High School Sports

South Florida teams continue to defy ‘odds’ on road to state

Southridge HS Antwan Collier leaps as he runs the ball in the second quarter as they play Coral Gable HS at Southridge High School in South Dade on Fri., Nov. 25, 2016.
Southridge HS Antwan Collier leaps as he runs the ball in the second quarter as they play Coral Gable HS at Southridge High School in South Dade on Fri., Nov. 25, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

South Florida football teams threw records and rankings out last week once again.

Even three-loss teams such as Carol City and Chaminade-Madonna crushed previously unbeaten teams.

American Heritage also shut down a reigning state champion, and Champagnat Catholic smothered one of its classification’s most prolific offenses.

Had Booker T. Washington hung on to beat Cocoa for the sixth year in a row, Miami-Dade and Broward teams would have been more than halfway toward securing a full representation in all seven possible classifications.

This should come as no shock to anyone.

South Florida squads have generally proven themselves in these decisive games despite their records for many years now.

In addition to the rich talent and underrated coaching in the area, these squads benefit from their experience playing some of the state and nation’s best during the season.

So with a week to go before the state tournament is set, Dade and Broward are on the cusp of securing berths in six of those games just as they did in 2012.

Will it lead to a fifth consecutive season where the two counties combine to win four or more state titles?

Three spots are already assured thanks to Chaminade and Champagnat’s victories and Southridge and Deerfield Beach guaranteeing a team in the Class 8A final.

Three more spots are up for grabs Friday as St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage and Carol City each square off against unbeaten teams.

Class 8A state semifinal – Southridge (10-2) at Deerfield Beach (10-2): Someone finally scored on the Spartans. But that still did not translate to victory for an opposing team as Southridge advanced to its first state semifinal since 1999 – the last time it reached the state finals.

The Spartans have shut out eight teams this season, which is two short of a state record and have not allowed more than 20 points to anyone.

Southridge will face a Deerfield Beach squad that has not been this far in the postseason since losing a heartbreaker to Miami Northwestern in this round in 2007 in the final high school game played in The Orange Bowl.

The Bucks have one of the best offenses Southridge has faced all season assuming they’re playing at their full potential. Much like the Spartans, the Bucks can run the ball effectively and balance that with an elite group of receivers led by All-American Jerry Jeudy.

Deerfield Beach is very good at forcing turnovers with 25 for the season, led by safety Kobe Green and linebacker Ashton Pierre, who have eight of Deerfield’s 15 interceptions.

Southridge’s running game led by Bentavious Thompson and sophomore Courtney Reese, has helped versatile quarterbacks Antwan Collier and Michael Cox make big plays when needed. Andre’s pick: Southridge 14, Deerfield Beach 10.

Class 7A state semifinal – Venice (12-0) at St. Thomas Aquinas (10-2): The Raiders are aiming to become the first Broward team to win three consecutive state titles. This will be the biggest obstacle they have left on that path. That challenge has a face and its Venice running back Matthew "Speedy" Laroche, who set the Sarasota County record for rushing and has totaled 2,665 yards and 37 touchdowns on 216 carries. That’s an average of 12.3 yards per carry and 222.1 per game.

The Indians, who won their lone state title in 2000 and last reached the semifinals in 2002, have not faced a defense as talented as Aquinas. Andre’s pick: Aquinas 30, Venice 17.

Class 6A state semifinal – Carol City (8-3) at Punta Gorda Charlotte (12-0): The Chiefs sent a message to the whole state last week by crushing vaunted Mainland in Daytona Beach. Stay healthy and follow the same formula and the Chiefs will be back at state for the first time since 2003. Andre’s pick: Carol City 34, Charlotte 14.

Class 5A state semifinal – Tampa Jesuit (12-0) at American Heritage (12-0): The Patriots’ quest to win three state titles in four seasons faces its toughest obstacle. Jesuit has lived up to its hype this season thanks largely to University of Florida commit Malik Davis, who’s rushed for 2,130 yards and 31 touchdowns on 173 carries. But Heritage’s defense has withstood every test its faced this season. Andre’s pick: Heritage 24, Jesuit 21.

NOTE: All games at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Andre’s record – Last week: 5-3; Playoffs: 30-10; Season (Dade): 251-54; Season (Broward): 221-47.