Broward County teams have had long-standing success in flag football with Miramar and Fort Lauderdale winning state titles in the past.
In the first season where Miami-Dade County public schools were allowed to participate in the state series, it didn’t take long for its top teams to make an impact and add to the sport’s growth in South Florida.
Monsignor Pace put the county on the radar statewide with a trip to the state tournament in 2013.
Last season the area’s depth showed with Hialeah reaching the state final four in Class 2A and Miami Edison coming within one victory of doing the same in Class 1A.
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Both squads return enough talent to push further this season.
Except for two seniors, Hialeah returns its top players including senior Jakeira Betties, who accounted for 2,168 total yards and 34 touchdowns last season. She will be joined by senior Diamond Celestine and sophomore Brianna Sweeting.
Edison reached the regional finals before falling 7-0 to Coconut Creek.
The Red Raiders are hoping to take the next step this season with one of the deepest squads in South Florida.
Senior quarterback/free safety Jaquala Brown (1,010 passing yards, 22 TDs, 6 INTs) leads the squad. Brown will have a talented array of targets to distribute the football to including juniors Irenna Hines and Destiny Doughty, sophomore Charkeria Cooper and senior Brittany Julius.
Hines, who had 12 sacks, 1,062 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns, leads Edison on the defensive side.
Pace, which returns several starters including seniors Simi Olowodola and Starla Labady, figures to challenge Edison as well as Miami Jackson, another much improved team in the region.
Coconut Creek, a state semifinalist last season, returns several starters and will also challenge for a return trip to state in Class 1A.
Hialeah appears to be Dade’s top team in Class 2A, but will be pushed by several other contenders including Miami High, which won the inaugural GMAC tournament last year.
Everglades, Piper and Western are among Broward’s best contenders in the class. Western is led by sophomore quarterback Samantha Ford, one of the area’s most prolific passers.
This week: Season begins; April 24-27: GMAC championship; May 1-4: Districts; May 12: Regional semifinals; May 16: Regional finals; May 19-20: State tournament (site TBA).
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 2A: Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge; Class 1A: Tampa Robinson.
TOP 10 TEAMS
1. Edison; 2. Hialeah; 3. Monsignor Pace; 4. Jackson; 5. Miami High; 6. Everglades; 7. Coconut Creek; 8. Ferguson; 9. Piper; 10. Western.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
QB-S-R Jakeira Betties, Hialeah, Sr.; QB-FS Jaquala Brown, Edison, Sr.; WR-S Diamond Celestine, Hialeah, Sr.; RB-DB Melanie Chiquillo, Mater Academy, 8th; RB-LB Charkeria Cooper, Edison, So.; WR-LB Destiny Doughty, Edison, Jr.; QB Samantha Ford, Western, So.; WR-CB Anari Dozier, Coconut Creek, Jr.; LB Samantha Ganoza, Ferguson, Sr.; QB-S Rayven Gatewood, Somerset Charter, Sr.; QB Angelica Gutierrez, North Miami, Sr.; RB-R Irenna Hines, Edison, Jr.; WR-DB Brittany Julius, Edison, Sr.; C-LB Starla Labady, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; ATH Jahneal Morgan, Pines Charter, So.; WR-DB Simi Olowodola, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; WR-DB Geraldine Seide, Norland, Jr.; WR-DB Brianna Sweeting, Hialeah, So.; LB-WR Karla Vargas, Mater Academy, So.; FS-P Savannah Ward, Ferguson, Sr.
BROWARD TEAM-BY-TEAM OUTLOOKS
COOPER CITY (Coach Al DiLiello, 2nd year, 8-4). Last year: 8-4. Top players: QB Caitlin Dunn, Sr.; LB Katie Slinkowski, Sr.; WR-LB Gayla Vicnansky, So.; RB Ashley Devito, Sr.; WR-LB Juliette Polanco, Jr.; C-LB Sammy Stofsky, Sr.
CYPRESS BAY (Coach Howie Schrager, 3rd year, 8-5). Last year: 8-5. Top players: R Aaliyah Perez, So.; QB Kelcey Maldonado, Sr.; LB Candela Kobylinski, So.; WR Kaya Alim, Jr.
FLANAGAN (Coach Jeff Uchin, 1st year at FL, 2nd overall, 4-4). Last year: N/A. Top players: WR-LB Deja Batista, Sr.; WR Tatiana Alvarado, Jr.; LB Yoyarny Roberty, So.; R Coi Lewis, Sr.; QB Athena Janero, Fr.; DL Jada Grant, Sr.
