Larry Blustein

WEEK 3 – STATE PLAYOFFS: It’s Crunch Time For Area Teams

Larry Blustein
November 21, 2018 - 10:10 am

Here is the week that everyone talked about. 

From coaches to players to the many fans who follow the sport, here is the week – when practicing Thanksgiving morning is a badge of honor that every program wants to wear.

Round 3 of the state playoffs – where things begin to narrow – and the objective of getting to the state championship game becomes more of a reality.

The pretenders have fallen to the side – while the programs who have worked so hard to get to this point are indeed excited about the opportunity to join 16 of the best teams in Florida at Camping World Stadium in two weeks.

As Champagnat Catholic (2A), Chaminade-Madonna (3A), Plantation American Heritage (5A) and Miami Northwestern (6A) are all still alive as 2017 state champions, Round 3 will no doubt be one to remember.

Here is a look at this week’s Race For Orlando:  


No. 6 South Dade (10-2) at No. 1 Christopher Columbus (12-0), 1 p.m., Tropical Park. There are very few teams playing as good as head coach Chris Merritt and his Explorers, but when you get this far into the playoffs anything can happen.

The Bucs and head coach Nate Hudson are stacked with talent and have won some key games as well. This will be a huge test.

No. 3 Palm Beach Central (11-1) and Deerfield Beach (11-1), 7:30. Since the start of the season, nearly everyone felt that Jevon Glenn’s Bucks would be in this game – with talent on both sides of the ball. Losing to nationally rated St. Thomas may have been what this team needed.

Palm Beach Central has also been a team that everyone has talked about and they continue to get stronger and stronger each week.


No. 2 Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (11-1) at St. Thomas Aquinas (11-1), 7:30. Historically, this has not been a very good matchup for head coach Jack Daniels and his Panthers from Palm Beach County.

What head coach Roger Harriott and his team bring to the table is a lot of talent and plenty of coaching. Other than a three touchdown loss at home to No. 1 Central, they have rolled along this year.

No. 6 Valrico Bloomingdale (11-1) at No. 1 Venice (11-1), 7:30. Here are two programs that are certainly very different. The defending 7A state champions lost 25 players from last year’s team that many felt was the best in school history. They beat St. Thomas to get to the finals.

For Bloomingdale, this a new experience. No team in school history made it this far before.


No. 6 Northwestern (7-5) at Miami Central (10-2), 7:30, Traz Powell Stadium. The second meeting of the season will hopefully be better to watch than the first district matchup where the two teams combined for 47 penalties and 355 yards.

The Rockets and head coach Roland Smith are stacked. Like the first game between the two teams, the defending state champion Bulls and head coach Max Edwards will be huge underdogs against Florida’s best team. 

No. 6 North Fort Myers (9-3) at Naples (11-1), 7:30. Never an easy team to beat, the Golden Eagles once again fly into this round behind head coach Bill Kramer and figure to be hosting a state semifinal game next week. 

North Fort Myers has surprised everyone this season, but this may be a bit too much. For the second straight year, Naples comes in with one loss – to the same Miami Palmetto team.


No. 5 American Heritage (10-1) at No. 2 Cardinal Gibbons (10-2), 7:30. This game was talked about immediately after the Patriots lost the district for the first time. This is a very talented program that head coach Pat Surtain has put together.

For the Chiefs and head coach Matt Dubuc, this is the game that certainly has been planned for since the start of the season. It will be the third straight year that they will play for a second time.

No. 8 Tampa Jefferson (7-5) at No. 2 Tampa Jesuit (11-1), 7:30. While the Dragons were a huge surprise in getting to this game, Tampa Jesuit was actually the program that many felt would be a team to challenge American Heritage for the 5A title run.

While Tampa Jesuit will be a huge favorite, the Dragons do have a successful playoff history.


No. 5 Glades Central (9-3) at University School (10-1), 7:30. These two programs opened the season against each other and head coach Daniel Luque and his program ran away to set the tone for a tremendous 2018 season.

As the two programs are coming off huge wins this past week, the attention will be on playmakers, and both teams have them.

No. 2 Fort Myers Bishop Verot (9-2) at No. 1 Cocoa (8-3), 7:30. While John Wilkenson has moved on from all his successes through the years, Cocoa is still the team to beat with former south Florida standout Ryan Schneider trying to lead the Tigers as the first year head coach.

Bishop Verot has been a huge surprise this season, losing only to Sarasota Cardinal Mooney and Tampa Catholic.


No. 3 Delray American Heritage (9-3) at Chaminade-Madonna (9-2), 7:30. The defending 3A state champions have been amazing this season after losses to Deerfield Beach and Plantation American Heritage. Head coach Dameon Jones has a stacked team that is an overwhelming favorite to defend the state crown.

American Heritage is one of those teams on the rise – stacked with quality athletes who are young but very productive.

No. 2 Tampa Berkeley Prep (7-3) and No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic (11-0), 7:30. Those in the know believe that there is only one team that can play with the Lions – and if the Marauders from Clearwater can beat a competitive Berkeley Prep team, we have a potential big time state semifinal next week.


No. 5 Champagnat Catholic (6-5) at No. 2 Naples St. John Neumann (10-2), 7:30. Well, here is your defending state champion Lions who have fought hard and made it this far for the third straight year. With injuries and transfers before the season, head coach Hector Clavijo and his team remain focused against a very good program.

No. 2 Seffner Christian (11-0) at St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut (9-1), 7:30. Here are two programs that were the teams to watch at the start of the season – and nothing has changed.

While many feel that the winner of this game will be heavy favorites to represent the south in Orlando, you still have to go out and play the game.

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