So how wide open is the Dade region in Class 8A entering the playoffs?
Columbus, the county’s last team standing each of the past two seasons, is 6-4 and not a sure bet to even get past the first round. South Dade beat the Explorers in Week 1 and is 9-1. Coral Gables also beat Columbus, won its district and went 9-1. North Miami is in the 9-1 club and made the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Southwest, you guessed it, also 9-1, is trying to become the first District 15 team to win a playoff game. Killian has won five in a row after a 1-4 start and looks as tough, if not tougher, than any of those listed above.
And then there’s Hialeah (6-4) and Belen (7-3) — both back in the playoffs after a one-year absence.
Brace yourselves for three crazy weeks to see who plays Broward’s best for the right to go to Orlando.Region 4-8A quarterfinal at Tropical Park — 9. South Dade (9-1) vs. 14. Southwest (9-1):
But victory will come with a team that can balance its passing attack with a solid running game. And that’s where South Dade, a favorite to win this region at the start of the season, has an edge. Prediction: South Dade 35, Southwest 24.Region 4-8A quarterfinal at North Miami Stadium — 20. Columbus (6-4) vs. 13. North Miami (9-1):
The Explorers have won five in a row after a 1-4 start and allowed only nine points along the way. North Miami is much better than the teams the Explorers have shut down, however.
The Pioneers bring a tough defense that can pressure the quarterback and an up-tempo offense that commands respect. Columbus wins this game if it can successfully run the football and control the clock. If not, North Miami will make life difficult. Prediction: North Miami 30, Columbus 27.Region 4-8A quarterfinal at Tropical Park — Hialeah (6-4) vs. 11. Coral Gables (9-1), 7 p.m., Thursday:
Hialeah has some explosive players of its own with Alin Edouard and Henry Bussey. But if defense needs to win it, the Cavaliers have the talent in that department as well. Prediction: Coral Gables 28, Hialeah 17.Region 4-8A quarterfinal at Harris Field — Belen (7-3) vs. 17. Killian (6-4):
The Cougars have one of the most imposing defenses in the county and two of the best playmakers in the state in Jaquan Johnson and Trumaine Washington. Prediction: Killian 24, Belen 7.Region 4-7A quarterfinal — Miami Springs (7-3) at 6. St. Thomas Aquinas (8-2): Prediction: