High School Sports

Andre C. Fernandez: Second week of playoffs features rivalries

The second round is often one of the most telling weeks in the playoffs.

There are the games between programs looking for signature wins such as Hallandale against established powerhouses such as Miami Central that are trying to live up to expectations.

And then there are rematches of heated rivalries, as in the case of Columbus and Coral Gables.

As we draw closer to Orlando, this week should provide a little more clarity on which are the real favorites are in South Florida:

▪ Region 4-6A semifinal — Central (10-1) at Hallandale (10-0): Hallandale won its first playoff game since 2008 after a rout of Northwestern — one of South Florida’s most tradition-rich football programs.

But the obstacle the Chargers must overcome this week if they are to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time is way more daunting.

Miami Central, still ranked in the top 15 nationally despite an early season loss to Booker T. Washington, turned things up a notch last week against Boynton Beach and star quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Louisville commitment was swarmed by a Rockets defense that sacked him nine times, intercepted him twice and held him to a meager 36 yards on 3-of-9 passing in a 49-6 rout.

Hallandale is a little more balanced on offense with a solid running game led by Taj McGowan. But the Chargers have a mobile quarterback in Tyler Huntley and a solid group of receivers.

Expect more suffocating Central’s defense this week. Andre’s pick: Central 34, Hallandale 20.

▪ Region 3-8A semifinal — Flanagan (11-0) vs. Monarch (9-1) at Deerfield Beach: Monarch was stoked to play Miramar. But the Patriots were the biggest story in Broward last week because of their removal from the playoffs for several off-field violations.

The Knights earned a bye and now must brace themselves as they host the team many have deemed the favorite in Class 8A to reach Orlando.

Flanagan and its potent offense put up big numbers against Coral Springs, but its defense also yielded a decent amount of points against the Colts.

That could be a concern against a Monarch offense that is averaging more than 45 points per game this season.

But the biggest reason the Falcons have remained unbeaten and won their first district championship this season is thanks to that “Dirty Birds” defense consistently playing well.

This one should be a classic if both offenses find rhythm early and often. But Flanagan’s defense has shown a knack for making the important plays late in games. Andre’s pick: Flanagan 34, Monarch 31.

▪ Region 4-8A semifinal — Columbus (10-1) vs. Coral Gables (9-2) at Tropical, Thursday: This matchup last season had to be played in two parts over two days because of a torrential rainstorm that hit Tropical Park the first night. Columbus took a 20-0 lead the first night when the game was suspended and still believes it could have finished off the Cavaliers if not for the weather as Gables rallied for a 34-26 victory the following day at Traz Powell Stadium.

Columbus earned a measure of payback in September, edging Gables 14-13 to win the District 14-8A crown. Gables believes it is peaking now and hopes to avenge its two regular-season defeats over the next two weeks. But it needs more offensive production if its to beat the Explorers, who have won seven of their past eight since that win over Gables and appear to be one of the most balanced teams in the region. Andre’s pick: Columbus 17, Coral Gables 14.

▪ Region 4-4A final — Booker T. Washington (11-0) vs. Belle Glade Glades Central (9-2) at Traz Powell: Time for the Tornadoes to make history with a victory that would give them 38 wins in a row and break the record for Miami-Dade County all-time longest winning streak. Glades Central presents more of a challenge than poor overmatched Somerset. But Booker T. has its sights set on a three-peat. Andre’s pick: Booker T. Washington 38, Glades Central 14.

▪ Region 4-8A semifinal — Killian (11-0) vs. Belen (8-3) at Tropical Park: The Wolverines have been tremendous and pulled off an impressive victory over a talented Southridge team last week at home. They will have a chance to compete and keep it close again this week. But I have had a hard time all season picking against Killian and its phenomenal playmakers on defense. Andre’s pick: Killian 17, Belen 7.

▪ Region 4-7A semifinal — Plantation (8-3) at St. Thomas Aquinas (10-1): The first meeting ended with a 51-0 rout in Aquinas’ favor. Plantation won last week but hasn’t figured out anything over the past month that can slow down the Raiders’ march to Orlando. Andre’s pick: St. Thomas Aquinas 42, Plantation 7.

▪ Region 4-5A semifinal — Naples Lely (8-3) at Plantation American Heritage (8-3): Lely isn’t a team the Patriots should take lightly, nor will they after the kind of brutal schedule they played to get to this point. Andre’s pick: American Heritage 35, Naples Lely 16.

▪ Region 4-3A final — American Heritage-Delray (9-1) at Westminster Christian (10-1) at site TBA: Westminster had an impressive win over Cardinal Newman last week. It will take twice as impressive a performance and then some to stop this juggernaut this week. Andre’s pick: Heritage-Delray 38, Westminster Christian 21.

Andre’s Dade record — Last week: 10-3; Season: 264-57 (.823).

Andre’s Broward record — Last week: 6-3; Season: 224-50 (.818).

NOTE: All games at 7:30 p.m. Friday unless noted.