High School Sports

St. Thomas Aquinas braces for old rival Palm Beach Dwyer in football playoff

Palm Beach Dwyer’s Johnnie Dixon, right, breaks up a pass intended for St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Devante Peete during their Class 7A regional final Friday, Jan. 29, 2013.
Palm Beach Dwyer’s Johnnie Dixon, right, breaks up a pass intended for St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Devante Peete during their Class 7A regional final Friday, Jan. 29, 2013. Sun Sentinel

There are few teams able to claim they have knocked the St. Thomas Aquinas football team out of the playoffs over the past few years.

Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens leads the short list.

Guess who’s up next for the Raiders?

Aquinas, which thrashed an overmatched Royal Palm Beach 29-0 in its Class 7A postseason opener, will face a stiff test early from a Dwyer team of which it has some recent history.

Dwyer, which edged Blanche Ely 16-14 last week, ended the Raiders’ dream of repeating as state champion in 2011 and 2013 — with the Panthers taking the crown two seasons ago.

As was the case then, the defending Class 7A champion Raiders head north for the showdown at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Dwyer hasn’t played its best football of late, suffering its lone loss of the season in the regular-season finale to Delray Beach Atlantic and needing a late interception — as well as a missed field goal with 4:10 left — to top Ely (2-9) last week.

Aquinas, which beat Ely 37-13 for its district title three weeks ago, suffered its lone loss of the season 6-3 at Deerfield Beach on Oct. 9.

The Raiders (9-1) bounced back nicely under first-year coach Roger Harriott as they have outscored their next four opponents, of which three were playoff teams, 126-40.

Since 2007, only Dwyer and Bradenton Manatee (2009) have kept Aquinas from winning a state championship as the Raiders have won five of the past eight titles and are second in state history with eight overall. Jacksonville Bolles leads the trophy race with 11 titles.

The road to another championship for Aquinas again rolls through Palm Beach Gardens and Dwyer.


▪ Region 4-6A semifinal at Traz Powell: Central (8-2) vs. Carol City (9-2) — Carol City edged Central 8-7 to earn the district title after losing star quarterback Stephen Calvert. Last week, Calvert passed for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 44-6 rout of Dillard. Central topped Boyd Anderson 20-3 in the opening round to force the rematch.

▪ Region 4-8A semifinal at Tropical: Columbus (10-1) vs. Coral Gables (10-0), 7:30 Friday — Coral Gables handed the Explorers, who were Class 8A finalists last year, their lone loss of the season for the district title three weeks ago. Columbus played that game without quarterback Alex Ros because of injury, but Ros returned last week and led the Explorers to a rout of American.

▪ Region 3-8A semifinal: Flanagan (8-2) at Deerfield Beach (10-1), 7:30 Friday — The Bucks are 6-1 at home after edging Plantation 17-14 in the regional quarterfinal last week. Flanagan, which had won six straight before losing to Aquinas in the regular-season finale, bounced back by rolling Piper 39-0 last week. The Falcons beat Plantation 35-0 last month.

▪ Region 4-5A semifinal: Hallandale (9-2) at American Heritage (9-1), 7:30 Friday — The Patriots took care of Hallandale 38-15 in the district title game Oct. 30. The defending state champs sacked star quarterback Tyler Huntley three times and forced four turnovers as their own quarterback Josh Brown ran in three scores. Since the loss, Hallandale outscored its next two opponents 98-6.

▪ Region 4-8A semifinal at Harris Field: Southridge (7-4) vs. South Dade (9-1), 7:30 Friday — In another district rematch, the Spartans look for revenge after a 38-0 loss to South Dade on Oct. 2. Both teams had tough games last week in the opening round. Jawon Hamilton had 193 yards and a touchdown to lead South Dade over Southwest, while touchdowns from Kemore Gamble and Coemba Jones led the Spartans past Belen Jesuit 17-7.