SPRING TOP 20 – Which Area Programs To Keep An Eye On In 2018

Larry Blustein
March 13, 2018 - 11:13 am
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Larry Blustein

As we understand it is only March – and spring is still less than two months away – fans always want to know which teams we need to watch for the upcoming season.

Understanding that there are more transfers and athletes moving schools than any other place in the world in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties – we realize that there will be schools moving up and down. But the teams that figure to make an impact during the 2018 season is clear cut.

Four defending state champions will return to make another run, but it will never be an easy thing to do.

While picking the top teams in the region is always subjective – it helps when you have watched parts of 100 games – which include EVERY contender, several times – you tend to have a better feel than most.

While many areas of the country will always boast that the football they play is better than South Florida. Not true. Not even close!

If Bishop Gorman is the elite team in Las Vegas, there is nobody close to them. That is NOT the case down here – where there are four to five schools – within 5 miles of one another – that are among the best in the country.

As Miami-Dade has had its share of elite programs – with Northwestern (6A) and Champagnat Catholic (2A) returning as state champs – Broward is no longer the little brother. Top flight players and schools – such as Plantation American Heritage (5A) and Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna (3A) who return as state champs – and St. Thomas Aquinas, a program that has set standards throughout the years.

While we still have such a long way to go – and a few other teams will start to emerge – here is a group (in alphabetical order) that certainly has the chance to be in the mix:

American Heritage (Plantation) - (13-0, 5A). The two times defending state champions lost a ton of talent, but the rebuild and reload is under way as we speak. Lot to replace, but the track record for a team that has won 27 straight – although we believe it’s 28.

Booker T. Washington (Miami) – (4A). Missing out on the playoffs has been something that this program is not used to – and after a nightmare 2017 season – the Tornadoes are looking to get back in the mix with a challenging schedule. Plenty of talent still aboard – for now.

Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale) - (11-2, 5A). Too much coming back – and too many solid newcomers to not think that this is one of the best teams in Florida to start with. Plenty can change – and the Chiefs still have not gotten over the hump – but the odds say things change this coming year!

Carol City (Miami) - (8-3, 6A). The class of the best district in America, this is a program stacked at every position, but receiver – where they are still building and developing. Always a top 5 defense, Daniel Richardson gives them a huge offensive edge – along with a running back duo that is as good as you get.

Central (Miami) - (9-3, 6A). The Rockets have missed getting to Orlando two straight years – and while that doesn’t sit well with the fans – it is less accepted by the coaches and players. Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball – it’s another run at the playoffs. Five key transfers (and counting) will fuel this team.

Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood) - (11-2, 3A). Even though there are several key prospects to replace, this is a team that did not sit still in the offseason, bringing in key players who will mix in with an already loaded with athletes. They are overwhelming favorites to return to Orlando.

Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah) - (9-2, 2A). Despite losing head coach Dennis Marroquin, it will be business as usual in Hialeah. Amazing talent that is in place again – and a third straight trip to Orlando is more than possible. 

Christoper Columbus (Miami) - (9-2, 8A). This is one of four South Florida teams that could have won 8A last year, but fell short. They are loaded with talent – and have solid coaching again. Never sleep on the Explorers.

Deerfield Beach - (8-3, 8A). No matter what anyone tells you – in Miami-Dade or Broward County – this is the most talented team – outside of IMG – in Florida. They have size and quickness on both sides of the line. They are stacked at receiver – with four Class of 2020 prospects that are the best in the country. The only thing that stops the Bucks will be themselves – like the past few years. Loaded, loaded, loaded!

Doral Academy (10-2, 7A). Talk to anyone about the Firebirds, and while St. Thomas Aquinas is on their minds again, the reality is the line size and additional defensive players could take this program to a place where they’ve never been before.

Northwestern (Miami) - (11-2, 6A). The defending state champions lost the heart and soul of the offense and a secondary that was as good as you get. Still, this is a program that went out and plugged some hole on both sides of the ball – and will once again make the playoffs.

Miramar - (8-2, 8A). This was both the most surprising and disappointing team in one season. After handing St. Thomas its worst overall loss in over 40 years, the Patriots fell apart and lost in the opening round of the playoffs. Even though they lost several top-flight athletes, they are talented and well coached.

Palmetto (Miami) - (8-2, 8A). What the Panthers did last year – by winning the district – was set the tempo for 2018 – where the district is still going to be competitive and among the toughest in 8A. Key losses will hurt, but there are several elite prospects coming back.

Plantation (9-2, 8A). With 17 players who saw extensive playing time back, head coach Steve Davis and the Colonels may be that team nobody talks about that could pull the ultimate surprise. The offense is tough to prepare for – and the defense is always solid.

South Dade (Homestead) - (9-2, 8A). No matter what, this is a program that is in the mix every year, and 2018 will not be an exception. Gifted offensive players, size up front and a solid defensive unit will have this team in the playoffs once again.

Southridge (Miami) - (7-4, 8A). Sedrick Irvin is the Pied Piper of high school coaching. No matter where he goes, he wins. Last year, he took over a 2 win Miami High team and came within 1 minute of going to the 8A state finals. This year, he inherits a ton of talent at the place he made a name for himself. Watch out – the ‘Ridge is back!

St. Thomas Aquinas - (10-3, 7A). After missing out on a trip to Orlando, losing to eventual state champion Venice, the Raiders are back with an amazing amount of talent. Braden River will be the obstacle this year. Chemistry, not talent, could come into play with 14 new faces.

University School (Davie) - (9-2, 4A). With Booker T. Washington down – and not playing in a district – and Cocoa changing coaches – this is the year that the Sharks have a legit shot to get to Orlando in 4A. Loaded with players all over the field.

West Broward (9-3, 7A). Losing in the second round of the playoffs to St. Thomas Aquinas a year ago, head coach Monte Dilworth and his Bobcats are loaded once again – with one of the highest scoring offenses in South Florida – and a defense that will make life tough on offenses. 

Western (Davie) - (10-3, 8A). After the best year in school history, 12 starters departed – and another key prospect left for another school. But the Wildcats are in this for the long run – and with seven new faces so far – the playoffs may be a reality once again.

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