Central clearly has a squad capable of making it a Dade-record four consecutive seasons to the state finals and maybe winning a third championship in four years.
But in a wide open Dade region in Class 8A, could the county’s representative come from the far south for a change?
South Dade might just have the pieces to challenge for a trip to Orlando this season in its second season under coach Nate Hudson.
Several starters from a defense that allowed only 10.1 points per game last season return, and 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.
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.
1. Central: Former Northwestern coach Roland Smith returned to the sidelines to lead the school that used to be his rival. That’s about the only thing different with the Rockets, who should dominate Class 6A again.
2. Northwestern: Few teams face the brutal schedule the Bulls will in the regular season. If they survive it in good shape, expect another playoff season, but beating Central is not likely as long as those guys named Cook and Yearby are at Central.
3. Norland: It’s going to be a lot tougher for the Vikes to succeed in Class 6A.
4. South Dade: The sleeper among Class 8A state title contenders.
5. Columbus: Maybe a little less hype is just what the Explorers need to make another deep run in Class 8A.
6. Carol City: Former UM and UF assistant Aubrey Hill takes over what is still a talented squad, but locked in brutal District 16-6A.
7. Coral Reef: A lot of experience on the field and on the coaching staff. But will it translate to a playoff season?
8. Homestead: If only it wasn’t in District 16-6A. Wide receiver Ermon Lane is worth the price of admission, however.
9. Killian: Graduated a bunch, but has enough special players left to return to playoffs.
10. Coral Gables: Playoffs are likely, but Cavs are hoping record looks nicer than last year’s when they get there.
11. North Miami Beach: Chargers have enough to repeat as District 13-8A champs, but will they win in the playoffs?
12. Hialeah: T-Breds always have a lot of talent, but can they put together that elusive successful season.
13. Belen Jesuit: Moving to Class 8A was like winning the lottery. Now can the Wolverines take advantage?
14. American: Corey Bell’s squad looks like the clear favorite to win District 16-7A. But getting more than that not likely with Broward’s best waiting.
15. Southridge: New coach and a lot of players transferred, but still in one of the most talent-rich areas in southern Dade.
16. Palmetto: Might be able to move up in the district if Southridge really slips.
17. Southwest: Should still be a playoff team and challenge newcomer Belen in District 15-8A.
18. Reagan: After a 9-1 season as an independent, the Bison hope to push NMB and Hialeah for a chance at making the playoffs.
19. Dr. Krop: The Lightning was hit hard by graduation and player transfers, but coach David Hudson is one of the county’s best.
20. Miami Beach: The Hi-Tides moved up to Class 8A and could have another winning record, but Columbus and Gables may deny them a shot at the playoffs.
21. North Miami: The Pioneers came within a win last year of making the postseason for first time since 1999.
22. South Miami: The district got more crowded, but the Cobras should still be competitive with its best teams.
23. Varela: A veteran coaching staff should at least keep the Vipers in the upper half of District 15-8A.
24. Miami High: A new coach, Ivan Rosales, will try to turn around a program that was in the playoffs only three years ago.
25. Mater Academy: Mater might have enough weapons to slip into second place in District 16-7A.
26. Ferguson: Belen’s entry into the district and Southwest bringing back most of its team didn’t help the Falcons’ playoff hopes.
27. Mourning: After American, there’s a wide open race to claim District 16-7A’s second playoff spot. The Sharks might be the best candidate.
28. Braddock: Should rebound some after a tough 2012 season.
29. Westland Hialeah: And if Mourning and Mater both struggle, will Westland be the playoff team?
30. Miami Springs: Next in line in that district, the Golden Hawks.
31. Goleman: How about the Gators if they can get some big production out of their signature double-wing offense?
32. Hialeah-Miami Lakes: And then there’s HML trying to restore some semblance of the greatness it once had.
33. Coral Park: Need to average more than 14 points per game if they’re going to beat anybody.
34. Sunset: Knights alum Joey Petisco will get his alma mater back on the winning track.
35. Hialeah Gardens: If they could just get a win against someone.