High school football picks: Do-or-die for many teams
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This is it. One final chance to climb into a playoff spot, or tumble down into the valley of non-contenders. It's the last week of district play, and for some teams, a season of high expectations could fall flat.
Both fourth-ranked Dwyer and No. 9 Royal Palm Beach were supposed to be among the top teams in the area, but injuries and shaky offenses have meant upset losses (Dwyer to Atlantic, Royal Palm to Atlantic and John I. Leonard) and less-than-promising playoff chances. Whoever wins Saturday will be the runner-up in District 13-7A and can start planning for a rocky Class 7A road that could include another date with No. 3 Atlantic and always-dangerous Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas.
No. 8 Park Vista and John I. Leonard will play for a District 10-8A playoff spot. The Cobras had a lot of promise to start the season, and while a 45-7 loss to No. 5 Palm Beach Central was their first and only defeat, it showed their vulnerability. Leonard is only 4-4, but counts a win over Royal Palm and scared Palm Beach Central. The Lancers are not to be trifled with.
So who's in? Top-ranked American Heritage, which will rest this week after Fort Lauderdale-Calvary Christian forfeited their game because of a lack of numbers, along with No. 5 Palm Beach Central, Glades Day and Inlet Grove are district champions - the kings of the mountain. Cardinal Newman, South Fork, Treasure Coast and Village Academy have playoff tickets, but don't yet know where they'll sit.
Then there's No. 2 Fort Pierce Central, No. 3 Atlantic, No. 6 Seminole Ridge and No. 10 Glades Central. All have earned at least a share of a three-way tiebreaker. With all those teams playing exceedingly winnable games, we expect all four to make the leap into the second season with ease.
(All games 7 p.m. unless noted)
No. 5 Palm Beach Central (5-2, 2-0 in District 10-8A) at Boca Raton (2-5, 0-2 10-8A), Thursday: A walkover game in theory, Central cannot afford to take Boca lightly. Sure, the Broncos are already district champs, but they need late-season momentum.
Jeff's pick: Palm Beach Central 49-14
Matt's pick: Palm Beach Central 38-7.
West Boca Raton (2-5, 2-3 13-7A) at Santaluces (4-3, 3-2 13-7A), Thursday: If Atlantic loses to Lake Worth, Santaluces can force a three-way tiebreaker for second place in the district. Taking care of business Thursday is imperative, especially against a West Boca team that just played Monday night.
Jeff's pick: Santaluces 21-20
Matt's pick: Santaluces 14-7.
No. 8 Park Vista (6-1, 1-1 10-8A) at John I. Leonard (4-3, 1-1 10-8A): A toss-up game for a playoff spot? Oh, baby. Park Vista responded well to its blowout loss to Palm Beach Central a few weeks back, while John I.'s offense means it's never out of it. This one is a must-see.
Matt's pick: Park Vista 31-28.
Jeff's pick: Park Vista 20-16
No. 10 Glades Central (4-4, 3-0 14-5A) at Boynton Beach (4-3, 2-1 14-5A): A Glades Central win gives it the district title and ends Boynton's playoff chances. Boynton has a chance with quarterback Jake Lutzen (22 TDs, 2 INTs), but the Raiders are looking more like the confident, hungry team we're used to seeing.
Matt's pick: Glades Central 35-14.
Jeff's pick: Glades Central 28-7
Village Academy (4-3) at Pahokee (3-4): Fun non-district game between two fast-paced teams. While Village has the best player on the field in quarterback Larry Brihm, you can no longer sleep on the Blue Devils. They're dangerous.
Matt's pick: Village Academy 35-22
Jeff's pick: Pahokee 40-37
No. 4 Dwyer (7-1, 4-1 in 13-7A) at No. 9 Royal Palm Beach (5-2, 4-1 in 13-7A), Saturday: The winner of this game makes the playoffs. Those are the stakes. How will Dwyer's O-line hold up against Royal Palm Beach's quick pass rush? Will either offense show up?
Jeff's pick: Dwyer 21-17
Matt's pick: Dwyer 25-9
Tavernier-Coral Shores (5-3, No. 3 SFC South) at Benjamin (7-1, No. 2 SFC North), Thursday: Benjamin's diverse offense takes care of business at home. Benjamin 34-16.
