In My Opinion | Andre C. Fernandez

Four Broward schools still in hunt for state high school football title

Broward County is down to its final four.

University School overcame arguably its biggest obstacle by beating American Heritage-Delray and stands one win away from returning to state for the second time in three seasons.

Cypress Bay convincingly ousted rival Miramar and is looking more like a favorite to reach the Citrus Bowl in Class 8A.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Broward County’s most successful team, seems to be playing its best football of the season.

And how about Boyd Anderson, one more milestone victory away from what would be the most successful season at one of the county’s most tradition-rich schools.

•  Class 3A state semifinal — University School (10-0) at Clearwater Central Catholic (11-1): The Suns won the “big game” that the pundits billed as the true state championship game.

All that’s left now is to actually win the Class 3A state title.

Central Catholic might not come in with the hype or vastly talented roster American Heritage did, but the Marauders still have one of the stingiest defenses in the state.

Clearwater Central Catholic is in the state semifinals for the first time since 2005 when it was in Class 2B and has won 11 in a row since an opening-week loss to Tarpon Springs East Lake. Since then, it has given up only seven points in the past 19 quarters including a 17-quarter scoreless streak that was snapped last week in a 10-7 win against Tampa Catholic.

The Marauders defense is a veteran group that returned nine starters from last year led by safety Mike Stevenson. They have not allowed more than 100 yards rushing since that first game.

Enter University’s high-powered attack led by sophomore Jordan Scarlett, who torched American Heritage last week with 29 carries for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

And although the Suns know they can’t take CCC lightly, University’s defense proved again it is no slouch.

University shut out Heritage in the second half led by linebacker Skai Moore, defensive tackle Brandon Boyce and safety Wesley Smith.

The Suns have recorded four shutouts this season and have not allowed a touchdown in six of their 10 games.

Even if points are at a premium, I expect University’s defense to make its mark again and propel the Suns to the Citrus Bowl.

Andre’s pick: University 21, Clearwater Central Catholic 7.

•  Region 3-8A final — Cypress Bay (10-2) at Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge (9-2): So the Lightning has proven again it is worthy of state title consideration.

Led by running back Matt Dayes’ 34 carries for 169 yards and three touchdowns, Cypress Bay shredded Miramar’s defense that had been playing well in recent weeks.

In fact, the Lightning has done this all season to opponents with its pro-I/wing-T hybrid-like offense. Cypress Bay is averaging 37.5 points per game during its six-game winning streak that began after a loss at Bradenton Manatee and has not scored fewer than 17 points in a game this season.

Seminole Ridge presents a tough challenge with a stacked defense led by highly recruited defensive tackle Kyle Shortridge, defensive end Jason Shepherd (Bowling Green commit), linebacker Rayfield Dixon and senior defensive backs Mike Almonte and Omar Pierre-Louis.

The Hawks did not attempt a pass in a 31-7 win against Palm Beach Central but got 328 yards rushing combined from Silas Spearman, Pierre-Louis and E.J. Elien.

Seminole Ridge has won nine in a row after an 0-2 start.

But Cypress Bay has played a tough schedule that has prepared it for matchups like this and ones that lie ahead.

Andre’s pick: Cypress Bay 27, Seminole Ridge 17.

•  Region 4-7A final — Boyd Anderson (9-2) at St. Thomas Aquinas (10-2): The Cobras have been creating some of the biggest buzz of the playoffs after impressive back-to-back wins in Palm Beach County.

Following a 6-3 win against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, Boyd Anderson stands one win away from reaching the state semifinals for the first time in school history.

The Cobras have been led by their defense, which had four interceptions against Dwyer and limited the Panthers to only 63 rushing yards. They have only met Aquinas once in the playoffs — a 47-6 loss in this round in 2010.

The Raiders, however, have dominated this series, and have been playing shut-down defense of their own in recent weeks and have not allowed more than seven points in their past four games.

It wouldn’t be a shock if Boyd Anderson pulled off another road upset, but Aquinas has the experience in big home playoff games.

Andre’s pick: St. Thomas Aquinas 16, Boyd Anderson 7.

NOTE: All games scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Andre’s record — Last week: 2-2; Season: 218-64.

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