Broward County teams brought home a healthy sum of state championships in another stellar sports season.
A total of 20 titles — led by St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage winning six each — highlighted a year that had plenty of dramatic moments and some new teams that may have taken the first steps toward contending for state championships next season.
In an otherwise topsy-turvy season that saw rising contenders in football such as Deerfield Beach and Flanagan push powerhouse Miramar, the Patriots survived the first two rounds only to be shocked in the regional finals by Palm Beach Gardens.
Aquinas also fell in the same round in Class 7A.
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American Heritage, a school that had suffered its own early-round failures in previous seasons, broke through to win its first state football title led by a talented group that became one of the most dominant in the postseason.
The Patriots capped it with a 66-8 rout over Green Cove Springs Clay in a Class 5A championship game that was over after the first couple of plays.
The win set the tone for a very successful season in which Heritage also won state titles in girls’ golf, boys’ swimming and diving, girls’ soccer, boys’ basketball and softball.
The latter would prove the most dramatic as the Patriots would upset nationally-ranked and then-undefeated Ponte Vedra in the state softball semifinals and later rally from a 10-2 deficit in the state final against Belleview to win a 11-10 walk-off.
Meanwhile, Aquinas continued to add to its athletic program’s championship total by extending its dominance in cross-country in a sweep of the boys’ and girls’ titles in Tallahassee.
The Raiders followed suit in track and field, proving themselves the best of the best in those sports this season.
St. Thomas also triumphed once again in girls’ soccer, winning the Class 5A crown one season after falling short in the regional finals.
In softball, Aquinas proved to be the top team in South Florida throughout the season and won its second consecutive state title. But one of its most impressive moments was winning the inaugural BCAA tournament championship over Cooper City despite missing eight key seniors that were attending the school prom.
• Led by one of the most talented rosters in the nation, the Sagemont boys’ basketball team went undefeated and won the Class 3A state championship. Arguably the Lions’ most impressive performance came in the state semifinals when they outplayed fellow national power Jacksonville Providence to a 78-59 win in a game that solidified their national status.
• Two of the state’s longest running dynasties ended coincidentally at the same school.
Dillard girls’ basketball team withstood a tough season in which it didn’t even win its district to advance to the regional finals. But the Panthers bid for a fifth consecutive state title ended in Rockledge.
Three months later, Archbishop McCarthy’s baseball team (also winners of four consecutive state titles) appeared to be ready to cruise to a fifth championship in a row. An extra-inning loss to Rockledge ended those hopes and spoiled what had been a remarkable postseason by Mavericks ace pitcher Brian Gonzalez.
• Although no Broward team won a baseball state title, North Broward Prep put together one of the most memorable playoff runs of the season.
The Eagles upset Key West in the regional final and then dueled with two-time reigning state champion Pensacola Catholic in a bizarre game that took 6 1/2 hours to play after five rain delays before losing in extra innings.
• Cypress Bay also enjoyed success in girls’ golf, winning the Class 3A state crown — its first in school history. The Lightning also won a girls’ tennis title.
• Cardinal Gibbons continued to rule the wrestling mat by winning its county-best fifth state crown.
• Pines Charter joins the Broward elite in softball winning its second state title in the past three seasons.
• Westminster Academy’s boys’ track and field team won its third state title in school history, edging Orlando First Academy at the Class 1A meet.
• Coral Glades and Stranahan high schools each won state championships in competitive cheerleading competitions.