The debate has already begun as to who the best high school football teams in South Florida will be in 2013.
Miami Central and Miami Booker T. Washington have been ranked the country’s top two teams by a few national polls.
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and Fort Lauderdale University are also nationally-ranked.
Over the next couple of weeks leading up to the start of the regular season, The Miami Herald will be unveiling its first official South Florida Top 20 poll of the season.
We continue with Nos. 15 through 11:
15. Plantation (8-3 last season)
Outlook: Chris Lammons, who committed to the University of Florida on Monday, leads an offense that returns six starters and should have enough firepower to contend with St. Thomas Aquinas in District 15-7A. The Colonels lost a close game against the Raiders in the regular season before suffering a more lopsided 38-7 defeat in the playoffs.
Lammons and FBS talent Ravian Pierce, a 6-4, 210-pound tight end, will have to carry the load to help a young defense that lost seven starters gain experience playing a tough schedule that includes Dillard, Miramar and Aquinas.
Key games: Aug. 30, Dillard; Sept. 12, Miramar; Nov. 1, St. Thomas; Nov. 8, South Plantation.
14. Columbus (9-5)
Outlook: The Explorers are coming off back-to-back state semifinal appearances in Class 8A. Getting that far a third year in a row won’t be easy following the graduation of numerous key performers especially on offense where Columbus lost the talented trio of Lorenzo Woodley, Daryl Chestnut and Jesus Wilson.
But if junior quarterback Tucker Beirne, entering his second season as the starter, continues to improve and senior Oshton Armstrong can carry the load in the running game, the Explorers could find themselves in contention for a trip to Orlando.
Senior defensive end/linebacker Nick McBeath, an FIU commitment, anchors a defense that should still be solid enough to slow down opponents.
Columbus is the favorite to win another district title in 14-8A, but the health and progress of its new leaders on offense and defense will dictate how far they get in this year’s playoffs.
Key games: Aug. 30, S. Dade; Sept. 7, Belen; Sept. 12, American Heritage; Sept. 20, Gables.
13. South Dade (10-2)
Outlook: After missing the playoffs in 2011, the Bucs made a grand return last season by winning the District 16-8A title in their first season under coach Nate Hudson.
South Dade just might have the pieces to take it a step further this season and challenge for a trip to Orlando.
Several starters from a defense that allowed only 10.1 points per game last season return, but it’s on offense where South Dade might separate from the rest of the pack of Class 8A Dade teams.
The Bucs should have one of the most explosive offenses in the county led by receivers Tyree Brady, C.J. Worton and all-around athlete Antwan Cordy, who will also give the Bucs a game-changer on defense and special teams.
Quarterback Khalil Render is a talented option in a backfield that will also include running back transfer Johnnie Hankins. An early test against Columbus in week 1 could give a glimpse as to whether the Bucs are ready to contend with the Explorers and Broward County’s best for a trip to state.
Key games: Aug. 30, Columbus; Oct. 26, Killian; Nov. 2, Coral Reef; Nov. 8, Homestead.
12. Cypress Bay (12-3)
Outlook: The Lightning came up on the short end of one of the most memorable, albeit a bit controversial, state championship games ever losing 53-50 to Apopka last season.
Cypress Bay lost numerous seniors from that team, but hung on to veteran coach Mark Guandolo and is still one of the top contenders to make it to the Citrus Bowl.
On defense, the Lightning should still be as stingy as last season with key players such as senior defensive backs Marquese Dudley-Gordon and Deion Hallmon, senior linebacker Keyon Auguste and senior lineman Justin Rae.
On offense, senior wide receiver Kadeem Goulborne is an FBS prospect, but quarterback and running back is where new leaders need to emerge if Cypress Bay is to challenge Miramar and Deerfield Beach for a return trip to state.
Key games: Sept. 6, Boyd Anderson; Sept. 12, University; Oct. 18, St. Thomas; Oct. 25, Miramar.
11. Boyd Anderson (9-3)
Outlook: Coach Wayne Blair’s squad put together one of the school’s most memorable postseason runs last year before losing in the regional final round against eventual Class 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Cobras lost several key players in its group of 25 graduations seniors, but has several players able to step up and keep them in contention.
Senior receivers/defensive backs Derrick Tindal and David Senior are explosive options on both offense and defense, while Jakeem Howard and Roger Joseph should keep the offensive line strong even after graduating Sandley Jean-Felix.
The Cobras have a tough schedule that should prepare them for a run at the District 14-7A title and, should they win it, potential playoff rematches with Dwyer and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Key games: Aug. 30, Homestead; Sept. 6, Cypress Bay; Sept. 27, University; Oct. 4, Northeast; Oct. 18, Blanche Ely.