It’s a big week of high school football in South Florida. Public schools wrap up their abbreviated regular season before getting a holiday bye week, while many private schools are continuing their playoff runs.
This week offers several big-time matchups, including a potential revenge game for American Heritage, a matchup of two Palm Beach unbeatens and the Soul Bowl.
Because of a schedule change, one of the 10 games I picked last week was not played. I went 9-0, and I am 44-10 so far this season. All games start at 7 p.m. on Friday unless otherwise noted.
Miami Northwestern (3-1) at American Heritage (6-2), 7:30 p.m.
This week’s big-time showdown is a rematch of last year’s close regional final. There probably won’t be another field in South Florida that will have as much sheer talent on it this week. Both teams have a number of Division I prospects. Northwestern has big wins over Miami Central and Miami Palmetto, but the Bulls only beat Key West by eight points last week. The Patriots are coming off a blowout win against Melbourne Palm Bay, a team that limped into the postseason and finished the year 1-7. Heritage’s biggest issue this year has been offensive balance; the run game has been good while the passing game — especially without starting quarterback Blake Murphy — has struggled. Against most teams, the run game was enough. Against Jacksonville Trinity Christian and St. Thomas Aquinas, it wasn’t. Northwestern, which is ranked second in the state and 15th in the nation by MaxPreps, is as good as anyone the Patriots have faced. Northwestern may be the favorite, but Heritage’s defense will keep this a close game, no matter what happens. If the offense improves just a little — or the defense or special teams puts some points on the board — the Patriots could definitely get some revenge. Miami Northwestern 21, American Heritage 20.
St. Thomas Aquinas (3-1) at Lehigh (5-4)
The Raiders are coming off a bye week, and they travel to the Gulf Coast to play Lehigh. The big challenge for St. Thomas in this game will be stopping star sophomore running back Richard Young, who is ranked 18th in the nation in his class by 247Sports. Young is averaging 9.8 yards per carry this season and has 982 rushing yards so far. But he hasn’t faced a defense like St. Thomas' yet. The Raiders have also relied largely on the run game so far this year, but with four games and another bye week under their belt, St. Thomas' passing game can start clicking. When that happens, the Raiders will be incredibly difficult to stop. St. Thomas Aquinas 35, Lehigh 17.
Park Vista (3-0) vs. Glades Central (3-0), Saturday, 7 p.m., Wellington High
Two of Palm Beach County’s unbeaten teams square off in Wellington on Saturday. The Raiders are rolling after a big 38-0 win over rival Pahokee last week, while Park Vista pulled off a one-score victory over Forest Hill. Glades Central’s offense has been prolific through three games, and that continued last week. Quarterback Zo’Marion Harper threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns last week, and Desmond Washington punched in two scores, as well. Park Vista’s defense has been solid, giving up a total of 21 points through three games. I think Glades Central’s high-powered offense has the advantage, though. Glades Central 28, Park Vista 17.
Calvary Christian (6-0) at Chaminade-Madonna (5-1)
This regional semifinal pits two of the top Class 3A teams in the state against each other. The Lions are four wins away from their fourth straight state championship, and the Eagles are trying to usurp them. Chaminade is the big-time favorite, boasting Division I players all over the field. Calvary is a solid team, though, and the Eagles will put up a fight. I think the combination of Chaminade’s stacked defense and balanced offense will be too much for Calvary this week. Chaminade-Madonna 35, Calvary Christian 14.
Blanche Ely (2-1) at Dillard (3-0), Saturday, 6 p.m.
The annual Soul Bowl will be played at Dillard this year, and the Panthers come into this game on a tear. In two games under first-year coach Tyler Tate, Dillard has put up 100 points. Wide receiver Devaughn Mortimer is a legitimate weapon both on offense and special teams. Ely, on the other hand, enters this game after suffering a 34-0 loss to Deerfield Beach. Dillard won’t be easier. Dillard 42, Blanche Ely 24.
Englewood Lemon Bay (8-1) at American Heritage-Delray (3-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Stallions were firing on all cylinders last week in a 42-0 playoff win over Avon Park. The passing and running game were both effective, and the defense pitched a shutout and had three interceptions. Heritage will need to keep that same energy this week, as the Stallions face a solid Lemon Bay team in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals. The Manta Rays have won eight straight since dropping their season opener to King’s Academy, but the schedule hasn’t been that tough. Heritage will be the top-ranked team Lemon Bay has faced all year, according to MaxPreps. American Heritage-Delray 27, Lemon Bay 17.
Cardinal Gibbons (4-1) at Miami Gulliver Prep (5-0), 7:30 p.m., Riccardo Silva Stadium
The Chiefs head across the county line to face Gulliver Prep at FIU’s stadium this week. Gulliver has a solid defense, highlighted by senior three-star prospect Gabe Nealy and four-star junior linebacker Travious Lathan. The Raiders also have offensive weapons in the form of running back Sedrick Irvin, wide receiver Jalen Brown and tight end De’carlo Donaldson. But the Chiefs' defense has been dominant this year, allowing less than 10 points per game. I expect a close game but I think Gibbons comes out with a win. Cardinal Gibbons 17, Gulliver Prep 14.
TRU Prep Academy (5-1) at Bradenton IMG Academy (7-0)
TRU Prep Academy gets a shot against the top team in the nation this week, and the Saints get to do it on national television. TPA’s game against IMG will be broadcast on ESPNU at 7 p.m. on Friday. IMG is loaded, like usual. The Ascenders feature three of the top 10 and 11 of the top 100 seniors in the state, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. TRU Prep, which has many of University School’s top former players, has plenty of talent, too, but probably not enough to compete with IMG for four quarters. IMG Academy 38, TRU Prep Academy 13.
Pahokee (1-2) vs. Royal Palm Beach (1-2), Saturday, 10 a.m., Wellington High
This Saturday morning contest is a big game for both of these teams. Both are on the edge of qualifying for the tri-county Gold level playoff bracket. Pahokee is currently in line to play in the top-level bracket, while Royal Palm is on the outside looking in. Both teams are also coming off big losses, with the Blue Devils falling to rival Glades Central and Royal Palm dropping a game to Seminole Ridge. Both teams need this game. Pahokee 21, Royal Palm Beach 17.
Coconut Creek (2-0) at Monarch (3-0)
These two unbeaten teams face off Friday night in what should be a good test for both sides. The Knights’ running game has led the way for an average of 39 points per game through three contests. Dual-threat junior quarterback Bryan Lodge leads the team with 295 rushing yards and has six rushing touchdowns, and junior running back Jerell Mash Jr. has 250 rushing yards with six scores. Coconut Creek has a pair of wins over McArthur and South Plantation, but Monarch offers their toughest test yet. Monarch 27, Coconut Creek 20.
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