Carol City and Northwestern each had a part in ending Miami Central’s record-breaking run of six consecutive appearances at the state finals.
They now turn their attention this week to beating each other in what could be the first of two meetings this season much like each had done against Central in recent years.
With the Rockets out of the way, two of South Florida’s traditional powerhouses have a great opportunity to become a state champion again.
One of them will take the first step on Saturday.
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4. CAROL CITY (4-2) VS. 5. NORTHWESTERN (7-1), 7, SATURDAY, TRAZ: This one has all the makings of a dream matchup as each team’s strengths are very similar.
Each team can run the football prolifically as Northwestern has put a major charge into its running game with Kai Henry and Carol City’s Nayquan Wright has proven to be one of the state’s most explosive backs.
Each team can play a punishing style of defense that can harass an opposing quarterback into game-clinching mistakes.
And each side has dynamic junior quarterbacks with Northwestern’s three-year starter, Chatarius "Tutu" Atwell and Carol City’s Marlon "Magic" Smith.
Atwell’s ability to make plays with his arm and speed has been at the heart of the Bulls’ progression back to contender status.
Smith, a youth football star, has energized the Chiefs’ offense since his teammates and coaches convinced him to come back to the team at the start of the season.
One of those coaches, Carol City defensive coordinator and associate head coach Damon Cogdell, has been even more important for the Chiefs’ defense.
Cogdell, the former coach at Miramar, who led the Patriots to a state championship in 2009 and a state runner-up finish in 2011, has brought the same aggressive scheme and mentality of those teams to Carol City.
It has paid off as the Chiefs have not allowed more than 16 points in a game this season and have held opponents to seven points or less during their four-game winning streak.
Success against Northwestern’s running game will be one of the keys for the Chiefs as would be Smith’s ability to throw to his talented receivers such as Kevaughn Dingle and Victor Tucker to mention a few.
The Bulls’ defense has been susceptible at times to the passing game, and this could give a slight edge to the Chiefs in round 1 of this two-game series.
Andre’s pick: Carol City 14, Northwestern 13.
3. CORAL GABLES (7-0) VS. 17. COLUMBUS (5-3), 7:30, THURSDAY, TROPICAL: These two have made it annual tradition over the past five years to face each other for a district championship in late October and in a second-round playoff game in November.
Unless something drastic changes, we’re likely headed that route for the fifth consecutive season.
The Cavaliers have put together the best regular season record of any Dade team over the past two seasons, having won their past 19 games.
But playoff success has been halted each of those seasons by Columbus.
And the Explorers are still quite capable of doing the same this season.
Columbus leads the series over the past four seasons 5-3 and on defense is still very tough to run the ball against. And the Explorers can disrupt opposing quarterbacks effectively.
But Gables has been one of the tougher teams this season on defense.
If it can put consistent pressure on the quarterback, look for the Cavaliers to gain the advantage in this one.
What worries me about Gables is it has not been challenged since its big opening week win against a Carol City team that has since looked much better than it did that night in defeat.
Will that come back to bite the Cavaliers against a Columbus squad eager to prove it can still contend for the Class 8A state championship?
Andre’s pick: Coral Gables 17, Columbus 14.