Welcome to the 2018 high school football season in South Florida. The first thing perhaps you’ve noticed is that Andre Fernandez’s byline is no longer at the top of this page.
After handling the rankings and predictions for the last 15 years, he has moved on to bigger and better things and we wish him well. Now it’s my turn to prognosticate to the best of my abilities so feel free to fire all your darts and arrows my way should you disagree with my opinions, which I’m sure will be often.
With a new season comes a new set of preseason rankings and a marquee slate of games to open the season.
Preseason top 20
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1. Carol City, 2. St. Thomas Aquinas, 3. Central, 4. Plantation American Heritage, 5. Cardinal Gibbons,6. Northwestern, 7. Chaminade-Madonna, 8. Deerfield Beach, 9. Booker T. Washington, 10. Southridge, 11. Columbus, 12. University School, 13. South Dade, 14. Norland, 15. Miramar, 16. Palmetto, 17. Jackson, 18. Plantation, 19. Pace, 20. Western
Games of the week
No. 1. Carol City at No. 4 Plantation American Heritage, Friday, 7:30 p.m.:
Not only does Carol City return most of its talent from last season, but the Chiefs went out and reeled in just about anybody and everybody in the way of transfers during the offseason including QB Daniel Richardson (Booker T.) and some big-time talent from Doral Academy over the summer.
The Patriots have won four of the last five Class 5A state titles and 28-straight games but got hit hard by graduation in the spring and could be as vulnerable as they’ve been in a while. But of course as most know, there is no such thing as rebuilding at Heritage, just re-loading.
Nevertheless, despite the home-field advantage and long winning streak, Heritage will be challenged in a major way as Carol City could have the best team in the entire state regardless of class.
BD’s PICK: Carol City 27-21.
No. 8 Deerfield Beach at No. 7 Chaminade-Madonna, Friday, 7 p.m.
Lights anyone? After years of sitting in the sweltering afternoon heat, Chaminade fans will now enjoy cooler evenings as they enjoy their first night game in program history.
Despite having one of the most talented teams in the state last season and coming off a state semifinal appearance the year before, Deerfield Beach suffered a first round upset in the playoffs and graduated quite a few seniors. Coach Jevon Glenn still has plenty of talent left in the cupboard, though, led by running back and Oklahoma commit Jaylon Knighton (1,226 yards, 12 TDs).
But Chaminade, the defending 3A state champion, looked awfully impressive in last week’s Kickoff Classic win over Columbus, especially defensively as linebacker and UM commit Kiontra Smith led a dominating defense. Look for the Lions to repeat as 3A champs again and get it started with a win on Friday.
BD’s PICK: Chaminade 28-20.
No. 6 Northwestern at No. 15 Miramar, Friday, 7 p.m.
Despite earning the No. 1 seed last season, Miramar found itself a stunning first-round upset victim to Park Vista, but coach A.J. Scott has plenty of talent back for the Patriots. sophomore QUARTERBACK Cedquan Smith, who turned heads throughout summer 7-on-7s, leads the way.
Led by linebacker and University of Miami commit Samuel Brooks, Northwestern should once again be in the mix when it comes to emerging from the toughest district (and region for that matter) and challenge for a second straight state title.
This is a terrific season-opening challenge for both teams but look for the Bulls to find a way to make enough big plays to come out on top. BD’s PICK: Northwestern 24-14.
No. 3 Central at No. 5 Cardinal Gibbons, Saturday, 7 p.m.
In a weekend of great matchups, this one might be the best.
The Rockets are now two seasons removed from winning their last state title and even though the program sent 24 kids off to college last season, this team could be the one that gets back to Orlando if they can navigate their way past Carol City and Northwestern, a task easier said than done.
“THIS IS THE YEAR” appears to be the battle cry coming out of Cardinal Gibbons. Ranked nationally (No. 20 Max Preps) in the preseason for the first time in program history, the Chiefs are a program that has had to live in the giant shadow of big brother and district nemesis Plantation American Heritage the last two years. Led by quarterback Nik Scalzo, Gibbons might finally be poised to surge past the Patriots and challenge for the 5A title.
This one could come down to the last possession and is WAY too close to call. I took out a quarter. Heads Gibbons. Tails Central.
BD’s PICK: Gibbons 24-23.
DeMatha (Md.) at No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas, Saturday, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Led by running back Daniel Carter along with linebacker and University of Miami commit Anthony Solomon, the Raiders, after seeing their dream of a fourth straight state title end with an upset loss in last year’s state semifinals, are a determined bunch heading into 2018.
The Stags (from Hyattsville, Maryland) will bring a No. 47 Max Preps national ranking into the game but will be seriously challenged by a team in the Raiders who boast a No. 6 national ranking and are quite used to playing on national TV.
Look for St. Thomas to get out of the gate fast this season.
BD’s PICK: Aquinas 34-20.
