WEEK 1 – STATE PLAYOFFS: The Road To Orlando Starts Thursday

Larry Blustein
November 07, 2018 - 11:07 am

Larry Blustein

After last Sunday’s “bracket show” that was shown throughout the state of Florida, it is indeed time to get things going in this first week of the state football playoffs.

As many area teams said goodbye to 2018 after last week’s regular season came to an end, there are 23 games that will involve local teams – and that isn’t counting defending 3A state champion Chaminade-Madonna, and No. 1 and No. 2 4A seeds University School and Booker T. Washington, who will have first round byes.

The competition – as we know - is indeed intense as programs work toward these goals year round.

With an eye on Orlando in the first weekend of December, play starts this week as programs from throughout the Sunshine State look to produce a champion in all eight classes.

Here is a look at first round games:

8A-Region 3

No. 8 Miramar (6-4) at No. 1 Deerfield Beach (9-1), 7:30. Funny thing about football is that the Patriots were in this position last year and lost, so as the Bucks prepare for the opener – they want to guard against it also happening to them for the second straight years as well. Both are hot, but Jevon Glenn’s Deerfield team has been pointing toward the playoffs for nearly a year!- 

No. 5 Piper (6-4) at No. 4 Plantation (9-1), 7:30. They played this game in the third week of August, and while they lost a rain-shortened game, the Bengals felt that they were in it from start to finish. Both teams have talent, and as Steve Davis and his Colonels need to play like they can. Plantation was beaten in the opening round last year. 

No. 7 Western (8-2) at No. 2 Delray Atlantic (10-0), 7:30. After going three rounds deep last year, head coach Adam Ratkevich and his Wildcats dropped a meeting to this team, making a lot of mistakes. Do they get revenge or do the defending state runner-ups move to 11-0? Western has been in every game in 2018.

8A Region 4

No. 8 Coral Gables (6-4) at No. 1 Christopher Columbus (10-0, Tropical, 7:30. Repeat of the district title game – these two programs know each other well, and as the Cavaliers come in with plenty of confidence, head coach Chris Merritt and his football team knows if they play the kind of football they know how, they will end up in Orlando. 

No. 7 North Miami (6-4) at No. 2 Southridge (8-2), 7:30. Another meeting between two schools who knocked heads early this season – when the Spartans won 15-6. The Pioneers and head coach Pat Colon have on the of top defensive units in south Florida, but the offense has not clicked. The Spartans are starting to get hot.

No. 5 Palmetto (9-1) at Belen Jesuit (8-2), Thursday, Tropical Park, 7. Interesting first round game – pitting two quality teams – and while the Panthers and Mike Manasco felt that they should have won the district, coach Eddie Delgado and the Wolverines are out to prove that they indeed belong – and both teams have playmakers.

No. 6 South Dade (8-2) at Hialeah (9-1), Milander, 7:30. One of the big surprises in south Florida this year, head coach Gary Sanchez and his T-Breds won a rare district title this season – and even though they are young – believe that they can play with anyone. The Bucs started out the year on fire, but have cooled off down the stretch. Coach Nate Hudson’s team won a playoff game last year.

7A

No. 5 Fort Lauderdale (8-2) at No. 4 Doral Academy (8-2), 7:30. For the first time in many year, head coach Richard Dunbar and his Flying Ls have made the playoffs. With a strong schedule and plenty of talent, they embrace the trip south to play a district champion that is young, but has some quality prospects under head coach Jase Stewart. It’s the Firebird’s second straight district title.

No. 6 Palm Beach Lakes (7-3) at No. 3 McArthur (9-1), 7:30. Losing for the first time of the season last week to state-rated Cardinal Gibbons was not a surprise. What was something of a mystery is how a team averaging over 40 points and 400 yards was shut down. Look for the Mustangs to get it back together against a quality Rams’ team that has prospects and has been tested.

No. 8 South Miami (8-2) at St. No. 1 Thomas Aquinas (9-1), 7:30. For the second year in-a-row, the Cobras get to a first round playoff game – and even though the opponent is as good as you get, Rick Munne and his team is looking forward to the challenge. Armed with one of the best defensive teams in Florida, head coach Roger Harriott and his teams is thinking state championship game – after missing out in 2017.

No. 7 West Broward (7-3) at No. 2 Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (9-1), 7:30. Last year, Doral Academy pulled the ultimate upset in the first round of the playoffs, but this year veteran head coach Jack Daniels and his Panthers will be ready. Dwyer is talented and has won nine straight. For Monte Dilworth and his Bobcats never give up and have athletes who can do some impressive things.

