High School Sports

For Miami High to make history, it must overcome Columbus

Miami High’s Johnny Ford
Miami High’s Johnny Ford pportal@elnuevoherald.com

When was the last time Miami High won a state football championship?

The first Super Bowl hadn’t been played yet.

Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States.

The Beatles were only three years removed from becoming the biggest band in the world.

OK, you get the picture. It’s been a really long time (1965).

If the Stingarees win Friday’s playoff game against Columbus — a team that has never won a state championship despite coming pretty close multiple times in recent years — one of those title droughts could come to an end.

No disrespect intended to the remainder of the Class 8A playoff bracket, which includes a much-improved Western squad that is in the regional finals for the first time after never having won a playoff game before this year.

But the performances both teams are putting together lead me to believe the winner would be the favorite to hoist the state championship trophy.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up for the third round of the playoffs (all games at 7:30 p.m. on Friday unless noted):

▪ Region 4-8A final — Miami High (10-1) vs. Columbus (10-1), 1 p.m. at Tropical: Former NFL wide receivers Andre Johnson and Roscoe Parrish wore the blue and gold at Miami High the last time the Stingarees made it this deep in the playoffs.

Have the Stingarees found the right mix to finally win it all under the tutelage of another one of its former stars, Sedrick Irvin?

Miami High took apart Palmetto in the first round before needing a goal line stand last week to end Southridge’s state title reign.

Columbus provided the lone blemish on Miami High’s record. The Explorers rallied from a two-touchdown first half deficit to edge the Stingarees 21-20 on Sept. 29 and only kept the game from going to overtime thanks to a blocked extra point in the closing moments.

The Stingarees have been eager for a chance at redemption ever since.

But let’s pause all this Miami High nostalgia for a second and not make the mistake of dismissing Columbus.

The Explorers have looked impressive in two playoff wins over Homestead and South Dade.

But can Columbus handle Miami High athlete Johnny Ford, who Irvin called their “LeBron James” after last week’s win.

Ford ran for 146 yards in the first meeting and broke an 80-yard touchdown run and a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Columbus needs to keep Ford and the rest of Miami High’s playmakers from breaking loose. Miami High needs its huge offensive line to keep dominating the way it has in recent weeks.

This game will be worth spending part of the day after Thanksgiving watching high school football. Andre’s pick: Columbus 28, Miami High 27.

▪ Region 4-6A final — Carol City (8-3) vs. Northwestern (9-2) at Traz Powell: The final battle among District 16-6A’s best.

Last week, Northwestern smothered Central for 38 minutes before spending the final 10 trying to avoid what would have been a monumental collapse.

And while Northwestern did that, defending 6A state champion Carol City eliminated a familiar road obstacle with a hard-fought win over Mainland in Daytona Beach.

Northwestern’s defense settled the issue the first time against Carol City on Oct. 14, beating the Chiefs 16-7 in a nationally televised game at Traz. The Bulls held the Chiefs scoreless inside the 10-yard line three times that night.

Northwestern eliminated Central last year before Carol City stopped it short of its championship goal. Could it happen again? Andre’s pick: Northwestern 14, Carol City 12.

▪ Region 4-5A final — Cardinal Gibbons (11-1) at American Heritage (10-0): The Patriots’ 24-game winning streak and goal of winning their fourth state title in five years faces its toughest obstacle. Few teams have played Heritage tougher the past two years than Gibbons. But the Chiefs haven’t been able to finish the job. Is this the game where it all changes? Andre’s pick: American Heritage 21, Cardinal Gibbons 17.

▪ Region 4-7A final — Doral Academy (10-2) at St. Thomas Aquinas (9-2): What an amazing job by Doral to squeak by Dwyer despite being held to only a pair of field goals. The Firebirds are clearly taking another step in their rise to contender status this season. But St. Thomas Aquinas, winners of three consecutive state titles and 10 overall, is a whole different challenge. Andre’s pick: Aquinas 31, Doral 14.

▪ Region 3-8A final — Western (10-2) at Delray Beach Atlantic (10-1): The Wildcats’ remarkable season saw another dramatic finish last week. Atlantic is formidable, but Broward County’s most improved team will find a way to secure another road victory. Andre’s pick: Western 17, Atlantic 16.

▪ Class 4A state semifinal — NSU University School (10-1) at Cocoa (10-1): The Sharks went back and forth with Pace in one of the most entertaining playoff games so far as Kenny McIntosh showed everyone what the fuss is about with one of the country’s best running back prospects. For the first time in seven years, Cocoa’s opponent in this round won’t be Booker T. Washington. University won’t make it easy for the Tigers, but this might be where the Sharks’ playoff run ends. Andre’s pick: Cocoa 42, University School 32.

▪ Class 3A state semifinal — Chaminade (9-2) at Clearwater Central Catholic (11-0): Last year in this round, I made the mistake of picking against the Lions. They’re stronger this season so I think I’m going to get it right this time. Andre’s pick: Chaminade 38, Clearwater Central Catholic 21.

▪ Class 2A state semifinal — Champagnat Catholic (7-2) at Tampa Cambridge Christian (9-2): See what I said about Chaminade above. These Lions look like they should win state too. Andre’s pick: Champagnat 24, Cambridge Christian 7.

ANDRE’S RECORD

Dade — Last week: 7-0; Season: 213-40; Broward — Last week: 6-0; Season: 191-44.

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