After five state championships and a national championship, South Florida football teams look ready to contend for more next season.
Miami Booker T. Washington, which won its first national title, is among the group of four teams along with Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Plantation American Heritage and Miami Central that are ranked in CBS MaxPreps preseason poll.
Aquinas, which did not win a state title last year but has won two national titles and seven state titles overall, will start the season within striking distance of another as the Raiders are ranked fourth.
St. Thomas will be tested early, as it will play American Heritage, ranked sixth, on Aug. 29 at Sun Life Stadium. Heritage won the school’s first state football title last season. Aquinas will also play No. 21 Don Bosco Prep (New Jersey) on Sept. 13 at West Point, New York.
Heritage will also face a tough schedule that includes trips to Miramar, Daytona Beach Mainland, Jacksonville Bolles and Apopka — all teams that advanced to at least the third round of the playoffs last season.
Booker T. debuts at No. 9 — the highest ranking for a Miami-Dade County team in the poll. The Tornadoes, who won games in Georgia and Las Vegas last season, will hit the road early as they play No. 24 Oscar Smith (Virginia) and Tucker (Georgia) to open the season before returning home for a showdown with Central.
The Rockets, who won their third state title in four seasons in 2013, open ranked 15th and play at No. 3 Hoover (Alabama) to open the season. Central then travels to Clarkston, Georgia, to play Stephenson in the same event that will feature the Booker T.-Tucker game and Miami Norland playing MLK (Georgia) on Aug. 30.
Miramar and Pembroke Pines Flanagan were both listed in the poll’s “Next 25” teams. Both are expected to be top contenders for the Class 8A state title next season.
Virginia Union needs some pop in its pass rush, and Dillard’s All-Broward first-team defensive lineman Arthur “Rico” Kennedy Jr. is ready to fit the bill. The 6-4, 195-pound Kennedy, who is coming off a breakout senior season with 21 sacks, four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns to help Dillard advance to the Region 4-6A semifinals, made a verbal commitment to the Panthers. The Panthers also picked up one of the top two-way prospects when they signed Blanche Ely’s Chazton Mckenzie.
McKenzie, who will also run track for the Panthers, showed big play ability on both sides of the ball for the Tigers last season.
Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy pitcher Brian Gonzalez and Brito Miami Private outfielder Mauricio Amaral were named finalists for the Florida Dairy Farmers’ Mr. Baseball Award. Gonzalez pitched two no-hitters and a one-hitter during the playoffs leading McCarthy to the Class 5A regional finals. Amaral, who hit .493 with 12 home runs and 27 RBI this season, led Brito to the Class 2A state title. South Dade’s Fred Burnside (Class 8A), Hialeah American’s Ricky Gutierrez (Class 7A), Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy’s Mike DiRosa (Class 6A) and Brito’s Pedro Guerra (Class 2A) all won Coach of the Year honors for their respective classes and are finalists for the association’s Overall Coach of the Year award after leading their teams to state championships.
Miami Ferguson rising sophomore Michelle Cuervo, a first-team All-Dade Class 8A-6A selection last season, was named to PrepVolleyball.com’s “Frosh59” team of the top 59 freshmen in the country for the 2013-14 season.
The only Miami-Dade players to make the list since its inception have been Miami Westminster Christian’s Sylvia Hernandez and former Miami Palmer Trinity star Paulina Prieto. …
Hernandez was recently named the Miami Herald’s Class 5A-1A Athlete of the Year as a senior. Prieto, a former Miami Herald Volleyball Player of the Year, just finished her redshirt freshman season playing for national champion Penn State.
Coconut Creek North Broward Prep hired former Douglas coach Austin Clubb as its new girls’ volleyball coach. Clubb coached both the Douglas boys’ and girls’ teams the past three seasons, leading the girls to three consecutive district championships.
Clubb also coached at Seminole Ridge in Palm Beach where he led the boys’ team to a state title in 2010 and a final four appearance in 2009.
After a dominating postseason in which she recorded consecutive shutouts to lead her team to the state title, St. Thomas pitcher Meghan King was named Florida’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year. King, who has signed with Maryland, led the Raiders to consecutive state titles.
This season, King went 20-2, struck out 226 and walked just 19 in 142 2/3 innings. King, the Herald’s Class 8A-5A Pitcher of the Year, also tossed three no-hitters as well as a perfect game this past season.
In the Class 7A state championship game, King surrendered a base hit to the first batter then put the Longhorns down the rest of the way. King struck out 12 in Aquinas’ 1-0 victory.