1. CENTRAL AT
8. AMERICAN HERITAGE
7:30 p.m., Friday.
If youre a fan of football and speed, show up to American Heritage on Friday night.
Just seeing Centrals Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby dueling with American Heritage back Sony Michel and the Patriots all-around athlete Isaiah McKenzie is worth buying the ticket.
Cook and Yearby are two of the most amazing athletes ever to play in Miami-Dade County.
Michel is arguably the best ever in Broward County, and hes determined to lead a hungry Patriots squad to its first state championship.
This could be the toughest obstacle for American Heritage and the first of several that should prepare it for the road to Orlando.
Central, which entered the week ranked No. 1 nationally by Rivals.com, has advanced to state three consecutive seasons and won state titles in two of the past three years.
Cook and Yearby have been at the heart of most of that run together and complement each other both on offense and sometimes on defense, contributing in Centrals secondary.
The Rockets offense has the potential to put up impressive numbers this season, as it demonstrated by blowing out Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer 44-13 last week in a preseason classic. The defense that steps up and contains the other just enough will win.
Centrals defensive front is a little younger, but nonetheless backed up by one of the best secondaries units in the country, led by Deatrick Nichols, Jonathan Harris and Calvin Brewton.
American Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson will face one of his toughest challenges of the season in this game. Figure Central to find ways to put more pressure on Heritage as the game progresses and force turnovers.
If the Rockets do that, they can pull away in a good early season test for both squads.
Pick: Central 35, American Heritage 24.
14. COLUMBUS VS.
13. SOUTH DADE
7:30 p.m., Friday, Harris.
A Round 3 playoff preview already? Believe it.
The twist in this one if youve followed both schools closely in recent years is South Dade is the favorite.
South Dade returns several standouts from last years second-round playoff team and added a few pieces to make the Bucs a contender for the Class 8A state championship.
The Bucs offense is loaded with talent, such as running back Johnnie Hankins, quarterback Kahlil Render and receivers Tyre Brady and C.J. Worton, to name a few.
On defense, its a solid squad that can disrupt most offenses.
Columbus is still a solid contender with a talented backfield and an improving defense.
But at times, the starting offense struggled last week in a preseason loss to Plantation, one of Browards better teams.
Should the Explorers struggle again, South Dade will likely make them pay for mistakes.
Although both teams could find themselves in different shape in November, this is a good early indicator of who could have the edge in the race to represent Dade in the 8A state semifinals this year.
Pick: South Dade 24, Columbus 17.
NORTH MIAMI BEACH
VS. 6. JACKSON
7 p.m., Thurs., Traz.
Jackson took a little bit to get going against Coral Gables last week.
Once the Generals did, quarterback Quinton Flowers and Co. showed everyone why they are being considered state-title contenders in Class 5A.
Jackson has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and faces a tough schedule that begins this week with the Chargers.
NMB won its district last year but was left with a sour feeling when it was eliminated from the playoffs by Coral Gables in the first round.
A core group that has been together for at least three years should keep the Chargers in contention to repeat in District 13-8A and hang with the Generals in this game.
But Flowers is that game-changing player who will give Jackson the edge in many games this season.
Pick: Jackson 20, NMB 12.