St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage each won state championships last season. A year later, Broward County could be ready to bring home more hardware from the Citrus Bowl. Aquinas appears to have gotten stronger, and Flanagan has its strongest team ever that will try to win Class 8A.
1. St. Thomas Aquinas: Former University School coach Roger Harriott returned to his alma mater in the hopes of continuing the school’s proud championship tradition.
So far it appears to be a great pairing.
The Raiders look stronger than ever and poised to win a ninth state title. Defensive end Nick Bosa and wide receiver Sam Bruce are just the start of a talented list of players who could fill most of this column.
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The Raiders are also ranked in the top five nationally. An undefeated season should give Aquinas a favorable chance to also add a third national title.
2. Flanagan: The Falcons have been driven by the heartbreak of losing to Miami Columbus in the state semifinals. Flanagan added key players such as Jahcour Pearson, Dredrick Snelson and Kato Nelson to an already talented squad led by Devin Bush Jr. that is nationally ranked and ready to make a run at the school’s first state title.
3. Miramar: Of course, if Flanagan slips, it’s no surprise which team would probably be the culprit. The Patriots are working to overcome last season’s tumultuous finish both on and off the field and appear to be well on their way under new coach Pierre Senatus, a longtime defensive mastermind at Miami Booker T. Washington.
4. Dillard: The Panthers missed the postseason in 2014. Don’t expect that to be the case in 2015. A stellar defense is complemented by what should be a more explosive offense, which should propel Dillard to the District 15-6A title. State championship contention depends on whether the Panthers can contend with national power Miami Central.
5. Deerfield Beach: Much like Dillard, the Bucks appear to be ready for a bounce-back season under coach Jevon Glenn. A stellar secondary led by Aaron Robinson and James Pierre is complemented by elite receivers such as Cavin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy. Deerfield is the favorite to win District 11-8A and push Flanagan and Miramar in the postseason.
6. Plantation: A move up to Class 8A got the Colonels out of St. Thomas’ shadow but might have actually made it tougher for them to make the playoffs. Plantation has a battle on its hands in a district that includes Flanagan, Miramar, Cypress Bay, South Plantation, Everglades and Western.
7. Cypress Bay: The Lightning had a tough outing in the preseason and appears to have some work to do if it is to break through in District 12-8A. But coach Mark Guandolo is one of the best at getting his team up for the challenge.
8. Fort Lauderdale: The Flying L’s have one of their most talented teams and should return to the playoffs. Fort Lauderdale seemingly just has to beat Blanche Ely to get it done.
9. Blanche Ely: The Tigers, a perennial playoff team, were moved into a three-team district with Aquinas and Fort Lauderdale. St. Thomas is a formidable obstacle, and Fort Lauderdale isn’t a pushover.
10. Douglas: Coach Willis “Peanut” May has done a great job slowly getting his team closer and closer to becoming a playoff team. This just might be the year in District 11-8A, which doesn’t appear to have any insurmountable obstacles for the Eagles than perhaps Deerfield Beach.
11. Boyd Anderson: The Cobras have nothing to do but get better after a 0-10 season. Coach Eddie “Rabbit” Brown comes over after a one-year stint at Miami Northwestern and has a squad that will likely surprise some teams.
12. South Plantation: Longtime coach Doug Gatewood resigned for personal reasons just before the season. Assistant coach Nick Dellaria stepped in for Gatewood and hopes to lead a talented Paladins squad to the playoffs.
13. Everglades: A Gators playoff run seems unlikely. But coach Art Taylor has one of Broward’s top young running backs in Jaykus Johnson and a star senior offensive lineman in Keenan Forbes.
14. Coral Springs: Although the Colts lost star quarterback Jake Bofshever, new coach Vincent Zaccardi has enough talent to keep things interesting in the District 11-8A playoff race.
15. Cooper City: The Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs since Art Taylor was their coach. That could change this season in a district that Cooper City could win if it can overtake Hollywood Hills, Nova and McArthur.
16. Western; 17. Monarch; 18. McArthur; 19. Nova; 20. Hollywood Hills; 21. Taravella; 22. Piper; 23. Northeast; 24. West Broward; 25. South Broward.