15. NORTHWESTERN (3-4) VS. 10. NORLAND (3-3) 7:30 p.m., Friday, N. Miami.
The District 16-6A championship race got even crazier last week when Norland outlasted Carol City in overtime during a monsoon Friday night at Traz.
The next night at Traz, Central kept its district title hopes alive by shutting out longtime rival Northwestern 16-0.
The next chapter in this heated race will take place at nearby North Miami Stadium, or as it’s affectionately known, “The Mosquito Bowl Back in the Hole.”
Norland has three weeks to get ready for Carol City and won’t let any rain or bugs slow it down in what is another must-win game this week. Northwestern brings a talented balanced offense to the game. But the Bulls were shut down by a similar Central defensive unit that had them in negative total yardage until the closing moments of the game this past Saturday.
Northwestern still controls its playoff fate.
If the Bulls beat Norland and Carol City over the next two weeks, they clinch at least the runner-up spot in the district outright or even the district title if Central unexpectedly loses to Hialeah-Miami Lakes.
A Norland win puts it in prime position should it beat HML next week to earn at least a spot in a district championship tiebreaker with Carol City and Central or clinch a playoff berth outright, depending on the outcome of next week’s Carol City-Northwestern game.
Norland, which loves to blitz the quarterback, can neutralize Northwestern sophomore Tutu Atwell and stop the run. Expect Norland to take the next step in its quest to reach the postseason.
Andre’s pick: Norland 12, Northwestern 10.
BOOKER T. (4-4) VS. 2. COLUMBUS (8-0) 7:30, FRIDAY, TROPICAL.
Columbus has been cruising ever since it entered the bulk of its district schedule.
Now, we’ll find out if it has become a complete team on both sides of the football and is ready to make a playoff run.
The Explorers face two tough opponents to close the regular season with the Tornadoes this week and likely still undefeated Coral Gables in a district championship showdown next week.
Booker T. locked up another district crown of its own last week following a win over Gulliver and Edison’s upset loss to Pace.
Despite being nondistrict, this game means a lot to both sides.
For the Tornadoes, who have not won consecutive games all season, they can start to develop some much-needed momentum heading into the playoffs.
For Columbus, it’s about beating one of the county’s better teams and proving it is worthy of its lofty status.
Booker T. freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson, who collapsed because of dehydration during last Thursday’s game against Gulliver, is expected to be ready to play.
The Explorers have won their biggest games this season thanks to timely play by their defense. This will likely be another one of those occasions.
Andre’s pick: Columbus 20, Booker T. Washington 17.
14. PLANTATION (6-2) AT 19. DILLARD (5-2) 7 p.m., Friday.
Both teams suffered lopsided defeats against the teams leading their respective districts in recent weeks.
Both have since responded by winning district games they were favored to and each has pulled to within one victory of clinching a playoff berth.
This game serves as a solid test for both sides to see how well they have adjusted since the setbacks that took them out of first place.
Andre’s pick: Plantation 20, Dillard 19.
HIALEAH (3-4) VS. DR. KROP (4-3) 7 p.m., Thursday, N. Miami.
These two teams combined for a 3-17 record last season.
They will now meet in a game that will likely decide their playoff fate.
Hialeah has begun a turnaround under veteran coach Steve Smith and can clinch the runner-up spot in District 13-8A with a victory against Krop.
The Lightning can assure itself of at least a spot in a runner-up tiebreaker with a win in this game.
Krop would then have to beat North Miami next week to clinch the district outright.
It’s been a three-year playoff absence for Krop, and a one-year absence for Hialeah.
Andre’s pick: Hialeah 17, Krop 14.