In my opinion

Andre C. Fernandez: Booker T. Washington, Champagnat eye state titles

 
 
Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris, right, looks to lead the Tornadoes to a state championship and their first ever national championship with a win over Jacksonville Bolles on Saturday in Orlando.
Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris, right, looks to lead the Tornadoes to a state championship and their first ever national championship with a win over Jacksonville Bolles on Saturday in Orlando.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald Staff

a1fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

The No. 1-ranked team in the nation, and a four-year old program without a home field of its own, each has one more obstacle to overcome to become a state champion and complete undefeated seasons.

For Booker T. Washington, it means officially claiming the national championship prize it has had the inside track on since it beat Central back in Week 2.

For Champagnat Catholic, it’s completing a historic turnaround season and putting its program on the map statewide.

And those are only the compelling storylines in Orlando.

Back home, Central has to figure out life after Joseph Yearby and needing two wins to claim its second consecutive state title.

And South Dade, playing in the state semifinals for the first time, can add another accomplishment to what’s been a memorable season.

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 the game for the three quarters that its starters were in.

This week, Booker T. takes on Bolles and its state-record 11 state championships in 14 trips to the state finals.

But in this matchup, the Bulldogs’ great history likely will not do them much good.

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 and many of them have played key roles in putting Booker T. Washington in this position.

All I will 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.

What it must guard against is the awe factor of playing in a stadium like the Citrus Bowl and letting what’s at stake affect their play.

The Lions have shown remarkable depth for a small-school roster with guys stepping into key roles when they have suffered injuries such as Michael Frederick filling in for Frank Labady after he suffered a season-ending injury.

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.

Region 4-8A final — South Dade (12-1) vs. Palm Beach Gardens (9-4), 7:30 p.m., Friday, Harris Field: The Bucs have become experts at handling rough weather conditions first beating Killian and then Coral Gables in low-scoring, down-to-the-wire games.

The common factors have been defense and the solid running of Johnnie Hankins.

South Dade saw what Palm Beach Gardens did last week to Miramar forcing turnovers and capitalizing on mistakes. If the Bucs can avoid turnovers, they should be fine in what should be one of the most exciting atmospheres in recent memory at Harris Field.

Andre’s pick: South Dade 28, Palm Beach Gardens 24.

Region 4-6A final — Central (11-1) vs. Daytona Beach Mainland (12-1), 7:30 p.m., Friday, Traz Powell Stadium: Losing Joseph Yearby is a big setback for the Rockets, but not a crippling one.

You saw that with every motivated touchdown run Dalvin Cook had last week against an overmatched Heritage squad. Mainland won’t be that outclassed thanks to its stout defense and following a 13-game slate that has featured some of the state’s best.

But Central is too deep and determined to slip up one week before returning to Orlando.

Andre’s pick: Central 33, Mainland 14.

Andre’s record — Last week: 4-1; Season: 270-66.

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