Preseason classic week gave us only glimpses of what to expect.
This weekend’s regular-season openers should start to gauge who’s the best among the best, not just in South Florida but nationwide.
The biggest matchups will take place at Traz Powell Stadium and St. Thomas Aquinas.
St. John Bosco (Calif.) at 1. St. Thomas Aquinas, 7 p.m., Friday
Aquinas, a national champion in 2008 and 2010, suffered a pair of heartbreaking losses in 2016 that kept it from a third title.
Aquinas routed neighborhood rival Dillard in the preseason last week 39-0 behind quarterback Curt Casteel’s three touchdown passes.
The Raiders open the season ranked No. 5 by several polls and in striking distance of the national crown if they can overcome this formidable West Coast obstacle.
St. John Bosco enters the game ranked in the top five in every poll and as high as No. 1 by USA Today’s preseason computer rankings.
On defense alone, University of Miami commitment Al Blades, FSU commit Asante Samuel, Louisville commit Trenell Troutman and junior Jaden Davis lead one of the nation’s best secondaries for the Raiders.
Linebackers Nik Bonitto, ranked No. 12 in the nation by 247Sports at his position, Rocky Shelton, along with junior Anthony Solomon and defensive tackle and Louisville commit Dejmi Dumervil Jean anchor Aquinas’ front seven.
Those guys will be tasked with slowing down a potent Bosco offense that won a state Open Division title last year.
Bosco won a national title in 2013 and features a talented group of its own that could lead it to another.
Quarterback and Iowa State commit Re-Al Mitchell threw for 30 touchdown passes last season and ran for 15 more. And he has plenty of weapons, including running back Demetrius Flowers, an Arizona State commit who ran for 20 touchdowns a year ago, and wide receiver Devon Cooley, a UCLA commit.
Casteel has a great group of receivers to throw to that includes Elijah Moore (Georgia commit) and Tavares Kelly (Virginia commit), each of whom caught touchdown passes last week.
But Casteel will be challenged by a secondary led by Ohio State commit Jaiden Woodbey, who is ranked the 35th overall prospect in the country by 247Sports. Stephan Blaylock, another UCLA commit, and junior Chris Steele, who has Stanford and Alabama among his numerous offers, are two safeties who will challenge Aquinas’ deep threats.
Andre’s pick: St. Thomas Aquinas 31, St. John Bosco 28.
THE TRAZ TRIPLE
6. Miami Central vs. 7. Chaminade-Madonna, 7:30 p.m., Thursday Chaminade-Madonna gave Deerfield Beach a battle before falling 10-7 in a shortened kickoff classic last week.
But Chaminade’s offense showed signs it can be potent with quarterback Daelen Menard at the helm and Auburn commit Shaun Shivers running the football. Shivers ran for Chaminade’s lone touchdown and helped the Lions, who are hoping to top last year’s Class 3A state runner-up finish, claim a lead through most of the game.
But whether Chaminade can establish the run against Central’s stout defense led by Louisville commit Robert Hicks and an outstanding secondary paced by Devonta Wilson and Arthur Braithwaite remains to be seen.
Central’s offense must be as proficient as it has been in championship years past if it is to reach its goal of reclaiming the Class 6A state title.
Running backs James Cook and Willie Davis are among a loaded Central backfield along with quarterback Maurice Underwood, who will have top-tier targets such as Terrell Perriman to produce big plays.
Andre’s pick: Central 27, Chaminade 24.
4. Carol City vs. 5. Deerfield Beach, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Carol City lost its preseason opener to national behemoth IMG Academy on the road last week but managed to hang on to its national ranking.
The Chiefs, ranked 21st by USA Today, take on a Deerfield Beach squad that deserves a national ranking. This Bucks team might be better than last year’s, which fell to Southridge in the Class 8A semifinals.
Deerfield’s defense, led by highly touted inside linebacker Rosendo Louis, will be tested by a tough Carol City backfield featuring the duo of junior Nay’quan Wright and UM commit Cam’ron Davis.
Carol City is in its first season under coach Benedict Hyppolite, a Booker T. Washington alum and former assistant coach, and faces a gauntlet to open the season.
If a defense led by Louisville commit Yasir Abdullah can contain the Bucks’ potent rushing attack led by sophomore Jaylon Knighton, the Chiefs might start with a victory.
Andre’s pick: Carol City 14, Deerfield Beach 13.
9. Southridge vs. 11. Cardinal Gibbons, 7, Saturday
The Spartans ended a 23-year state championship drought in 2016 with one of the most suffocating defenses in the state. That unit graduated a lot of its top players but still has plenty left to keep it just as strong.
It will be tested immediately in this game by Gibbons’ high-powered offense led by senior receiver Carlos Sandy (Illinois commit) and junior quarterback Nik Scalzo.
It will be up to Southridge’s offense to prove it can consistently produce. The Spartans still have a major offensive weapon in wide receiver Mark Pope (UM commit).
Andre’s pick: Southridge 15, Cardinal Gibbons 14.