St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage set the tone for another big season in the fall by winning football state championships.
Cardinal Gibbons won its first basketball title in the winter, and Blanche Ely continued its tradition of excellence with an undefeated season.
And Archbishop McCarthy’s baseball team wrapped it up with a thrilling run to its fifth state title in six seasons.
Those were a few highlights in a year in which Broward County schools showed their dominance by winning a total of 25 state championships.
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SETTING THE TONE
A star-studded football showdown between St. Thomas Aquinas and American Heritage at Sun Life Stadium opened the season. St. Thomas crushed Heritage on that day 38-7.
The Raiders would, however, suffer a deflating loss two weeks later in New York against Don Bosco Prep that effectively ended their national title hopes. A dramatic win over Miramar got Aquinas back on track and started a 13-game winning streak that carried it to its eighth state championship in school history.
American Heritage would also recover following that early season loss and cruise to its second consecutive Class 5A state championship.
It capped a strong fall season for the Patriots, who also won a boys’ swimming and diving state title and boys’ and girls’ golf titles.
St. Thomas added a little more gold on the volleyball court as its girls won their third state title after coming up short in recent years. Each would add girls’ soccer state championships during the winter. Heritage would win a state boys’ tennis title, and Aquinas would win a girls’ track title in the spring.
The football playoffs began with an off-the-field scandal at Miamar, one of the county’s recent powerhouses.
Weeks after it fired its former coach, Matt Strout, Miramar vacated its spot in the playoffs after a 7-3 regular season in the wake of allegations that surfaced concerning eligibility of several players because of improper benefits and academic fraud.
Flanagan emerged from a tough region and advanced further than it ever had, reaching the Class 8A state semifinals before losing to Miami Columbus.
Throughout the basketball season two boys’ teams appeared untouchable — Blanche Ely and Cardinal Gibbons.
That assumption was proven correct as both cruised into a showdown at the BCAA Big 8 tournament unbeaten and nationally ranked.
Ely prevailed that day and would go on to complete the first perfect season by a public school basketball team in county history. The finish earned the Tigers a trip to New York and a berth in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals.
Gibbons would not lose again either, marching all the way to Lakeland where it won its first state championship in the sport.
But Blanche Ely wasn’t the only team invited to New York.
Dillard’s girls dominated the state and won another state championship in Class 5A. The Panthers got the chance to play at Madison Square Garden after making the finals of the High School Nationals, but they lost to Miami Country Day.
Cypress Bay boys’ soccer changed coaches, bringing in Colin Ilgner to replace Juan Ramos. The Lightning didn’t skip a beat, winning its fourth state title in five seasons.
Dillard and Coral Springs each won their first state cheerleading titles.
And then there was McCarthy.
The Mavericks had a mix of eight sophomores and key veteran seniors who survived several close games, including a comeback from a five-run deficit in the state semifinals that helped them secure the Class 5A baseball crown.
Earlier in the spring season, four schools — Cypress Bay (boys and girls), American Heritage (boys), Pine Crest (girls) and Sagemont (boys) — won a tennis state championship.
Coral Springs Charter completed an unbeaten season with its first softball state title, which was also its first in any team sport.
Hallandale swept the Class 2A track and field titles, winning its second for each gender. Westminster Academy’s boys won in Class 1A and made it four state team titles in the sport for Broward.