In my opinion | Andre Fernandez

Jackson and American Heritage face off in key matchup

 

A1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

7. A. HERITAGE (4-1)

vs. 8. JACKSON (3-1)

7:30 p.m., Friday, Curtis.

The first big game in the chase not only for the District 16-5A title, but also maybe the chance to reach the state finals in Class 5A is here.

American Heritage has had two promising seasons in a row ended abruptly by Jackson. The one that hurt the most came last season when the Patriots took a 9-1 record into that first-round game thinking they were about to make a deep playoff push.

Jackson quarterback Quinton Flowers instead put on an aerial display that sparked the Generals’ own run to the state semifinals.

This season, both teams have become more balanced and more dangerous on both sides of the ball, with each hoping to upend the other on its way to a potential state title.

American Heritage has started Brandon Vicens at quarterback the past two games since Torrance Gibson was injured in the Patriots’ win against Columbus on Sept. 12.

Although its offensive output has gone down, Heritage has won its past two games against Chaminade-Madonna and Daytona Beach Mainland with its defense shutting out both.

In this game, look for Jackson’s defense, which has become a more physical and athletic unit this season, attempting to disrupt Heritage early and contain Sony Michel. And with Heritage’s recent offensive struggles, that might be possible.

Prediction: Jackson 16, American Heritage 14.

LA SALLE (5-0)

AT WEST. ACADEMY (5-0)

7 p.m., Friday.

The only game pitting undefeated teams this week doesn’t involve nationally ranked teams.

You can find it in a showdown between the top two teams in the independent Southeastern Football Conference’s Southern division.

Both teams are tied atop the division and vying for a top spot in the conference’s playoffs in a month.

Many expected Westminster Academy to be in this position with one of most talented squads in recent memory.

La Salle has persevered behind a few key returning starters and scored some key wins in recent weeks.

Both teams have explosive offenses and figure to make this an entertaining contest.

Running back Spencer Saliba, receiver Andrew James and quarterback Joe Vairo have led Westminster Academy to an average of 35 points per game so far. Quarterback Joey McCain and Emmanuel Readon have helped the Royal Lions average more than 30 points per game, too.

Westminster’s opportunistic defense may make the slight difference in this one.

Prediction: Westminster 34, La Salle 27.

TARAVELLA (2-2)

AT DEERFIELD BEACH (4-0)

7 p.m., Friday.

Deerfield Beach didn’t play its best game last week against Coral Springs. But even without tailback Aaron McNeal, the Bucks showed what an explosive weapon they have in senior Brandon Powell.

A 200-yard, two-touchdown effort helped the Bucks remain undefeated and earned another district victory despite the slow start.

This is the first pivotal game for Deerfield in its quest to win District 11-8A. The Bucks enter the week tied with Taravella and undefeated Monarch at the top of the district.

The winner of this game puts itself in good shape to make the playoffs even before facing Monarch.

Taravella still has a couple of dynamic players on offense such as junior Jawanza Evans-Morris and senior Semar Smith, but expect the Bucks to eventually take control of this game with their depth and a few more big runs by Powell.

Prediction: Deerfield Beach 32, Taravella 14.

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