COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF: Chiefs Start 2018 As No. 1

Larry Blustein
August 21, 2018 - 9:39 am

Larry Blustein

When it comes to choosing the top 15 teams in south Florida, it is never an easy thing to do.

As the 2018 season unfolds this week, there are a number of quality programs who have proven that they indeed belong.

When selecting programs in south Florida, the one thing you can guarantee is that in the end, everything will play itself out. Every top program would have either played each other - or played more than one common opponent.

Way before Miami Carol City trounced Tallahassee Rickards in a kickoff classic this past weekend, many were predicting that the Chiefs had one of the best teams in the nation. They were right - and head into the 2018 season as the South Florida High School Sports No. 1 team.  

While programs such as St. Thomas Aquinas bring the same kind of smothering defense to the table, it’s on offense where this program separates itself. Marquee backs and a quarterback who has already won a state title.

But as we have found out over the years, nothing is for sure – and in the first week of the 2018 season alone, we will see six of the top 10 programs play each other, so things will shake up right away.

As head coach Pat Surtain and his American Heritage Patriots found out last year, all you have to do is win – as they defend their two 5A state championships with a No. 3 start and a 28 game winning streak. They were our area champions a year ago and still have plenty of elite talent.

As many schools may not be listed to start the year out, believe us, if they win, they will be in. Being there at the end of August is nice, but being among the top 15 in December is what keeps jobs!

Remember, this is only the pre-season poll, you will see it changes every week – and that is indeed a great thing.

Here is a look at the top 15 to start the season off this week:

1. Carol City Chiefs (6A – 0-0). Two years removed from a state title, this team is loaded – with talent on both sides of the ball. They have the chance to be very special in 2018. THIS WEEK: At No. 3 Plantation American Heritage on Friday at 7:30. NEXT WEEK: Will have the week off before a meeting with No. 9 Columbus on Sept. 7.

2. St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (7A – 0-0). After falling short last season, this is a program that is ready to get back to Orlando and reclaim a class they have owned for the past five years. THIS WEEK: National power De Matha Catholic on Saturday, 8:00. NEXT WEEK: At Sunrise Piper, 8/31, 7:00. 

3. American Heritage Patriots (5A – 0-0). Make no mistake, there are very few programs who have been able to do what this team has done the past three years. 28 straight wins and plenty of great talent on board again. THIS WEEK: Will play host to No. 1 Carol City on Friday at 7:30. NEXT WEEK: The Patriots will take part in Georgia’s Freedom Bowl where they will play nationally rated St. Joseph’s Regional of New Jersey at 1:30 on Saturday, Sept. 1.

4. Northwestern Bulls (6A – 0-0). For the defending state champions, being a target is nothing new, and this season, everyone will be looking to beat this impressive team that still has plenty of talent. THIS WEEK: The Bulls will travel to No. 15 Miramar for the Dade-Broward Challenge on Friday at 7. NEXT WEEK: Will travel to play No. 9 Christopher Columbus on Aug. 31 at 7:30 at Tropical Park.

5. Central (6A – 0-0). Competing in the most prospect rich district in the country, here is a team that is always ready for a challenge, and after not heading to Orlando in three years, the Rockets are hungry. THIS WEEK: At No. 6 Cardinal Gibbons on Saturday (7:00) in the Dade-Broward Challenge. NEXT WEEK: It’s the annual meeting with No. 13 Booker T. Washington on Aug. 31 at Traz Powell Stadium at 7:30. 

6. Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs (5A – 0-0). After falling short once again in the state playoffs in 2017, this is program that is indeed ready to challenge and show the country they are among the best. THIS WEEK: Will play host to No. 5 Miami Central on Saturday at 7. NEXT WEEK: It’s on the road to Georgia as part of the Freedom Bowl at Milton on Friday, 8/31 at 8:30.

7. Deerfield Beach Bucks (8A – 0-0). There were very few teams that had the off season attention that this program received. There is a lot of young talent that is starting to mature along with some quality veterans. THIS WEEK: It will be a road game against No. 8 Chaminade-Madonna at 7. NEXT WEEK: It’s a trip to nationally-rated Buford, Ga. on 8/31 at 8:30. 

