Larry Blustein

MONDAY TAKE: What A Friday Night For South Florida

Larry Blustein
December 03, 2018 - 11:34 am

Having covered and evaluated high school football for 48 years, this time of year certainly is as exciting as it gets.

For those who still cannot comprehend why people get excited over high school football – especially this time of year – there is nothing that can be said to make you feel any other way.

However, there is a core group that will head to Orlando this week to share their passion with 16 teams and thousands of fans who will make their way to Camping World Stadium for three days of great football, solid weather and a sense of seeing some of the country’s best athletes.

With five teams sealing their trip this weekend in south Florida, the state semifinals truly captured what football is all about in the Sunshine State.

From Baker to Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Seffner, Lakeland, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Madison County, Naples, Deerfield Beach and Fort Lauderdale, last Friday night put high school football in perspective.

With fans attending games and following on social media, high school football has really changed – from the 1970’s, when you had to make a choice which state final you attended. Having them all at one place was never even an issue.

Hosting the event at one site has only added to the attention and passion that has been felt in communities such as Miami, Tallahassee, Gainesville and Orlando, which have been fortunate to host this gathering of fans and football purists.

WHAT A FRIDAY NIGHT

For seven south Florida schools, last Friday night was the game that these programs work hard year-round to achieve.

It was a simple fact – win or go home – and in the end – six teams from Miami-Dade and Broward found out what it was like to advance to the showcase weekend of football in Florida.

For defending state champions Hialeah Champagnat Catholic (2A), Chaminade-Madonna (3A) and Northwestern (6A), it was indeed a long and winding road, but look at what programs are standing as we head to Orlando.

All three programs, who stood on the podium a year ago, were faced with life on the road in the state semifinals. For coach Hector Clavijo and the Lions, and Max Edwards and his Bulls, playing on the road is nothing new. They both played all four playoff games away from home.

Champagnat held on to beat No. 1 seed Admiral Farragut in St. Petersburg – while Northwestern upended No. 1 seed Naples – for the second straight year.

For the Lions of Chaminade-Madonna, the 16-0 win over previously unbeaten Clearwater Central Catholic once again showcased a defense that has been impressive all year.

The two programs who head into this weekend’s state championships with little title game pedigree will be Cardinal Gibbons (5A) and Christopher Columbus (8A).

Head coach Matt Dubuc’s Chiefs have built toward this game, making their first appearance since 1990. Coach Chris Merritt’s Explorers have been to this game twice – the last in 2014, losing to Apopka. 

While there are five programs who will head to Orlando, two missed out on the opportunity.

In 4A, you have to give head coach Daniel Luque and his University School Sharks credit for a tremendous season. They dropped a heart-breaker in Cocoa.

For head coach Jevon Glenn and his Deerfield Beach Bucks, the road to Orlando was stopped at home, but it was a very impressive season. One that watched this team showcase some quality talent.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Tuesday night (8-9) 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!

PHOTO IS COURTESY OF AH360 Photography - ah360views.com