When state semifinal play begins today at football fields across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, there are seven area football programs still in the mix for next week’s Florida state football championships in Tallahassee.
Perhaps the most intriguing matchup will take place at Coconut Creek High School when Monarch appears in its first ever state semifinal game.
Coach Calvin Davis and his 11-2 Knights – a second seed – will clash with No. 3 seed Jacksonville Mandarin (10-3).
Mandarin beat Miami Christopher Columbus five years ago for the then 6A title game. They head south loaded with plenty of talent and a schedule that has been more competitive. They are stacked with elite talent that has athletes committed to Miami, FSU and Alabama to mention a few.
Even though the Mustangs are on the road, they are favorites to advance to their second finals.
But before they load the buses for Florida A&M University next week, they still have to take care of the Knights, a program that very few have ever heard about - and frankly are given little or no chance to advance.
All Monarch has done, from the start of the season, is prove the “experts” wrong, using two freshmen quarterbacks to fill in for a record-breaking senior who has now returned. They have elite playmakers and have held their own with gifted prospects.
Despite being a program that many have never heard about, they arrived at tonight’s game with a great coaching staff and a year-round commitment.
Counting a team with 11 wins may not be sound, so they play with a chip on their shoulder, and that is often a great motivator.
JACKSONVILLE MANDARIN MUSTANGS
Neptune Beach Fletcher, W 43-21
Jacksonville Bolles, W 42-35
Jacksonville Riverside, W 50-20
Jacksonville Atlantic Coast, W 30-0
St. John’s Creekside, L 23-22
Lake Mary, L 34-16
Jacksonville Westside, W 49-6
Fleming Island, W 49-6
Jacksonville Sandalwood, W 43-0
St. John’s Bartram Trail, L 24-14
Winter Park, 29-16
Lake Mary, W 36-10
Sanford Seminole, W 28-24
COCONUT CREEK MONARCH KNIGHTS
Cedar Grove, Georgia, W 50-42
Delray Atlantic, L 33-32
Hallandale, W 52-0
Sunrise Piper, W 32-6
Parkland Douglas, W 26-7
Boca Raton Olympic Heights, W 45-0
Hollywood McArthur, W 28-7
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, L 35-19
Coral Springs, W 48-0
Deerfield Beach, W 14-0
Parkland Douglas, W 40-7
Lantana Santaluces, W 50-27
Wellington Palm Beach Central, W 35-13
The other 4M contest will be in Miami where the defending state champion Christopher Columbus Explorers (11-2) play host to a Tampa Plant program (11-2) that has rekindled the days when the Panthers were in the mix for over a decade.
Head Coach Dave Dunn and the Explorers have played all season on defense and have done enough on the offensive side of the ball win another region title
Plant and head coach Hank Brown come in as an underdog, but a very dangerous one, capable of pulling off the road upset.
No. 3 Miami Archbishop Carroll (11-1) at No. 2 Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna (12-0). After pulling an upset to get to this game last week against Miami True North Classical Academy, head coach Jorge Zagales and his Bulldogs have the toughest assignment in the country on this day.
The vaunted Wing-T offense will have to travel to play the No. 2 team in the country with a lot at stake.
A win tonight will send the Lions to a place where no other team in Florida history has been. A victory sends head coach Dameon Jones and his team to the state finals for the 8th straight year!
Very tough assignment for the Bulldogs.
No. 4 Jacksonville Bolles (8-5) at No. 1 Miami Norland (13-0). On the surface this is a contest that will be just another steppingstone for head coach Daryle Heidelburg and his Vikings on the way to a destination that this team would point toward from the start of the year.
Norland is big, fast, skilled, and tested. They are one of the best programs in the state and have backed that up with wins over Lakeland, Miami Booker T. Washington, and power Miami Central twice.
On the other side of the ball is a program that has a history. They have been to more than their share of state semifinal games. While most of their success has been in the past, the Bulldogs are a feisty, well coached team who take advantage of mistakes.
While Norland is at home and is one of the top programs in the country, they have to be at their very best to avoid the upset.
No. 3 Tampa Berkeley Prep (11-2) at No. 2 Plantation American Heritage (10-1). Like Norland, the defending state runner up Patriots are in the same position. Head Coach Mike Smith and his team must avoid making mistakes.
They have been tested several times this season with a very young program after losing some elite talent from last year.
From a talent standpoint, this game is not even close, but Berkeley Prep leads the state in time of possession and that signals that playing four mistake free quarters is a must.
No. 3 Orlando Jones (10-3) at No. 2 Homestead (11-1). This could easily be the best game of the night with head coach Ronnie Thornton and his defending state runner up Broncos at home against a team that has played one of the toughest schedules in the state, has a revenge factor after losing in this game last year.
Even though they have dropped one game this season, the past two contests against Miami Southridge and Miramar came down to the final quarter.
The Tigers are holding the hot hand and do not need help in traveling the five hours with a purpose.
No. 4 Tampa Gaither (7-5) at No. 1 Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (12-1). This time of year if you are going to compete with head coach Roger Harriott and his Raiders you need to bring something extra to the table.
This is a program that is looking to bring home it’s amazing fifth consecutive state title, and while Gaither has run a gauntlet to get to this game, they just do not have the talent to stay with a complete program who happens to be at home, where they have more than taken care of business.
MIAMI-DADE/BROWARD INFORMATION YEAR-ROUND. https://larryblustein.com/