8. Chaminade-Madonna Lions (3A – 0-0). The defending state champions have put together a very impressive team this year – and are up for any challenge, as they showed in the kickoff classic. THIS WEEK: Will host its very first ever night game on campus against No. 7 Deerfield Beach at 7. NEXT WEEK: Will also take part in the Freedom Bowl in Georgia – with an Aug. 1 meeting against Muscle Shoals, Alabama at 10:30 a.m.

9. Columbus Explorers (8A – 0-0). The way this team ended the season is exactly the motivation for a program that is loaded with prospects and tremendous coaching. This program is always in the mix. THIS WEEK: At home on Friday (5:30) against Mater Academy. NEXT WEEK: Will play host to No. 4 Northwestern on Aug. 31 at 7:30 at Tropical Park.

10. Southridge (8A – 0-0). Two years removed from a state title, and a new head coach moves in with plenty of talent in a very tough region, which is loaded with quality teams. THIS WEEK: American on Thursday at Traz Powell Stadium at 7. NEXT WEEK: North Miami at home on Aug. 31 at 7:30.

11. Palmetto Panthers (8A 0-0). The defending district champions have a number of key players to replace, but when they do, this is a team that can make some noise. The returning players are indeed the heart and should of this program. THIS WEEK: Will open the season at Hialeah-Miami Lakes on Friday (3:30). NEXT WEEK: It’s a return trip to state-rated Naples next Friday at 7:30. The Panthers handed the Golden Eagles their only regular season loss.

12. University School Sharks (4A – 0-0). After a solid kickoff classic showing against No. 3 American Heritage, here is a program that believes that it can be in the mix from the start – once again. THIS WEEK: Huge conference game at home on Friday night against Glades Central (7). NEXT WEEK: After two solid games to start the year, they will take the week off. 

13. Booker T. Washington Tornadoes (4A – 0-0). While we understand that the schedule is crazy and it cost them a playoff spot last year, things look like they are changing once again in Overtown. Big time talent is in place and depth is NOT an issue this season. They will be in plenty of big games. THIS WEEK: Coach Tim “Ice” Harris and his team will play host to Dillard on Friday at Traz Powell Stadium at 7:30. NEXT WEEK: It’s annual war with No. 5 Miami Central at Traz Powell Stadium on Aug. 31. 

14 Plantation Colonels (8A – 0-0). After posting nine wins a year ago, this is a program to truly keep your eye on. Great defense and an offense that is still feeling its way. But they failed to get over the hump against Miramar and in the playoffs against defending state runner up Atlantic. THIS WEEK: Defending 7A district champion West Broward on Friday at 7. NEXT WEEK: Coach Steve Davis and his team stays on the road for week 2 at Blanche Ely on Aug. 31. 

15. Norland Vikings (6A 0-0). This was a playoff team last season, and while the talent level may not be what the rest of the district powers have, this team can play - and they will once again be a force. THIS WEEK: Coach Darryle Heidelburg’s team will open at Traz Powell Stadium on Saturday night at 7 against a much improved Piper. NEXT WEEK: A trip to Bradenton to play national power IMG on Friday, 8/31, at 7.

(TIE) – Western Wildcats (8A - 0-0)  Coming off the best season in school history, the challenge to get one step further has been a major incentive for this quality program. Earning a tie last week in the kickoff classic with No. 11 Palmetto showed Coach Adam Ratkevich that his team is ready to contend. THIS WEEK: The season opens on Friday at South Broward at 7. NEXT WEEK: A home game against 6A Dillard on 8/31 at 7.

(TIE) - Miramar Patriots (8A – 0-0). After rolling through the season last year, this team fell short, losing in the first round of the state playoffs. With many holes to fill, this is a program that will improve throughout the year. THIS WEEK: It’s home for a Dade-Broward Challenge contest with No. 4 Northwestern on Friday at 7. NEXT WEEK: Will take the week off to prepare for American Heritage on Sept. 7 in Plantation.

(TIE) - South Dade Bucs (8A – 0-0). With a number of players gone from last year’s playoff team this is certainly one of the more prospect rich teams who has the chance to shock many this year, competing in a very talented district and region. THIS WEEK: It will be Coral Gables on Friday (7:30) at Tropical Park. NEXT WEEK: The home opener on Aug. 31 at Harris Field at 7:30 against Southwest Miami.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Saturday morning (10-11) on WQAM (560AM - https://wqam.radio.com/media/podcast/south-florida-high-school-sports-radio). For the past 11 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot about football recruiting!