High School Sports

Andre C. Fernandez: Rockets defense will stifle Cobras

After a wild regular season with more parity than we’ve seen in quite some time, the final five-week journey to the state championships is about to begin. One of the biggest story lines is in Class 6A — a class dominated for the better part of five seasons by the Central Rockets.

▪ Region 4-6A quarterfinal — Miami Central (7-2) at Boyd Anderson (9-1): Is Central’s run of three consecutive state titles and four in the past five years really in jeopardy? It seems like that question is asked every season before the Rockets go out there and play their best football in the postseason.

Central starts in Lauderdale Lakes against the turnaround team of Broward County — Boyd Anderson. First-year coach Eddie Brown came over from Northwestern and is getting the most of a talent-rich team that’s gone from 0-10 last season to 9-1 in 2015.

The Cobras haven’t won a playoff game in three years. To change that, they will have to find a way to score early and often on Central’s punishing defense that will undoubtedly be tough behind Keir Thomas and Donovan Thompson. Pick: Central 28, Boyd Anderson 13.

▪ Region 4-6A quarterfinal — Dillard (6-4) vs. Carol City (8-2), Traz Powell: The team many believe most likely to supplant Central as the new Class 6A power is Carol City. The Chiefs did beat Central after all on Oct. 3 by the slim margin of 8-7 in a game that ultimately allowed them to win the District 16-6A title.

In that game, starting quarterback Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert got injured, and Carol City won a defensive duel by forcing a turnover in the closing seconds to hang on.

But enough talk of Carol City-Central … that’s probably next week if the Rockets can get past Boyd Anderson. Pick: Carol City 35, Dillard 14.

▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinal —Columbus (9-1) vs. American (6-4), Milander: The Explorers, who made it to state last season, appeared to be cruising along until losing starting quarterback Alex Ros over two weeks ago with a collarbone injury. Columbus’ offensive struggles during a 20-10 loss to Coral Gables have put its chances in doubt. Ros is questionable this week against a Patriots’ defense that looked bad against Carol City last week. Columbus should get past this one with or without Ros. Pick: Columbus 14, American 3.

▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinal — Southridge (6-4) at Belen Jesuit (7-3), 3 p.m.: Belen dispatched Southridge from the playoffs last season in this same round. The Spartans have the talent edge as they did a year ago. But picking against Belen in this round at this time of day at their home field has bit me before. Pick: Belen 20, Southridge 19.

▪ Region 3-8A quarterfinal — Plantation (8-2) at Deerfield Beach (9-1): The Bucks put themselves in the state-title conversation with that win over St. Thomas Aquinas. Plantation has a solid team that will try to keep it close, but the Bucks’ talent should win out in the end. Pick: Deerfield Beach 30, Plantation 13.

▪ Region 4-4A semifinal — NSU University School (7-3) vs. Booker T. Washington (5-5), 7, Thursday, Traz: When these two last met in the postseason, many considered it the early state championship game that season. Both have gone through some rough times since. University has come back from a dismal 1-9 season to make the playoffs. And after winning 41 in a row, Booker T. has not won back-to-back games all season. Here’s where the Tornadoes change that. Pick: Booker T. 38, University School 21.

▪ Region 4-7A quarterfinal — West Broward (7-3) vs. Sunset (9-1), Tropical: The health of Sunset running back Javier Zuniga, Dade’s leading rusher, is in question after injuring his ankle against Braddock on Saturday. Even without him, Sunset has home-field advantage. Pick: Sunset 14, West Broward 7.

MORE PICKS

▪ Region 3-8A quarterfinal — Piper (9-1) at Flanagan (7-2). Pick: Flanagan 42, Piper 8.

▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinal – Southwest (7-3) vs. South Dade (8-1), Harris Field. Pick: South Dade 31, Southwest 7.

▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinal — Hialeah (5-5) vs. Coral Gables (9-0), 7, Thursday, Tropical. Pick: Coral Gables 35, Hialeah 7.

▪ Region 4-7A quarterfinal — Royal Palm Beach (6-5) at St. Thomas Aquinas (8-1). Pick: St. Thomas Aquinas 42, Royal Palm Beach 7.

▪ Region 4-7A quarterfinal — Mater Academy (8-1) at Nova (5-5). Pick: Mater Academy 24, Nova 10.

▪ Region 4-7A quarterfinal — Blanche Ely (2-8) at Dwyer (9-1). Pick: Dwyer 41, Ely 12.

▪ Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Fort Pierce Westwood (4-4) at American Heritage (8-1). Pick: American Heritage 45, Westwood 10.

▪ Region 4-5A quarterfinal — Hallandale (8-2) at Riviera Beach Suncoast (5-5). Pick: Hallandale 48, Suncoast 14

▪ Region 4-3A semifinal — Delray American Heritage (7-2) at Westminster Christian (8-1), 2:30 p.m. Pick: American Heritage 38, Westminster Christian 24.

▪ Region 4-2A semifinal — Community School of Naples (9-1) at Dade Christian (9-1). Pick: Dade Christian 35, CSN 34.

▪ Region 4-4A semifinal — Gulliver (5-5) at Belle Glade Glades Central (8-2). Pick: Glades Central 36, Gulliver 16.

▪ Region 4-3A semifinal — Chaminade (7-2) at West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy (8-2). Pick: Oxbridge 42, Chaminade 14.

▪ SFC championship — Calvary Christian (8-2) vs. Coral Springs Charter (10-0), 7, Saturday, Pompano Beach. Pick: Coral Springs Charter 35, Calvary Christian 31.

▪ GCFC championship — Key West (6-4) at Archbishop McCarthy (10-0), 7, Thursday. Pick: McCarthy 42, Key West 24.

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

Andre’s record

Overall

Pct.

Last week (Broward)

14-4

.778

Last week (Dade)

17-5

.773

Season (Broward)

218-51

.810

Season (Dade)

249-56

.816

South Florida Top 20 rankings

1. American Heritage (8-1)

2. Deerfield Beach (9-1)

3. St. Thomas Aquinas (8-1)

4. Coral Gables (9-0)

5. South Dade (8-1)

6. Carol City (8-2)

7. Hallandale (8-2)

8. Central (7-2)

9. Columbus (9-1)

10. Flanagan (7-2)

11. Boyd Anderson (9-1)

12. Plantation (8-2)

13. Southridge (6-4)

14. Westminster Christian (8-1)

15. Belen Jesuit (7-3)

16. Booker T. Washington (5-5)

17. Sunset (9-1)

18. Piper (9-1)

19. Archbishop McCarthy (10-0)

20. Coral Springs Charter (10-0)

Dropped out: 15. Chaminade-Madonna (7-2), 17. American (6-4), 18. Dillard (6-4).

Under consideration: University School (7-3), Southwest (7-3), Gulliver (5-5), Mater Academy (8-1), Dade Christian (9-1).

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