In My Opinion

Larry Blustein: Just getting to state will be tough this year

 

CLASS 8A

NORTH: Apopka is the defending state champion. The Blue Darters return so many quality pieces from the puzzle that gave the school its second state title in 2012. But as good as this team is, you have some rather familiar faces that will present problems. Tampa Plant, Orlando Dr. Phillips, Jacksonville First Coast, Tarpon Springs East Lake and surprising Oviedo could make it tough for a return trip.

SOUTH: The competition to get to any football state title in Florida is always going to be competitive and filled with obstacles along the way. In this part of the state, you have at least six teams that could make a claim to be among the best, and while Miramar would figure to be the favorite, you also have to understand that Miami Killian, Homestead South Dade, Miami Columbus, Deerfield Beach and defending state runner-up Weston Cypress Bay can also boast talent and out standing coaching.

CLASS 7A

NORTH: Tallahassee Lincoln made a huge run at getting to the title game a year ago. While the Trojans are still one of the favorites, this region has gotten loaded with quality talent, and programs such as Lakeland, Lithia Newsome, Neptune Beach Fletcher, Haines City, Orlando Oak Ridge and Kissimmee Osceola figure to be in that mix as well.

SOUTH: There is little secret that if Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas isn’t playing for a state title, the season will not be what head coach Rocco Casullo and his staff have worked so hard for. The Raiders are the overwhelming favorites to defend their state title. Palm Beach Dwyer is always going to be a thorn, and Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson and Royal Palm Beach are competitive.

CLASS 6A

NORTH: Defending state runner-up Gainesville graduated several standout players, but remains a team that could present plenty of problems along the way. The Hurricanes are not alone in this journey. There are quality programs like Navarre, Lake City Columbia and Largo who all could make a serious run at Orlando.

SOUTH: If you are looking for a team to unseat Miami Central and block a record fourth straight trip to the title game, you may be looking for a long time. The Rockets might face the biggest challenge from district rival Miami Northwestern. Also, look for Naples, Hallandale and Fort Lauderdale Dillard.

CLASS 5A

NORTH: While many have started to really buy into what Tallahassee Godby did last season, and believe that this team has enough to repeat as champions, the road will start to get more competitive. Crawfordville Wakulla beat Godby last year, and Pensacola Catholic, Baker County, Green Cove Springs Clay and North Marion are much better.

SOUTH: Last season, Immokalee stepped in to ruin what could have been one of the most impressive runs by a Miami-Dade County program in a long while. Miami Jackson’s second-place district finish almost ended in a trip to state, but the dream fell short. Plantation American Heritage, Lake Wales, Palm Bay and Cape Coral Island Coast will be in contention.

CLASS 4A

NORTH: When looking at this area of the state, you have to focus on two programs who have been down this road before. Madison County, which finished as the 3A runner-up, will collide with 4A runner-up from last season Jacksonville Bolles. Those programs have battled for years.

SOUTH: There is no region in the state — at any level — that will usher out the quality this has. Defending state champion Miami Booker T. Washington will most likely see defending 3A state champion, Davie University School — and then Cocoa, which knows its way to the state title game.

CLASS 3A

NORTH: With Madison County moving up, this is a region that will become very competitive. Leading the way will be Jacksonville Trinity Christian is a program that is always in the mix.. Frostproof and Tampa Catholic also will provide a challenge.

SOUTH: When looking at this part of the region, your first thought would be power American Heritage Delray. The Stallions figure to be tested by Clearwater Central Catholic and surprisingly tough and competitive Miami Westminster Christian.

CLASS 2A

NORTH: There’s no reason to believe that defending state champion Jacksonville University Christian will not be back in the hunt. It is too big, quick and talent for most smaller programs. But Tallahassee North Florida Christian and South Daytona Warner Christian are on the horizon.

SOUTH: This region continued to get personal during the spring and summer when Champagnat Catholic continued to get high-profile athletes. Defending state runner-up Dade Christian Crusaders happens to be in the same district. Glades Day and Jupiter Christian also have a lot of talent.

CLASS 1A

NORTH: Defending state champion Bratt Northview is back and will be the favorite to head back to Orlando. The Chiefs will be tested by a number of programs like Blountstown, Chipley and Bristol Liberty County.

SOUTH: Things have really picked up with some quality programs such as Cross City Dixie County, Lake Butler Union County. Monticello Jefferson and Trenton could also make a solid run.

Read more Larry Blustein stories from the Miami Herald

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