In my opinion

Andre C. Fernandez: American Heritage is Broward’s last hope

 

a1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

It’s up to you, American Heritage.

You are Broward County’s last hope for a state football champion this season.

Not trying to put any added pressure on the Patriots, but after another group of Patriots in the southern part of the county suffered a shocking defeat last week, American Heritage must continue to play the same brand of balanced, dominant football to make sure Broward doesn’t get left out at states this year.

Except for probably Palm Beach Gardens’ players and coaches, no one expected an unbeaten and dominant nationally-ranked Miramar team to have its season come to a halt.

The Gators did a great job of forcing Miramar to make numerous uncharacteristic mistakes and turnovers leaving the Patriots stunned.

Miramar loses roughly 32 seniors so reloading for another state title run won’t be easy, and the Patriots have to believe they wasted a golden opportunity to add a second state title to a program known for its consistency.

And then there’s St. Thomas Aquinas, who battled Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer to the bitter end of a 35-28 loss that denied the Raiders a chance at getting a step closer to an eighth state title.

Aquinas suffered a number of injuries late in the season and saw what began as a promising year end sour with three tough losses.

So for American Heritage and arguably its most talented roster ever, you are now carrying the mantle for Broward County.

I have a feeling the Patriots can handle it.

Class 5A state semifinal — American Heritage (12-1) at Lake Wales (9-4), 7:30 p.m., Friday: For starters, Heritage has faced one of the toughest schedules in the state this season.

After falling to Central in week 1 (no shame in losing to the team many believe is the second-best or even just as good as national No. 1 Miami Booker T. Washington), the Patriots have won 12 in a row. The victories include wins against Daytona Beach Mainland and Jacksonville Bolles — both of which are still playing this week — and road wins at Lakeland Kathleen and Immokalee.

American Heritage’s talented team has complemented one of the best running backs in the nation in Sony Michel, who has played his two best games of the season in the playoffs.

Michel has run for more than 200 yards in the Patriots’ wins against Wauchula Hardee and Immokalee and is starting to look like that special player that carries teams to state titles like we’ve seen in past.

Michel doesn’t have to do much single-handedly, however. And that’s why I believe American Heritage won’t falter one win away from its first trip to state since 1998.

Andre’s pick: American Heritage 37, Lake Wales 17.

OTHER STATE FINALS

Class 4A state championship — Booker T. (13-0) vs. Jacksonville Bolles (10-3), 7 p.m., Saturday, Citrus Bowl (Orlando): The Tornadoes are completely focused on the task of winning their first national title.

Booker T. never gave Cocoa a chance jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and completely dominating for the three quarters that its starters were in.

Last season, Booker T. handed Bolles its worst loss ever at state 35-7.

The Tornadoes returned approximately 40 players from that team this season.

All I’ll say is, the Tornadoes won’t slip up so close to the finish line.

Andre’s pick: Booker T. Washington 42, Jacksonville Bolles 14.

Class 2A state championship — Champagnat Catholic (13-0) vs. Lakeland Victory Christian (10-3), 1 p.m., Friday, Citrus Bowl (Orlando): The Lions have led a nomadic existence traveling from site to site to play games this season.

The positive side is that well-traveled Champagnat shouldn’t be fazed by the prospect of another road trip.

Champagnat’s defense will need to play a key role as it contends with talented 6-4 quarterback Caleb Lewis and a potent Victory Christian offense.

The Storm also has 6-3, 290-pound Chris Nelson, a Louisville commitment, anchoring both lines.

Champagnat and its nine overall FBS school prospects should have the overall talent edge, but the Lions must have a good start on this stage in order to make sure they are celebrating three hours after kickoff.

Andre’s pick: Champagnat Catholic 22, Lakeland Victory Christian 21.

Andre’s record — Last week: 2-1; Season: 237-64.

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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