South Florida, one of the country’s most tradition-rich areas for high school football, is getting close to what would be the area’s most successful season ever.
Thanks to impressive victories by some perennial powerhouses, a few unexpected upsets and other contenders vying for a first championship, Miami-Dade and Broward counties are close to sending the most teams they ever have to the state football finals.
Eight teams combined are still alive in either the state semifinal or championship rounds.
Three teams — Miami Booker T. Washington (Class 4A), Fort Lauderdale University School (Class 3A) and Miami Dade Christian (Class 2A) — will play for state championships this weekend starting Friday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
South Florida is guaranteed a fourth team when Miami Columbus and Weston Cypress Bay play Friday in a Class 8A state semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Cypress Bay.
The amount of participants already has equaled the record for South Florida in one season, set each of the past two seasons. The state expanded to eight classes in football in 2005.
But Dade and Broward teams could set the bar even higher this season.
If Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (Class 7A), Miami Central (Class 6A) and Miami Jackson (Class 5A) can win their state semifinal matchups Friday, it would give South Florida an unprecedented seven teams in the tournament and a chance to sweep the seven classifications in which its teams participate.
With that many participants, the counties would have a solid chance of surpassing the record of three state titles in one season, which was accomplished twice (2003 and 2007).
Two state titles are the most Dade County has won in a season (2003 and 2007).
Booker T. Washington and Dade Christian have an opportunity to tie the record for titles this weekend.
Dade Christian (12-0) is making its first appearance at state and is the county’s lone remaining undefeated team. The Crusaders take on tradition-rich Jacksonville University Christian, which has won six state titles, Friday at 1 p.m. in the Class 2A final.
Booker T. Washington (12-1), ranked No.20 nationally by MaxPreps, has overpowered its three playoff opponents by a combined score of 169-13. The Tornadoes are looking for redemption when they take on Jacksonville Bolles on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the Class 4A state final.
The game is a rematch of last year’s Class 4A final in which Bolles, a state-best 11-time champion, erased a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Booker T. 33-25.
Three teams are the most Dade has advanced to the tournament in a single season (2011), but it has three teams still alive in the semifinals capable of helping it breaking that mark.
Jackson (8-4) has been one of the biggest stories of the playoffs with wins over Plantation American Heritage, Miami Norland and Belle Glade Glades Central. The Generals will try to advance to state for the first time if they can beat Immokalee on Friday in a Class 5A state semifinal at Traz Powell Stadium.
Central (10-2) will try to advance to state for the third consecutive season, but will have to overcome a daunting opponent to get there. The Rockets play at undefeated Naples in a Class 6A state semifinal.
Columbus (9-4) has not advanced to state since 1982 but is in its second consecutive state semifinal. It faces Cypress Bay (11-2), which is in its second state semifinal in the past three seasons, but it has never advanced to the state finals.
Broward County has never had more than two state champions in a season.
University School (11-0), ranked No. 9 nationally by MaxPreps, will try to get its first when it faces Madison County in the Class 3A final Saturday at 1 p.m. The Suns lost a three-overtime heartbreaker 56-55 in the Class 2B final in 2010 against Ocala Trinity Catholic.
Cypress Bay can give Broward two state participants if it beats Columbus, but the major victory for the county would come Friday night in Fort Lauderdale if St. Thomas Aquinas can pull off the upset of the season.
The Raiders (11-2) host consensus national No. 1 Bradenton Manatee in a Class 7A state semifinal. Manatee has defeated its first three playoff opponents by a combined score of 172-19 and eliminated Aquinas from the playoffs in 2009 in Bradenton. That season, Aquinas was ranked No. 1 nationally.