NORTHEAST (Coach Nick Dellaria, 1st year at NE, 8th overall). Last year: N/A. Top players: WR-S Chloe Gillings, Jr.; WR-RB-DB Tatiana McNally, So.; WR-LB Dariana Giannelli, So.; RB-C-LB Alicia Dacres, Sr.; QB-DB Shaniqua Harrell, Fr.
PEMBROKE PINES CHARTER (Coach Keidran Willis, 1st year at PPC, 8th overall, 57-23). Last year: N/A. Top players: ATH Jahneal Morgan, So.; QB-DB Christine Alayon, Sr.; ATH Ashlynn Correa, Jr.; ATH Aryiel Bryant, Fr.; WR-DB Jonise Miller, Fr.; WR-LB Emily Morejon, Fr.
POMPANO BEACH (Coach Johnathan Firth, 3rd year, 1-17). Last year: 1-9. Top players: WR-CB-QB Kayla Bryant, Sr.; WR Ty’Anna Stevenson, Sr.; RB Renee Innocent, Sr.; WR Melanie Chacon, Sr.; LB Stephanie Chiquiza, Sr.; S-WR Destiny Farrell, Sr.
WESTERN (Coach James O’Brien, 7th year, 46-22). Last year: 11-1. Top players: QB Samantha Ford, So.; WR Mikayla Villoldo, Jr.; WR Maxi Malvita, Sr.; LB Danyelle Besancon, Jr.; LB-R Elle Berbesi, Jr.; R Aliyah Idowu, Fr.
MIAMI-DADE TEAM-BY-TEAM OUTLOOKS
BRADDOCK (Coach Jorge Server, 2nd year, 1-6). Last year: 1-6. Top players: R-RB-WR Sofi-Nicole Barreiro, Sr.; QB-RB-WR Ruby Lopez, So.; QB Katrina Hernandez, So.; CB-WR Daylenis Clavijo, Jr.; S-WR Sasha Sanchez, Jr.; WR Kayla Alvarez, So.
CORAL GABLES (Coach Frank Welsh). Last year: 4-2. Top players: QB-DB Desnee Johnson, Jr.; RB-R Mabell Espinoza, Jr.; LB Echantae Brown, Sr.; L-WR Gabriela Morales, Jr.; ATH Natalie Puntonet, Fr.; LB Yoselin Franco, Jr.
EDISON (Coach Vincent Hall, 2nd year, 11-1). Last year: 11-1 (Regional finalist). Top players: QB-FS Jaquala Brown, Sr.; RB-R Irenna Hines, Jr.; RB-LB Charkeria Cooper, So.; WR-DB Brittany Julius, Sr.; WR-LB Destiny Doughty, Jr.; RB-DB Nikesha Pierre, Jr.; WR-DB Ruth Raymond, Sr.
FERGUSON (Coach Jayson Malkin, 2nd year, 11-2). Last year: 11-2 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: FS-P Savannah Ward, Sr.; DL-OL Samantha Ganoza, Sr.; DL Camila Castro, Sr.; WR-LB Ashley Siles, Jr.; WR Tatiana Diaz, Sr.; DB-RB-WR Ashley Acevedo, Jr.
HIALEAH (Coach Denoff Johnson, 2nd year, 8-3). Last year: 8-3 (State semifinalist). Top players: QB-S-R Jakeira Betties, Sr.; WR-DB Brianna Sweeting, So.; WR-S Diamond Celestine, Sr.; LB Dania Franco, Sr.
HIALEAH GARDENS (Coach James Bryant, 1st year). Last year: 5-5. Top players: DB-WR Brandy Arellana, Sr.; QB-LB Danaisy Abascal, So.
MATER ACADEMY (Coach Luis Sanchez, 7th year, 56-20). Last year: 9-4. Top players: RB-DB Melanie Chiquillo, 8th; LB-WR Karla Vargas, So.; LB-WR Emily Tercero, Jr.; RB Cindy Aragon, Sr.; QB Danielle Edinger, Jr.; DB-WR Daniela Ortega, So.
MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach John Rodriguez, 12th year, 101-18). Last year: 13-1 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: WR-DB Simi Olowodola, Sr.; C-LB Starla Dabady, Sr.; R Jaesha Morley, Sr.; RB-LB Etini Mendy, Sr.; LB Ketshia Robillard, Sr.; DL Lindiana Blanc, So.
VARELA (Coach Patrick Ledan, 2nd year, 6-3). Last year: 6-3. Top players: QB Natasha Polanco, Sr.; WR-R Denise Quesada, So.; CB-WR Amanda Camara, So.; R-LB Valentina Valbuena, Sr.; LB Brisa Del-Rio, So.; WR Cindy Montoya, So.
NOTE: Schools not listed did not return outlook forms to The Miami Herald.