The debate has already begun as to who the best high school football teams in South Florida will be in 2013.
The Miami Herald has begun unveiling its first official South Florida Top 20 poll of the season.
We move into the top 10 with Nos. 10 through 6:
10. Norland (9-3)
Outlook: Nearly two years removed from its undefeated state championship season, the Vikings move to Class 6A and the state’s toughest district. Norland will barely have a break in a schedule that includes three defending state champions (Central, Booker T. and University) as well as Georgia power Stephenson, Northwestern, Jackson, Homestead and Carol City.
Norland’s offense, which returns eight starters, lost a key cog when running back Lakeith Stafford transferred to Northwestern. But the Vikings still have one of the county’s most promising receivers in Kendrick Edwards and senior quarterback Taron James, who gained experience late in the season during Norland’s run to the second round of the playoffs in Class 5A last season.
If the Vikings are to challenge for a playoff berth, they can’t afford any injuries and need their defense to continue to be as stingy as it has in recent years.
Senior linebacker Dreshawn Dean and defensive back Xavier Francis will anchor that unit. Senior linebacker Official Coffy, a transfer from North Miami, should bolster the lineup as well.
Key games: Sept. 7, University; Sept. 11, Jackson; Oct. 4, Northwestern; Oct. 11, Central; Oct. 24, Booker T.; Nov. 8, Carol City.
9. Deerfield Beach (5-5)
Outlook: This could be Broward County’s most improved team this season.
Led by senior running back Brandon Powell, a University of Miami commitment, the Bucks have 14 starters back on a squad that could make a run to Orlando in Class 8A. Senior quarterback Danarious Graham, one of the best players in Broward at the position, transferred from Blanche Ely and leads an explosive group that should be better than the one that led Deerfield Beach to the first round of the playoffs in 2012.
The Bucks will play Ely and St. Thomas Aquinas outside of its eight-team District 11-8A slate, and enters the season as the favorite to win the division.
Key games: Sept. 7, at Blanche Ely; Oct. 4, Taravella; Nov. 8, St. Thomas Aquinas.
8. American Heritage (9-2)
Outlook: Back-to-back promising seasons have been marred by first-round playoff exits courtesy of Miami Jackson.
Enter former University of Miami standout defensive back Mike Rumph as the team’s new coach replacing former Miami Dolphin Jeff Dellenbach. Rumph’s squad moved into a new district that includes Jackson as well as Cardinal Gibbons and Key West.
The key to any success starts with running back Sony Michel, now a University of Georgia commitment entering his fifth season of varsity football. Michel and senior Isaiah McKenzie are two of the most explosive players in the state and should make Torrance Gibson’s transition into the starting quarterback role smooth for an offense that averaged 45.7 points per game last year.
With more openings on its non-district schedule, American Heritage added Miami Central, American Heritage-Delray, Columbus and a home date with Jacksonville Bolles.
The Patriots hope the schedule will prepare them for what they hope will be a deeper postseason run.
Key games: Aug. 30, Central; Sept. 6, AHS-Delray; Sept. 12, Columbus; Oct. 4, Jackson; Oct. 11, Bolles; Nov. 1, Cardinal Gibbons.