Although the site of the Florida state football championships hasn’t changed, it has taken 10 years for Northwestern to find its way back to Orlando and the same stadium now dubbed Camping World Stadium.
And this Friday night, a decade after names like Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston and Aldarius Johnson capped a national championship season a new group of Bulls is aiming to mark their names among the school’s long list of stars.
Northwestern is among a group of four teams along with American Heritage, Chaminade-Madonna and Champagnat Catholic that will try to extend South Florida’s streak of winning four or more state championships in one year to six consecutive seasons.
But it’s hard to see any of the teams energizing the atmosphere the way Northwestern’s fans undoubtedly will on Friday night.
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Class 6A final - Northwestern (11-2) vs. Seffner Armwood (14-0), Friday, 8 p.m.: Miami-Dade County teams have plenty of history with Armwood.
Booker T. Washington had memorable state semifinals against the Hawks four times in five years from 2003-2007 with the Tornadoes finally snapping Armwood’s winning streak in the series in the final meeting.
Central beat Armwood three times out of four in state championship clashes from 2011-2015.
Now, it’s Northwestern’s turn.
Offensive coordinator Evan Davis took over the program after longtime Armwood coach Sean Callahan resigned in May.
The Hawks enter this game ranked No. 18 nationally by USA Today and loaded with major FBS recruits.
On offense, running back Brian Snead (1,329 yards, 16 TD on 198 carries), an Ohio State commitment, leads a potent offense averaging 334.8 yards and 34.9 points per game. Quarterback Devin Black (2,265 yards, 25 TDs, 5 INT), who is being recruited by FIU and FAU, has two great receivers in Alabama commit Jerome Ford (38 catches 800 yards, 8 TDs) and Oregon commit Warren Thompson (27 catches, 487 yards, 6 TDs).
On defense, Armwood is led by defensive ends Fitzroy Gardner (16 sacks) and Malcolm Lamar, another Oregon commitment. Inside linebacker James Miller, a USF, UCF, and UF target (143 tackles, 10 sacks) is a force along with cornerback Markeis Colvin, a Boston College, UCF and USF target, in the secondary.
Northwestern’s defense is led by its own FBS recruits such as cornerback Divaad Wilson (a former UF commit), Demetrius Mayes (UCF commit), Rachad Wildgoose (Georgia commit) and Devontae McCrae (N.C. State commit).
Senior quarterback Tutu Atwell, a Louisville commit, has a chance to join Harris and Teddy Bridgewater among his school’s all-time greats if he can lead the Bulls to victory. Andre’s pick: Northwestern 24, Armwood 21.
Class 3A final - Chaminade (10-2) vs. Oxbridge Academy (10-1), 10 a.m., Saturday: A rare matchup at state between teams from the tri-county area in South Florida figures to be one of the most entertaining.
Chaminade beat Oxbridge last year 30-13 in regional finals and lost the year before in the regional semifinals, 32-24. Oxbridge moved up to Region 2 this year after the FHSAA’s realignment of districts creating the possibility for this matchup.
Oxbridge brings plenty of weapons on both sides that will challenge the Lions’ bid to win their first state title since 2005.
Free safety V’Lique Carter (Iowa State commit) and defensive end Herman McCray (Georgia State) are among the ThunderWolves’ best.
Running backs C.J. Smith (a Mississippi, Louisville, UCF and Oklahoma target) and junior James Meeks, the school’s second all-time leading rusher behind University of Miami running back Travis Homer lead Oxbridge’s spread offense along with dual-threat quarterback Gio Richardson.
But you may not see a better running back this entire weekend in Orlando than Chaminade’s Shaun Shivers. The speedy Auburn commit has run for 1,807 yards and 23 touchdowns on 155 carries (11.7 yards per carry). Andre’s pick: Chaminade 27, Oxbridge 17.
Class 2A final - Champagnat Catholic (8-2) vs. Jacksonville University Christian (10-2), 10 a.m., Friday: Champagnat showed up at state last season and couldn’t mount a shred of offense during a 24-8 loss to University Christian. The Lions have a potent one this season that should bring it success.
The emergence of quarterback Desjaun Kearse has put all the pieces and all of Champagnat’s potent weapons in place for a state title season. If the Lions’ stellar defense, led by Jesus Machado (19 sacks) and Donovan Georges (13 sacks) control that side, look for Champagnat to win its first state title since 2013. Andre’s pick: Champagnat 20, University Christian 17.
Class 5A final - American Heritage (12-0) vs. Glen St. Mary Baker County (13-1), 3 p.m., Friday: A 26-game winning streak and a potential fourth state title in five years. Heritage, ranked No. 5 by USA Today entering the week, has enough experience and talent on both sides of the ball to turn this into a rout quickly and celebrate another state championship. Andre’s pick: American Heritage 34, Baker County 10.
NOTE: All games at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Dade - Last week: 1-1; Season: 217-42; Broward – Last week: 1-1; Season: 196-46.