6A

No. 5 Central (8-2) at No. 4 Fort Lauderdale Dillard (8-2), 7:30. There is no getting around the tremendous season that first year head coach Toriano Morgan and his Panthers have had, but to get over this hurdle – one of the toughest of any in Florida in the opening round – they will have to limit Roland Smith’s Rockets from doing the things that they do well.

No. 8 Norland (4-6) at No. 1 Carol City (8-2), Traz Powell Stadium, Friday, 7:30. For the second time this year, the Vikings play the Chiefs, and while these two district foes know each other too well, the Vikings fully comprehend the task that is ahead. No matter what anyone tells you, second year head coach Benedict Hyppolite has one of the country’s best teams.

No. 6 Northwestern (5-5) at No. 3 Daytona Beach Mainland (7-3). What a difference a year makes for the Bulls – and while many changes have been made – the one thing that will never go away is the talent that this program has. This is not the same Mainland teams that south Florida programs are used to. This will be a game that fans in Central Florida may want to check out. They will see plenty of prospects.

5A

No. 5 American Heritage Plantation (9-1) at No. 4 Fort Pierce Westwood (7-3), 7:30. Even though they are not a high seed, head coach Pat Surtain’s two-time defending state champions are still a team that has to be considered as a favorite to get back and defend. For a program that is at the level they are at, this game really should not be an obstacle. Play hard and make few mistakes, and the second round will be next. 

No. 8 Coconut Creek (6-4) at No. 1 Rockledge (9-1), 7:30. Huge for this program that does not make the playoffs very often. Despite some losses, they head into the playoffs with plenty of optimism and a belief that anything can happen. Gerald Cox knows plenty about the playoffs from his days with Miami Central. Rockledge lost to 8A power Southridge, but has plenty of talent as the top seed in the region. No matter what happens, this is a win/win for the Cougars. 

No. 7 Merritt Island (5-5) at No. 2 Cardinal Gibbons (8-2), 7:30. Former University of Miami standout football player Hurlie Brown brings his Mustangs south to play the Chiefs – in a very rare home playoff game for this program. While Merritt Island brings in plenty of quality athletes, Matt Dubuc’s team has worked too hard and has come way too far to get upset as district champions for the first time since 1994.

4A

No. 1 seed University School and No. 2 Miami Booker T. Washington have a first round bye.

No. 6 Coral Springs Charter (8-2) at No. 3 Belle Glade Glades Central (7-3), 7:30. A first ever playoff game for head coach Matt Garris and a program that has been around since 1999. Has senior leadership and athletes who have embraced the game. For legendary Glades Central, which has had its share of state titles and big time athletes, this is another stepping stone for head coach Jesse Hester and the Raiders. 

Gulliver Prep (7-3) at Miami Monsignor Pace (5-5), 7:30. In veteran head coach Joe Zaccheo’s final year, the Spartans host a playoff game against a talented and very hot program that head coach Earl Sims and his staff have been building over the past few years. This is a game that will showcase some very gifted athletes as well as coaches who put in a lot to this game.

3A

No. 1 seed Chaminade-Madonna and No. 2 North Palm Beach Benjamin have a first round bye.

No. 6 Calvary Christian (5-5) at No. 3 Delray American Heritage (7-3), 7:30. Here are two teams that battled all year to put themselves in a position to make the playoffs – and while the Stallions have been in this position before – head coach Kirk Hoza and his team are excited to bring their brand of football to Palm Beach County. 

No. 5 Miami Palmer Trinity (8-2) at No. 4 Miami Westminster Christian (9-1), 3:30. You cannot say enough about the job that these two programs have done. Palmer has used some very impressive talent in getting this team in a position that rarely comes their way. The Falcons matchup against veteran head coach Ed Holly, who has truly done some impressive things in bringing the Warriors back.

2A

No. 1 seed Moore Haven and No. 2 Naples St. John Neumann have a first round bye.

No. 4 Champagnat Catholic (5-5) at No. 5 Miami Christian (7-1), Southridge Stadium, Thursday, 7. Last year’s state champion has played on and off in 2018, but for head coach Hector Clavijo and his team, there is a sense that the experience they have gained the past two years can make things challenging for the Victors and head coach Nick Turnbull, who has really made some major strides.

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