High School Sports

11 South Florida teams remain in the playoffs. Here’s the regional finals breakdown

Columbus’s quarterback Brandon McDuffey, looks to pass over Palmetto players during the first quarter of the Columbus Explores Varsity Football vs Miami Palmetto Varsity football game at Tropical Park on Thursday, November 15, 2018. Columbus won 42-0.
Columbus’s quarterback Brandon McDuffey, looks to pass over Palmetto players during the first quarter of the Columbus Explores Varsity Football vs Miami Palmetto Varsity football game at Tropical Park on Thursday, November 15, 2018. Columbus won 42-0. pportal@miamiherald.com

Two more wins.

That’s all that separates the 11 Broward and Miami-Dade County football teams still alive in the playoffs from making it to Orlando and competing for a state title.

This week, the regional finals, will be the testing week, the one that shows which teams from South Florida truly have what it takes to make that final push.

If all works out correctly, as many as eight teams will advance to the state semifinals in the state’s top seven classifications (neither county has a team in Class 1A, although Palm Beach County’s Pahokee is still holding strong there.)

Here’s a look at this week’s regional final matchups, all of which take place on Friday.

Region 4-8A: Columbus vs. South Dade, 1 p.m. at Tropical Park

The Columbus Explorers (12-0) have breezed through two stiff weeks of competition, defeating district rival Coral Gables 38-21 and then blowing out Palmetto 42-0. Junior running back Henry Parrish leads the offense, while a dominating defensive line captained by Jeremy Passmore makes life easy for the secondary.

They host South Dade on Friday for a spot in the state semifinal. The Bucs relied heavily on their offense (namely, Najeh Baker) in their opening-round win over Hialeah and then leaned primarily on their defense to defeat district rival Southridge in the regional semifinals on Friday. Wide receiver Frank Ladson, a Clemson commit, and defensive back Jaiden Francois (11 interceptions this year, including three on Friday) are notable players to watch.

Region 3-8A: Palm Beach Central at Deerfield Beach, 7:30 p.m.

The Deerfield Beach Bucks had a close call early in their regional quarterfinal against Miramar before pulling away for a 32-14 win and then blew out Plantation 23-0. The offense runs through running back and Oklahoma commit Jaylan Knight, who has 1,915 rushing yards on just 215 carries this season. Deerfield’s defense, meanwhile, has held every opponent except St. Thomas Aquinas to under 20 points and has produced four shutouts.

They host the Palm Beach Central Broncos (11-1), who are riding an 11-game win streak after dropping their season opener to Atlantic. Palm Beach Central opened the playoffs with a 44-14 win over Wellington before shutting out Western 38-0 in the regional semifinals.

Region 4-7A: Dwyer at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7:30 p.m.

After breezing through its first two rounds, the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders have their first real test of the postseason on Friday against the Dwyer Panthers. Both teams are 11-1 this year and have the ability to run up the score with high-octane offensive attacks.

The Raiders blew out both South Miami (77-20) and Fort Lauderdale (51-0) to reach the third round of the playoffs. Dwyer topped West Broward (43-0) and Palm Beach Lakes (55-27).

Region 4-6A: Northwestern vs. Central, 7:30 p.m. at Traz Powell Stadium

Once again, a District 16-6A team is guaranteed a spot in the state semifinals. District foes Northwestern and Central, both of whom entered the playoffs as at-large teams behind district champ Carol City, will face off at their home Traz Powell Stadium.

Central, which played second-fiddle in the district, county and state to Carol City all year, upended the Chiefs on Friday night behind a strong performance from senior running back Lexington Joseph. Northwestern, the defending Class 6A state champs, had to travel out of South Florida for its two playoff wins so far — a 31-16 win over Mainland and a 31-19 win over Palm Bay Heritage.

Central won the first meeting between these teams 38-10 on Oct. 19

And as a friendly reminder, a team from District 16-6A has won the state title each of the last six years.

Region 4-5A: Plantation American Heritage at Cardinal Gibbons, 7:30 p.m.

The Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs made waves on Oct. 12 when they finally defeated Plantation American Heritage.

Can they do it again? For a third consecutive season, the Chiefs and Patriots will face off with a state semifinal berth on the line. This year, though, Gibbons will host the regional final matchup.

The main question for Gibbons: Will quarterback Nick Scalzo, who hurt his leg late in the 30-27 win over Orlando Jones last week, be healthy enough to lead the offense?

The Patriots, winners of four of the last five Class 5A titles, had to travel to both Fort Pierce Westwood (37-14 win) and Rockledge (31-14 win) to open the playoffs,

Region 4-4A: Glades Central at University School, 7:30 p.m.

University School avoided an early scare against Gulliver Prep before leading a second-half push in a 40-13 win. Glades Central, meanwhile, upset Booker T. Washington with a dominant second half to set up a rematch with the U School Sharks. U School won that matchup 35-6 on Aug. 24 to open the season.

Region 4-3A: Delray American Heritage at Chaminade-Madonna, 7:30 p.m.

The Chaminade-Madonna Lions blanked Palmer Trinity 62-0 on Friday to continue their title defense, while Delray American Heritage put up a big win over Calvary Christian (42-14) and pulled out a close win over Palm Beach Benjamin (23-19) to advance to the regional final.

Region 4-2A: Champagnat at Naples St. John Neumann, 7:30 p.m.

Champagnat, which looked shaky for most of the regular season, continues to impress in the playoffs. After a 20-19 win over Miami Christian, the Lions defeated top-seeded Moore Haven 24-16 on the road to set up a regional final at Naples’ St. John Neumann, which defeated Glades Day 55-14 last week.

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