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Two down, five to go.
It was quite a productive few days last weekend as Champagnat Catholic and Chaminade-Madonna made the long trek north to Tallahassee pay off when they both returned 2A and 3A state championships, respectively, to South Florida.
Now we have five more teams making the trip to Daytona Beach starting Wednesday night and the real possibility that history could be made. Five teams from Miami-Dade and Broward county brought home state titles in 2013, a record not only for South Florida but more than any local area in state history.
Between Booker T. Washington, Central, Columbus, Northwestern and St. Thomas Aquinas, if just three win their state title games, that number will be matched. If four of the five do it, the record will fall.
I actually wonder if all five might win (spoiler alert, I have every intention of picking all five) meaning seven would be a record that likely will never broken.
Both Lions teams roared loudly in Tallahassee easily winning their games and showing just how wide the gap is between them and the rest of the teams in their classification.
It also turned into an individual showcase for talented Chaminade running back Thaddius Franklin. The 2021 University of Miami commit carved his way into the FHSAA state record books when he rushed for 333 yards on 47 carries in his team’s win over Florida High, a state championship game record for both yards and carries.
As dominant as South Florida teams have been over the years at this venue, all will face big challenges this week as none of their opponents are pushovers by any means.
Let’s break down the five games, all being played at Daytona Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach.
4A State Championship
▪ Wednesday, Dec. 11, 7 p.m. — Jacksonville Bolles (11-1) vs. Booker T. Washington (12-2): These two teams faced each other in four consecutive state title games between 2011 and 2014 with BTW winning the last three after dropping the first. Now each have new coaches and new players in a game that figures to be evenly matched.
But the Tornadoes have something Bolles does not. A slippery, shifty tough quarterback in Torrey Morrison, who will be the X-factor here and carry BTW to its sixth state title and first since 2015. BD’s Pick: Booker T. Washington 34-21.
6A State Championship
▪ Thursday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m. — Pensacola Escambia (14-0) vs. Central (11-3): After playing in six consecutive state title games between 2010-15, four years probably seems like a lifetime as the Rockets finally make a return to the big stage.
Other than St. Thomas, Escambia is the only other team in the state without a loss and might prove to be a worthy opponent. The Gators have a balanced attack as quarterback A.V. Smith threw for 2,515 yards, and running back Frank Peasant ran for 1,947. That will be a challenge for the Central defense. But while none of the Rockets players have been in a championship game, Roland Smith and his veteran coaching staff have and will tap on that experience to have their team ready to go and pick up state title number six. BD’s Pick: Central 31-16.
8A State Championship
▪ Friday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m. — Apopka (13-1) vs. Columbus (10-4): Without a doubt, the Explorers are the least likely of these five teams I ever expected to see in Daytona. But credit first-year coach David Dunn, who made the necessary adjustments to rescue his team from a mid-season slump and come together for an unlikely postseason run.
This will be Columbus’ fifth try at an elusive state title, one that came up heartbreakingly short a year ago after a two point loss to Jacksonville Mandarin.
Led by quarterback Jaquan Lowan (1,396 yards rushing), Apopka runs a patented tough-to-stop Wing-T offense that was the difference five years ago when these same teams met, and the Blue Darters prevailed 30-23. But Columbus running back Henry Parrish, who is running away with the county rushing title (2,315 yards), has been a real difference-maker for the Explorers and I’m thinking now that this just might be a team that has a date with destiny. Wouldn’t it be something if Columbus pulls this off. BD’s Pick: Columbus 24-20.
5A State Championship
▪ Saturday, Dec. 14, Noon — Orlando Jones (13-1) vs. Northwestern (12-2): Northwestern will be looking to join Central and Booker T. Washington as the only Miami-Dade county teams to win three consecutive state titles. With Jones making its first-ever appearance in a state championship game, the Bulls will enjoy a decided advantage as far as the experience factor is concerned.
A talented balanced Jones attack between RB Avarius Sparrow (2,024 yds) and QB Tysan Robbins (1,786 passing yds), will pose a stiff test to the NW defense. But I’ve been watching the Bulls D dominate all year long and suspect that Jones players haven’t seen anything close to the talent they’re going to see Saturday and the result will be predictable. BD’s Pick: Northwestern 33-14.
7A State Championship
▪ Saturday, Dec. 14, 7 p.m. — Orlando Edgewater (13-1) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (13-0): The No. 1 team in the nation (USA Today) hasn’t been seriously challenged all season long and I don’t expect that to change here. Aquinas won’t get its rematch with Lakeland, who upset the Raiders in last year’s title game, but I don’t think it matters who they face. This is a team that’s been on a mission ever since last year’s loss to Lakeland, a game that many agreed was a very sloppy, un-St. Thomas-like performance. You can bet head coach Roger Harriott won’t let that happen again.
Edgewater sports two really talented players in RB Isaiah Connelly (2,024 yds, 22 TDs) and QB Caanan Mobley (2,528 yds, 26 TDs) but, just like Jones, the Eagles haven’t seen anything close to what they are going to see on the other side of the line of scrimmage when they look at the St. Thomas defense. The Raiders are looking for state title No. 11, which, depending on what Bolles (which has 11 right now) does on Wednesday, could tie for the most in state history. This one’s my biggest lock of the five. BD’s Pick: Aquinas 38-17.
▪ Last week’s record: 2-0; Postseason overall: 43-10. Season overall: 434-99.
Bill Daley can be reached at: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Billykid11
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