Although Miami Central appears to have reloaded for another state championship chase, Booker T. Washington hasn’t been held in the same regard by the pundits entering this season.
The Tornadoes returned only four starters from last season, prompting many to doubt they will even play for another state title.
Temper that skepticism a little bit.
This is still a talented squad that just needs to time to gain experience and, as it navigates through a brutal schedule, probably will find itself right back in the thick of the state title picture in Class 4A.
1. Booker T. Washington: The Tornadoes will hit some bumps early — they already have a loss, although it came against Broward powerhouse Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas — likely against Central, and maybe even against Columbus. But this team is still the best in its district and probably its region. That would probably set up another showdown with Cocoa in the state semifinals. Yes, Cocoa is ranked nationally. But after facing teams such as Aquinas and Central, do you think the Tornadoes will have a mental disadvantage against a nationally ranked school, and especially one it has sent home three years in a row?
2. Jackson: The Generals are a program on the rise as they’ve shown the first couple of weeks of the season. But a brutal district that includes Plantation American Heritage, Hallandale and Coconut Creek will make it extremely difficult to return to the playoffs. Coach Earl Little is toughening his team up with nondistrict games against Columbus, Central, Northwestern and Booker T. Washington. No time to take it easy this season at Jackson.
3. Gulliver: The Raiders have more Football Bowl Subdivision-level skill-position talent than they’ve had in some time. Depth is a concern, however, with barely 30 players on the varsity squad. And that will determine if it can truly challenge Booker T. Washington in its district.
4. Westminster Christian: Some of the Warriors’ veteran standouts such as Tim Irvin are gone. But Westminster still has plenty of talented athletes such as Elbre Gaiter who should lead them back to the postseason and another district title.
5. Champagnat Catholic: After last year’s embarrassing forfeit to end the season prematurely, the Lions are regrouping under new coach Dennis Marroquin. Champagnat has enough talent to battle Belle Glade Glades Day for the District 8-2A title and potentially a spot in the Class 2A final four.
6. Edison: The Red Raiders are gradually making strides and should be competitive in District 8-4A. But contending with Booker T. and Gulliver might not be in the cards yet.
7. Monsignor Pace: Veteran Spartans coach Joe Zaccheo is back after almost a decade. He has brought discipline to a young group that will be competitive. But playoff contention is probably still at least a year away.
8. Keys Gate: The Knights moved into a district for the first time and got thrust into District 8-4A. Enough playmakers are on the squad to pick up some wins and compete, but breaking through to the upper tier of the district will be difficult.
9. Dade Christian: Crusaders alum Nick Martinez takes over after the departure of longtime coach Mike Sonneborn. Dade Christian returns 16 starters and will challenge for a return to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and 10th time in 11 years.
10. La Salle: After 22 years leading the Royal Lions, coach Willie Trimmer stepped down. Former assistant coach Matt Dillon will now direct La Salle as it bids for a return to the independent Southeastern Football Conference playoffs.
11. Florida Christian: Coach Chris Rivera’s squad has gone 4-6 each of the past two seasons and made the SFC playoffs. A total of 13 starters are back, and the Patriots added former South Miami and Southridge coach Lamont Green to their staff. Expect improvement.
12. Palmer Trinity; 13. Scheck Hillel; 14. Somerset Charter; 15. Everglades Prep; 16. Ransom Everglades; 17. Miami Country Day; 18. Archbishop Carroll; 19. Archbishop Curley; 20. Pinecrest Prep; 21. Miami Community Charter.