Counting down the Top-10 'Must-see' football games of 2014

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  • | 2:02 p.m. August 28, 2014
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September 5 — Dr. Phillips Panthers at Olympia Titans

You could argue that, given how long it’s been since the Titans beat the Panthers (a decade ago, in 2004, to be exact), this isn’t much of a rivalry.

You could argue that — and we’d disagree with you.

Proximity, passion and high-caliber players will make this match-up an early season treat. Both programs will have a chance to make a statement in this Week Two showdown.

September 5 — Ocoee Knights at University Cougars

There isn’t much about the schedule for the Knights this season that could be described as easy.

This Week Two matchup against the Cougars, a program on a clear upward trend that has made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, certainly fits right in on Ocoee’s loaded out-of-district slate.

Head coach Dale Salapa is excited about the energy and the demeanor of his program going into this season and this early season battle will give his Knights an opportunity to validate his enthusiasm on a big stage.

September 12 — Seffner Christian Crusaders at Windermere Prep

A rematch from a season ago of a high-scoring shootout, this Week Three contest will pit the Lakers against one of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s elite. 

Windermere Prep came out on the losing end of last season’s 47-42 battle, but will things be different as the Lakers — who have seemingly improved across the board during the offseason — will get a shot at the Crusaders on their home field this time around.

September 26 — Faith Christian Lions at Central Florida Christian Academy Eagles

Over on Orlando’s east side, Faith Christian played just its first season of football in 2013 — but that didn’t stop the Lions from amassing a 6-4 record.

Faith Christian, in its first official season as a member of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, now finds itself as a trendy pick to make some noise in the budding league — and a big-time showdown for first-year coach Michael Bonneville and his Eagles. 

Editor’s pick - Game of the Year: October 3 — Apopka Blue Darters at West Orange Warriors

Much like the rivalry between Olympia and Dr. Phillips, there are some who would argue that the rivalry between West Orange and Apopka — a rivalry that has seen the Blue Darters win 15 consecutive games dating back to 1998 —isn’t much of a rivalry.

Again, we would disagree.

This matchup, which a season ago took the form of the unofficial championship game for Class 8A’s District 4, features two of the best teams not just in Central Florida — but arguably in the state.

The battle between these old time foes shifts back to Winter Garden in 2014, equating to the best chance the Warriors have had in more than a decade of knocking off Apopka. If you see just one high school football game this season, make this that game.

October 17 — West Orange Warriors at Olympia Titans

Don’t sleep on this midseason matchup, especially when a playoff spot could very well be on the line — as well as “The Fence.”

This rivalry, which had been dominated by the Titans until the Warriors finally rebounded a season ago, will feature two teams with two different strengths. Coach Tom Paolucci’s Olympia program promises to be staunch on defense, while coach Bob Head’s West Orange squad figures to be one of the area’s most prolific offenses. 

The age-old question of who wins in a battle of great defense versus great offense will be front and center when these two meet in mid-October.

October 17 — The Master’s Academy Eagles at Legacy Charter Eagles

Entering its third year of existence, Legacy Charter feels good about its prospects in 2014.

Playing in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, the Eagles will get a chance to assess just how far along they’ve come in this mid-October showdown against, go figure, the Eagles.

The Master’s Academy is one of conference’s older program and will provide an opportunity for a statement win for coach Jarrett Wiggers’ program.

October 23 — Wekiva Mustangs at Ocoee Knights

It’s hard to guess how any district will shape up by this point in the season — a reality that hold even truer when it comes to Class 7A, District 4.

These two natural rivals on the map could be meeting for pride — or a playoff spot — when they take the field at Ocoee High School in October.

October 31 — Agape at Foundation Academy Lions

How’s this for a Halloween showdown?

The Lions will look to avenge a 22-14 loss from a season ago and one of these teams, if not both, will be fighting for its postseason life in this spooky showdown.

Runner-up - Game of the Year: November 7 — Dr. Phillips Panthers at Winter Park Wildcats

This could very well be one of the best matchups of the year in Central Florida, with a strong likelihood that the Panthers could enter this regular season finale undefeated. Winter Park also figures to be one of Central Florida’s elite program and will have home field advantage.