Broward Countys defending state champions St. Thomas Aquinas and University School dont appear as invincible as they did a year ago.
Instead, Miramar and Deerfield Beach are the only Broward teams to survive the regular season unscathed.
Victories this week would pit the two against each other on the road to state in Class 8A. That wide-open region and Aquinas and University Schools repeat bids are two of the compelling story lines as the playoffs begin this week.
• Region 3-8A quarterfinal 8. Flanagan (9-1) at 4. Deerfield Beach (10-0): Deerfield Beach scored its biggest win in five seasons last week, rallying to beat Aquinas despite rough conditions at its home stadium. The Bucks home field resembled the state of their team before alumnus Allen Jackson took over and slowly brought his team back to real contention.
Brandon Powell, Aeron McNeal, Justin Morgan, Jason Strowbridge and the rest of the Bucks standouts have a good chance to make some noise in the playoffs.
Flanagan presents a big challenge to Deerfields momentum.
The Falcons have one of the most potent offenses in South Florida, led by quarterback Ryan Stanley, and are capable of pulling off a road win in their playoff debut. This is arguably the best opening-round matchup in Broward, and Deerfields experience in the postseason and handling the elements gives it a slight edge. Prediction: Deerfield Beach 27, Flanagan 24.
• Region 3-8A quarterfinal 19. Monarch (8-2) at 3. Miramar (10-0): Behind solid playmakers on offense, the Knights earned their first trip to the playoffs. Their reward is taking on the favorite to make it to Orlando in Class 8A.
Monarch has put up plenty of points this season but has not faced a defense as tough as Miramars. Expect a close one for a little bit, but Miramar will hold the line long enough until its own offense gets going. Prediction: Miramar 27, Monarch 10.
• Region 4-7A quarterfinal West Boca Raton (7-3) at Blanche Ely (5-5): Ely had appeared to be resurgent in recent weeks. A 50-0 rout of Dillard opened up some eyes locally. How much better are the Tigers compared with the start of the season when they were 0-4? Im going to say good enough to survive one more week. Prediction: Blanche Ely 28, West Boca Raton 27.
• Region 4-7A quarterfinal Boyd Anderson (2-8) at Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (10-0): The Cobras just went through one of their worst seasons in some time. Dwyer is undefeated going into the playoffs for the first time ever. What do you think is going to happen? Prediction: Dwyer 48, Boyd Anderson 6.
• Region 4-7A quarterfinal Miami Springs (7-3) at 6. St. Thomas Aquinas (8-2): Coach Darryel Bethune and his staff have done a great job turning Springs around and clinching first postseason trip since 1995. Unfortunately, things could get uglier with a motivated Aquinas coming off a loss. Prediction: St. Thomas 50, Miami Springs 7.
Region 4-7A quarterfinal at Milander Park 10. Plantation (7-2) vs. American (6-4): These two meet for the second consecutive season in this round. Plantation won last years meeting. Colonels quarterback Chris Lammons has done it all for them this season on offense. And if he does it one more time, it should be enough to get past a much-improved American squad. Prediction: Plantation 28, American 21.
• Region 4-6A quarterfinal 12. Carol City (7-3) at Dillard (7-3): Not sure what to make of Dillard at this point. The 0-2 start followed by the seven-game winning streak followed by a 50-0 loss to Ely. Either way, Carol City and quarterback Trayone Gray may end up being the real story in this matchup. Prediction: Carol City 26, Dillard 24.
• Region 4-5A quarterfinal Naples Lely (4-6) at 5. American Heritage (9-1): This is arguably the best American Heritage team ever. It used to be the Sony Michel show for the Patriots. Its an ensemble cast now, and thats the ticket to start a state championship run. Prediction: American Heritage 44, Lely 3.
• Region 4-5A quarterfinal 18. Cardinal Gibbons (8-2) at Immokalee (8-2): Tough prospect facing Immokalee on the road got tougher as soon as quarterback Peyton Bender went down with an injury. Prediction: Immokalee 27, Cardinal Gibbons 14.
• Region 4-4A semifinal at Nova Gulliver (7-3) vs. 7. University School (8-2): University has very little time to recover and get ready for Booker T. Washington in Round 2. But the Suns will make it happen against a solid Gulliver squad. Prediction: University School 34, Gulliver 14.
• Region 4-3A semifinal Chaminade-Madonna (2-6) at West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman (7-3): Tough season for Chaminade ends with a road loss. Prediction: Cardinal Newman 34, Chaminade 17.
Andres record Last week: 13-4; Season: 215-60.
NOTE: All games Friday at 7:30 p.m.