South Dade delivered a series of clutch performances that led to several dramatic playoff wins and it first state championship in 2013.
A year later, the Bucs’ roster looks a lot different.
South Dade graduated all but two starters on both sides of the ball including quarterback Kahlil Render (41 touchdown passes) and receivers Tyre Brady, C.J. Worton and Nathaniel Terry on offense and standouts Tyree Horton (Miami Herald Defensive Player of the Year) and Antwan Cordy (three interceptions, 11 pass breakups) on defense.
If South Dade is to get anywhere near that kind of success nearly a year later, it will have to rely on several new faces.
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One of its stalwarts from last year’s championship run is back, however, and expected to be among Dade’s best again at his position.
Senior Johnnie Hankins is coming off a junior year in which he ran for 1,155 yards and seven touchdowns and caught four touchdown passes, including the game-winner in the closing seconds of a regional final win against Coral Gables.
Hankins ran for more than 100 yards in that game and also in a victory against district rival Killian the previous week.
Hankins (5-10, 190 pounds) was a key component in South Dade’s pass-happy offense last season, but he will be relied upon more this season while a new offensive line gets acquainted. South Dade also breaks in a new quarterback, likely to be South Miami transfer Patrick Coats.
South Dade won a state title but did not win its district and will face a stiff test to claim that prize again as Killian returns a strong squad led by seniors Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine.
A youthful but talented Southridge squad might also pose a threat to the Bucs and Killian in the chase for the district’s two playoff berths.
Three-time state championship coach Billy Rolle enters his first full season as Coral Reef’s coach. Rolle coached the Barracudas on an interim basis in last year’s regular-season finale as they finished a 6-4 season in which they fell short of the postseason for the second consecutive year.
TEAM TO BEAT
After winning the district following a 1-4 start to the season, the Killian Cougars fell to eventual state champion South Dade in last year’s Class 8A regional semifinals.
Much like South Dade, the Cougars graduated several starters but return the nucleus of talent that should make them a top contender for this year’s state crown. The jewel of the senior class if athlete Jaquan Johnson, a Football Bowl Subdivision-level recruit who is one of the most versatile athletes in Miami-Dade County history.
Mike Manasco, Palmetto. Manasco, who spent the first three seasons starting up football at Westland Hialeah was hired to help revitalize the Panthers, who are coming off a 3-7 season and a last-place finish in the district. His first order of business is to improve an offense that averaged only 10 points per game last season.
The Panthers have not won a district game since 2010.
•Game of the Year:
South Dade vs. Killian, Oct. 24, Harris Field.
•Predicted order of finish:
1. Killian; 2. South Dade; 3. Southridge; 4. Coral Reef; 5. Palmetto.