North Miami barely let defenses catch their breath in 2013.
An uptempo, quick-huddle offense turned the Pioneers into one of the most potent scoring teams in Miami-Dade, averaging 30.4 points per game.
North Miami lit the scoreboard often enough to win its first district championship since 1991 and earns its first playoff berth since 1999.
Don’t expect the Pioneers to slow down a year later.
Senior quarterback Hilton Joseph, who led that high-octane spread offense passing for 2,229 yards and 21 touchdowns and only five interceptions, is back along with several of his key receivers.
Seniors Tavares Harrison and Victor Sam combined for 1,151 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns and figure to be at the forefront of North Miami’s offense again.
The Pioneers had a solid defense as well that will be led by senior linebacker James Bell (75 tackles, 5 sacks).
That defense was humbled, however, in a tough 32-6 first-round playoff loss to Columbus. But with several defensive lineman lettermen returning, North Miami should still be among the best in District 13-8A and have a solid chance to contend potentially with Columbus and Coral Gables in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Despite losing over 15 starters combined, Hialeah figures to be North Miami’s toughest challenger in the district. The T-Breds, who were ousted in the first round of last year’s playoffs by Coral Gables, drew several potentially talented players from their junior-varsity team that went undefeated in 2013.
• Team to beat: North Miami. The Pioneers return the bulk of key players that keyed their first playoff season in 14 years. If the defense can match the potent offense, North Miami will have a chance to challenge the rest of the county for a deep playoff push.
• Player to watch: Hilton Joseph, North Miami senior quarterback. Joseph was among the county’s best last season and should thrive again with several of his favorite targets on offense returning. Joseph has the potential to finish among the county’s most prolific quarterbacks again.
• Breakout performer: Malcolm Martin, Krop senior defensive back. During an otherwise dismal 1-9 season, Martin had a couple of interceptions and led the Lightning defense. Martin is one of 14 starters returning on a defense that should improve and benefit from his talent and leadership.
• Biggest game: North Miami vs. NMB, Oct. 2 North Miami Stadium. Both of these teams’ games against Hialeah will factor heavily in who wins the district. But when NMB and North Miami renew their neighborhood rivalry, it’s always intense and entertaining. Plus, the early October clash should still have playoff implications.
• Predicted order of finish: 1. North Miami; 2. Hialeah; 3. NMB; 4. Reagan; 5. Dr. Krop; 6. Hialeah Gardens.