More top 20 games
9. Booker T. Washington vs. Dillard, Friday, 7:30 p.m. @ Traz Powell
Despite facing the same brutal schedule of a year ago and missing the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, Ice Harris has re-loaded the Tornadoes program with a lot of talent and they won’t miss the postseason this time. BD’s Pick: BTW 34-16
10. Southridge vs. American, Thursday, 7 p.m. @ Traz Powell
If Sedrick Irvin did what he did at Miami High last season (state semifinal appearance), imagine what he can do inheriting the talent pool he’s getting here. Spartans will be awfully good this season. BD’s Pick: Southridge 34-13.
11. Columbus vs. Mater Academy, Thursday, 5 p.m. @ Columbus HS.
The Explorers will hold special ceremony before the game honoring fallen teammate Ari Arteaga and then take it out on the Lions. BD’s Pick: Columbus 38-7.
12. University School vs. Glades Central, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
After making it all the way to the state semis a year ago, head coach Danny Luque has the Sharks, led by running back and UM commit Kenny McIntosh, ready for a big season and will get started with an important win over a quality opponent. BD’s Pick: University 33-21.
13. South Dade vs. Coral Gables, Friday, 7:30 p.m. @ Tropical Park
The Bucs will be good this season, challenging Southridge and Palmetto in tough District 16-8A and get things started on the right note. BD’s Pick: South Dade 27-14.
14. Norland vs. Piper, Saturday, 7 p.m. @ Traz
Competing in a brutal district with Carol City, NW and Central, the Vikings know how important it is to win all of their other games if they want to be a playoff team again and will get things started here. BD’s Pick: Norland 30-7.
16. Palmetto at Hialeah-Miami Lakes, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Mike Manasco has done an outstanding job since taking over a few years ago and has the Panthers loaded again to compete in a tough district and should easily handled the Trojans. BD’s Pick: Palmetto 31-13.
17. Jackson vs. Mourning, Thursday, 3:30 @ Traz
Word is that new head coach Scott Daniels has managed to reel in some talent on his roster and Generals could be surprisingly good in 2018. BD’s Pick: Jackson 37-7.
18. Plantation vs. West Broward, Friday, 7 p.m. @ Flanagan
The Colonels will once again be a solid playoff contender and get things started with a quality season-opening win over a tough opponent. BD’s Pick: Plantation 20-14.
19. Monsignor Pace vs. Boyd Anderson, Friday, 7:30 p.m. @ Pace
Despite losing key players during the offseason who transferred out, the Spartans and coach Joe Zacheo never back down from a fight with a large 8A school and should be able to get by the Cobras. BD’s Pick: Pace 24-16.
20. Western at South Broward, Friday, 7 p.m.
After a historic deep playoff run a year ago, the Wildcats got hit hard by graduation but coach Adam Ratkevich still has a solid core of players left that should keep the Wildcats competitive. BD’s Pick: Western 27-13.
THURSDAY: Miami-Dade: Coral Park vs. Southwest (Tropical), 7:30; Southwest 24-13; Coral Reef at Reagan, 3:30; Reagan 27-20; Ferguson vs. Sunset (Southridge), 7; Ferguson 21-20; Varela vs. South Miami (Tropical), 3:30; South Miami 20-14; Miami High vs. North Miami (Ives Estates), 7; North Miami 30-21; Hialeah vs. Miami Springs (Milander), 7; Miami Springs 14-13; Broward: South Plantation vs. Taravella (Coral Springs), 7; Taravella 23-17
FRIDAY: Miami-Dade: Homestead at Braddock, 3:30; Braddock 20-16; Doral Academy at St. Frances (MD), 6; St. Frances 33-14; Belen Jesuit at Delray American Heritage, 7; American Heritage 28-23; Everglades Prep. at New Smyrna Beach, 7; NSB 35-10; Gulliver Prep. at Key West, 7; Gulliver 24-21; Krop at Miami Beach (Memorial), 7; Krop 13-10; Edison at Naples, 7:30; Naples 38-16; Westland Hialeah vs. Hialeah Gardens (Milander), 7:30; HG 23-7; Killian vs. North Miami Beach (Ives Estates), 7:30 Killian 24-20; Miami Christian at Marathon, 4; MC 28-21; Champagnat at Somerset Silver Palms, 4; Champagnat 20-16; Palm Glades Prep. at Westminster Christian, 4; WC 30-10; Boca St. Andrews at Palmer Trinity, 4; PT 17-14.
Broward: Northeast at Hollywood Hills, 4; HH 27-23; Fort Lauderdale at Archbishop McCarthy, 7; McCarthy 21-16; Stranahan at Blanche Ely, 7; Ely 26-20; Coconut Creek at Coral Springs, 7; Creek 30-17; Cypress Bay at Cooper City, 7; Cooper City 21-20; Coral Glades at Nova, 7; Nova 27-10; Coral Springs Charter at Pine Crest, 7; PC 33-24; Hallandale at Everglades, 7; Hallandale 28-16; Pompano Beach at Monarch, 7; Monarch 17-10; Pines Charter at North Broward Prep., 7; NBP 34-10; Somerset at Westminster Academy, 7; WA 27-14; Flanagan at McArthur, 7; McArthur 28-7.
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