High School Sports

Returning South Florida contenders give state finals a retro feel

Carol City Chiefs wide receiver Kevaughn Dingle (1) scores a touchdown against Northwestern Bulls during the football game on Fri., Nov. 18, 2016 at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami.
Carol City Chiefs wide receiver Kevaughn Dingle (1) scores a touchdown against Northwestern Bulls during the football game on Fri., Nov. 18, 2016 at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Carol City coach Aubrey Hill was asked Monday morning during a teleconference with reporters if he might wear a train conductor hat on the sideline this weekend the way former legendary Chiefs’ coach Walt Frazier once did.

“I won’t, but we do have some people passing around some hats like his trying to stir up memories of those years,” Hill said with a chuckle.

Carol City fans are hoping to relive the glory days by week’s end.

The Chiefs are one of six Miami-Dade and Broward County teams playing this weekend for state championships which matches the combined record for the two counties set in 2012.

And Carol City isn’t the only one giving this tournament a retro look.

Carol City head football coach Aubrey Hill talks about the victory over Punta Gorda Charlotte on Fri., Dec. 2, 2016.

Southridge is back after a 17-year absence, and Chaminade-Madonna is vying for its first championship since 2005.

They’ll try to join more recent state champions – St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage and Champagnat Catholic – in a bid to bring home the most state titles ever for South Florida in a single season.

Class 6A - Carol City (9-3) vs. Lakeland Lake Gibson (13-0), 3, Saturday: The last time the Chiefs played for a state championship, Frazier was coaching a squad powered by a stingy defense that produced future NFL standouts Ricky Jean-Francois and Kenny Phillips as well as numerous college players including Willie Williams.

This Carol City team has also punished teams with a dominant defense that allowed 9.2 points per game this season and held opponents to eight points or less in eight of those games.

But these Chiefs have complemented defense with an explosive offense.

Carol City quarterback Marlon Smith talks about the win over Punta Gorda Charlotte on Fri., Dec. 2, 2016.

Carol City overwhelmed two previously unbeaten foes (Mainland and Charlotte) in the past two rounds.

The Chiefs face another undefeated opponent in Lake Gibson led by junior running back T.J. Jones (1,360 yards, 25 touchdowns). The Braves are making their first appearance at state since 2004.

Road-tested Carol City wins its fifth state title. Andre’s pick: Carol City 40, Lake Gibson 14.

Class 8A - Southridge (11-2) vs. Orlando Dr. Phillips (12-2), 8, Saturday: Andre’s pick: The Spartans had plenty of reasons their state championship dream could have ended at Deerfield Beach last week. But even after six turnovers, including five in the first half, Southridge endured as its defense came up with another shutdown performance.

The Southridge Spartans (11-2) clinched their first trip to the state finals since 1999 with a 26-7 win over Deerfield Beach on Dec. 2, 2016.

The Spartans can secure their first state crown since 1993 when they won two state titles in three years and ascended to the top spot in the nation under then-coach Don Soldinger. Dr. Phillips hasn’t reached state since losing to Miami Central in 2010.

Southridge coach Billy Rolle talks about his team's 26-7 comeback win over Deerfield Beach in a Class 8A state semifinal on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

If they run the ball efficiently, the defense will do its part and it will start to feel a lot like the early 1990s again at Southridge on Saturday night. Andre’s pick: Southridge 16, Dr. Phillips 7.

Class 3A - Jacksonville Trinity Christian (10-3) vs. Chaminade-Madonna (10-3), 10 a.m., Saturday: Continuing with the retro theme, Chaminade is looking for its third state title and first since 2005.

Shaun Shivers’ performances in these playoffs have brought back memories of others from stellar South Florida running backs in recent years like Duke Johnson and Devonta Freeman.

Having the same kind of success against Trinity Christian, a three-time defending state champion won’t be easy. But Chaminade keeps defying the odds in these playoffs. Andre’s pick: Chaminade 35, Trinity Christian 34.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (11-2) smashed previously unbeaten Venice 46-8 in front of a sellout crowd at Piccolo Stadium on Dec. 2, 2016.

Class 7A - St. Thomas Aquinas (11-2) vs. Tampa Plant (13-0), 8, Friday: These two met for the state title in 2010 with Aquinas dominating on its way to a 29-7 win. That championship was the last for the Raiders with former legendary coach George Smith as coach, but the third in a run of six state titles over the past decade. St. Thomas is looking to become the first Broward team to win three in a row and join Jacksonville Bolles as the only schools to win 10 or more. Andre’s pick: Aquinas 31, Plant 17.

The Raiders crushed Venice 46-8 on Friday night behind 156 yards total offense and four touchdowns by star running back Michael Epstein on Fri., Dec. 2, 2016.

Class 2A - Jacksonville University Christian (9-2) vs. Champagnat Catholic (11-1), 10 a.m., Friday: Defense has stepped up for a Lions’ squad that has started several younger players on offense during the playoffs. Champagnat has allowed only three points in its past two games and is aiming for a second state title in four years. To slow down this Jacksonville juggernaut, it will need to generate more offense, however. Andre’s pick: Champagnat 14, University Christian 13.

Class 5A - American Heritage (13-0) vs. Ponte Vedra (13-0), 3, Friday: The formula has been to smother teams with their defense and hang on. The Patriots would like to skip the second part and put away Ponte Vedra early. If they succeed, it’s three state titles in four years. Andre’s pick: American Heritage 24, Ponte Vedra 10.

The American Heritage tops Tampa Jesuit, 21-14, to advance to the FHSAA 5A state final on Dec. 2, 2016.

NOTE: All games at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

Andre’s record – Last week: 4-0; Playoffs: 34-10; Season (Dade): 253-54; Season (Broward): 224-47.