker, Jay and South Walton, which earned the No. 5 seed in Region 1-4A, by a combined 127-73.
Arntz isn’t worried, though.
“We’re fine, man,” he said. “We led the whole game with South Walton except for the last two and a half minutes. That’s a 4A school with 40 players dressing out and we’ve got 24 dressed out.”
Meanwhile, the No. 5 Tigers own a modest two-game win streak and have outscored opponents 206-99 this season.
“They are fast,” Arntz said. “They got speed all over. Even their coaches look fast.”
Chief among Graceville’s speedsters is junior Xavian Sorey. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Sorey is a four-star recruit, according to 247Sports, and holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Miami, among others.
Playing both sides of the ball, Sorey has totaled seven touchdowns, including three on interception returns, while piling up 604 rushing yards.
Sorey’s running mate in the backfield, senior Jeremiah Castro has run for a team-high 1,349 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“He does most of their damage,” Arntz said. “But you just can’t single out on one dude that they got. They got so many.”