Andre C. Fernandez: Miami Central, Plantation American Heritage, South Dade seeking state titles
12/10/2013 12:01 AM
12/10/2013 12:12 AM
Miami Booker T. Washington and Hialeah Champagnat Catholic completed undefeated seasons and gave South Florida two state champions so far at this year’s football finals.
Three more teams take aim this weekend.
Miami Central faces Seffner Armwood —the only team that has beaten it in this historic four-year run of advancing to Orlando.
Plantation American Heritage takes its most talented team ever to state in what will be its first appearance since 1998.
And South Dade has all of Homestead buzzing as it tries to dethrone defending state champion Apopka in its first trip to the dance.
Here’s a look at the final weekend of high school football for the 2013 season:
Class 5A state championship — Plantation American Heritage (13-1) vs. Green Cove Springs Clay (10-4), 1 p.m. Friday: The Patriots are chasing their first state championship and trying to become the ninth school in Broward County history to accomplish the feat.
To do it, the Patriots will have to beat arguably the wildest story statewide in this year’s playoffs.
Clay, which last won a state title in 1967, has proven it can win with either potent offense or with solid defense.
The Blue Devils won a wild 74-73 game against Jacksonville Bishop Kenny in the regional semifinals. The Blue Devils followed that with a 9-7 victory in a defensive struggle against Pensacola Catholic. Last week, another shootout finished with Clay beating St. Pete Lakewood 40-38.
The Blue Devils run a spread offense but can run the football out of a power formation much like what American Heritage faced against Hardee in the regional finals.
Heritage adapted to that offense by halftime and eventually routed Hardee 41-7 powered by another big game by running back Sony Michel.
For the Patriots, their speed on both sides of the ball and experience playing a wide variety of opponents throughout the season will pay off once again in this type of game.
Don’t expect the big stage of the Citrus Bowl faze a team that has won all four of its playoff games by 15 points or more.
Andre’s pick: American Heritage 38, Clay 17.
Class 6A state championship — Miami Central (13-1) vs. Seffner Armwood (14-0), 1 p.m. Saturday: The Rockets are in Orlando for the fourth year in a row, setting a Dade County record for consecutive trips.
The trip in 2011 was the most unpleasant, however, ending with a loss to Armwood that capped a tumultuous season and later resulted in both teams forfeiting their victories that year.
Central recovered quickly, winning state last season, but didn’t get the chance to avenge that loss. The Rockets will get that opportunity this year.
Injured star tailback Joe Yearby was missed last week not just sentimentally, but also literally in a running game that only mustered 84 yards against Daytona Beach Mainland. Central continues to work in its passing game effectively with quarterback Keith Reed and receiver Da’Vante Phillips combining for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
The key could be Central’s offensive line if it can establish the running game and give time for Reed to throw, which often makes him a dangerous offensive weapon.
Andre’s pick: Central 30, Armwood 28.
Class 8A state championship — South Dade (13-1) vs. Apopka (13-1), 7 p.m. Saturday: After 60 years, the Bucs made school history and clinched their first trip to the state finals. But to win the school’s first state football title, South Dade will have to overcome the toughest obstacle for any South Florida team this weekend.
Apopka has scored 724 points this season (51.7 points per game average) behind its single-wing offense. And the Blue Darters had to adapt to the loss of star quarterback Zack Darlington after he was injured at the start of the season.
The Bucs hope to mirror the offensive success that Weston Cypress Bay had last year at state in a 53-50 defeat. As it has throughout the playoffs, South Dade will need its aggressive defense to contain Apopka’s running game and give itself a chance.
Quarterback play will be paramount. And if the Bucs get the same Kahlil Render they saw last week against Palm Beach Gardens, they might just pull off a huge upset.
Andre’s pick: South Dade 37, Apopka 35.
NOTE: All games at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Andre’s Dade record — Last week: 4-0; Season: 274-66.
Andre’s Broward record — Last week: 1-0; Season: 238-64.