High School Sports

Northwestern, Central looking for definitive playoff victory in storied rivalry

Northwestern and Chatarius Atwell will face off against nemesis Central at Traz Powell Stadium on Friday night.
Northwestern and Chatarius Atwell will face off against nemesis Central at Traz Powell Stadium on Friday night. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Now that “The U” is back, is it time for the “The West?”

The Hurricanes served notice to any doubters that still remained prior to Saturday’s resounding victory over Notre Dame.

A team on a similar path back to the top at the high school level the past couple of years is Miami Northwestern.

Their nemesis: Miami Central.

Let’s take a look at this highly-anticipated rematch and the rest of the second round of the playoffs (all games at 7:30 p.m. on Friday unless noted otherwise):

Region 4-6A semifinal – 5. Central (9-2) at 1. Northwestern (8-2) at Traz Powell: The Bulls helped put a halt to neighborhood rival Central’s four-year state title reign last season when they beat the Rockets to win the District 16-6A title.

A month later, though, Northwestern’s own state title dream was crushed by eventual champion Carol City.

The Bulls beat Central again for the district title this season.

For the second week in a row, the Miami Northwestern Bulls shut down a rival’s potent offense to secure their second consecutive championship of District 16-6A – considered one of the deepest in the nation.

And this time, it was a convincing 21-7 win that looked more lopsided than the score indicated.

But here’s the catch.

Northwestern, since its return to true prominence, has yet to beat Central in the playoffs when everything is at stake.

The Rockets have won the past three postseason meetings in the series and will try to do what they failed to do the first time against the Bulls – establish the run.

Miami Central Rockets' running back James Cook carries the ball against Carol City Chiefs during the football game on Fri., Oct. 27, 2017 at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. ANDREW ULOZA FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Northwestern’s defense is facing a major obstacle once again.

But the path is laid out once again for the Bulls to truly bring "The West" back.

Step one: Beat Central.

Step two: Beat Carol City (very likely opponent next week).

Step three: Win state title.

Andre’s pick: Northwestern 22, Central 21.

Region 4-8A semifinal - 7. Miami High (9-1) at 6. Southridge (6-3): Among the most impressive wins in round 1 was Miami High’s thrashing of Palmetto last Thursday to open the postseason.

The Stingarees won their first playoff game since 2000 and recorded their first shutout ever in the postseason.

Everyone knew this Miami High team was better, but this win showed if the Stingarees can play consistent, generally error-free football, they have as good a chance as any team to make a run to Orlando.

This week, the reigning Class 8A state champions stand in Miami High’s path.

Irvin talks about taking another step in Miami High’s turnaround with 28-0 shutout win over Palmetto.

The Spartans showed signs of improvement on the offensive side of the ball this past week against Belen Jesuit.

Southridge is a formidable obstacle especially playing at home.

But this Stingarees’ squad is starting to pick up some of those intangibles of a team that could be destined for a great season. We’ll find out this week how ready they are to make a push for a state title.

Andre’s pick: Miami High 17, Southridge 14.

Region 4-8A semifinal – 5. South Dade (9-1) at 1. Columbus (9-1), 7, Thursday, Tropical Park: Everything clicked for Columbus during a 50-0 blowout win over Homestead. South Dade overcame some mistakes to beat North Miami. The Bucs present a tougher challenge to Columbus. But if the Explorers’ offense gets rolling quickly again, look for Columbus to set up either a big rematch against Miami High or a chance to take down the reigning state champs next week.

Andre’s pick: Columbus 24, South Dade 10.

Region 3-8A semifinal - 6. Western (9-2) at 2. Palm Beach Central (8-2): What a win for Western. It was one of the biggest statewide in the first round as the Wildcats ousted the classification’s top-ranked team, Deerfield Beach. The bigger surprise is Western being the final South Florida team standing in the region.

Expect that to continue to be the case for one more week.

Andre’s pick: Western 20, Palm Beach Central 17.

Region 4-7A semifinal - 4. West Broward (8-2) at 1. St. Thomas Aquinas (8-2): Fresh off its first-ever district title and playoff win, West Broward faces its biggest challenge as it takes its best shot at three-time defending state champion Aquinas. Andre’s pick: St. Thomas Aquinas 35, West Broward 7.

Region 4-7A semifinal - 3. Doral (9-2) at 2. Dwyer (9-2): Doral picked up its first-ever playoff win in impressive fashion last week as it continues to establish itself as one of South Florida’s best. The Firebirds face a major challenge this week in perennial powerhouse Dwyer. This can be the signature win that can elevate Doral even more. Andre’s pick: Doral 34, Dwyer 31.

Region 4-6A semifinal - 6. Carol City (7-3) at 2. Daytona Beach Mainland (7-4): The Chiefs hit the road again after Mainland dispatched Norland in round 1. Carol City will bring the Bucs back bad memories of last year’s regional final. Andre’s pick: Carol City 34, Mainland 14.

Region 4-5A semifinal - 5. Orlando Bishop Moore (8-2) at 1. American Heritage (9-0): The first test of the playoffs for the Patriots, who have won 23 in a row. But Heritage won’t be looking past the Hornets to a potential rematch with Gibbons. Andre’s pick: American Heritage 31, Bishop Moore 14.

Region 4-5A semifinal - 6. Cardinal Gibbons (10-1) at 2. Rockledge (8-3): The well-traveled Chiefs won a shootout with Jones last week. Get ready for another such victory to set up the rematch with Heritage. Andre’s pick: Gibbons 44, Rockledge 24.

Region 4-4A final - 2. Monsignor Pace (8-1) at 1. NSU University School (9-1): One of the best matchups of this round that should not be overlooked. If Monsignor Pace can establish its running game and force turnovers, it will be a long game for the host Sharks. But that’s a lot of speed and talent to contain. University’s Kenny McIntosh had his own big rushing game the first time these two teams met, which ended with a 27-22 University win. Andre’s pick: University School 21, Pace 20.

Region 4-3A final - 2. Palm Beach Benjamin (8-2) at 1. Chaminade-Madonna (8-2) at Calvary Christian: Chaminade follows the familiar formula to lock up its second regional title in a row. Andre’s pick: Chaminade 38, Benjamin 13.

Region 4-2A final - 2. Champagnat Catholic (6-2) at 1. Moore Haven (11-0): The host Terriers may be undefeated, but not likely they have faced a team as fast and talented as Champagnat. And that will make the difference. Andre’s pick: Champagnat Catholic 27, Moore Haven 14.