John Carroll (5-3, No. 4 SFC North) at Miami-LaSalle (6-2, No. 1 SFC South), Thursday: LaSalle lost to Benjamin and Pope John Paul II by a combined six points. John Carroll lost to those teams by 22. Miami-LaSalle 28-16.
Miami Country Day (2-6, No. 4 SFC South) at Pope John Paul II (7-1, No. 1 SFC North), Thursday: Pope can score in a hurry (33.6 points per game), while MCD has given up more than 40 points in each of its past three. Pope John Paul II 41-10.
Fort Myers-Southwest Florida Christian (2-6) at Boca Raton Christian (8-0), 4: After a season like this, it's hard to imagine the Blazers staying independent for much longer. Boca Raton Christian 52-0.
Jensen Beach (3-5, 2-1 14-5A) at Suncoast (2-6, 0-3 14-5A): The Chargers have been disappointing lately, but could damage the Falcons' playoff hopes. Jensen Beach 28-12.
Lake Worth (1-7, 1-4 13-7A) at No. 3 Atlantic (6-2, 4-1 13-7A): Lake Worth is young and improving and now has key lineman James Looney (hip) back after three weeks. Still, Eagles coast to the district title. Atlantic 35-7.
Olympic Heights (6-2, 2-2 14-6A) at Okeechobee (4-4, 2-2 14-6A): The Brahmans don't lie down for anyone, even a team with a rushing attack as good as O-Heights'. Okeechobee, 19-14.
Palm Beach Lakes (0-8, 0-4 14-6A) at Forest Hill (1-7, 0-4 14-6A): Lakes looks nothing like the team that gave Park Vista a Week 3 scare, losing its last three by a combined 132-0. Forest Hill kept it respectable in losses to Okeechobee and O-Heights. Forest Hill 21-7.
Summit Christian (3-5, 1-3 7-2A) at Pompano Beach-Highlands Christian (4-4, 2-2 7-2A): Summit has shown signs of playing good defense, but Highlands has won four of its past five. Highlands Christian 24-20.
Viera (0-7, 0-2 12-7A) at Martin County (4-4, 1-1 12-7A): Martin needs a win and a Fort Pierce Central win to be the district runners-up. If the Tigers win and Port St. Lucie somehow beats Fort Pierce Central, it's three-way tiebreaker time. Martin County 33-10.
Jupiter (1-6, 1-1 9-8A) at No. 6 Seminole Ridge, 7:30 (4-2, 2-0 9-8A): Ridge will end the regular season having played only eight games. It's only right that the Hawks have a few playoff games to make up for it. Seminole Ridge 34-7.
St. Andrew's (1-7) at Ransom Everglades (3-5), 6 p.m., Thursday: It's been a struggle all season for St. Andrew's, but this should be fun. Ransom 20-16.
Port St. Lucie (2-5, 1-1 12-7A) at No. 2 Fort Pierce Central (7-0, 2-0 12-7A), 7 p.m., Thursday: Central wins the district with a victory, and there's no slowing down this Cobras squad. Central 35-10.
Palm Bay-Bayside (3-5) at Fort Pierce Westwood (1-7): Westwood got its first win of the season last week, but this one's a lot more challenging. Bayside 35-0
Jupiter Christian (2-6, 0-4 7-2A) at Coral Springs Christian (4-4, 1-3 7-2A): The 2012 Jupiter Christian season has been a lesson-filled obstacle course. Tough to watch. Coral Springs Christian 20-17.
No. 7 Palm Beach Gardens (5-2, 1-1 9-8A) at Wellington (3-4, 0-2 9-8A): Gardens has two missions -- recover from its big Seminole Ridge loss and qualify for the playoffs. Gardens 35-7.
South Fork (8-0, 4-0 14-6A) at Sebastian River (6-2, 4-0 14-6A): One of the best games in the area, with a district title on the line. South Fork 17-14.
Treasure Coast (4-2, 1-0 8-8A) at Vero Beach (5-1, 1-0 8-8A): No team has created a bigger illusion of success this fall than T-Coast. Vero Beach 35-17.
Winter Park-Trinity Prep (2-7) at King's Academy (4-4): Surprised King's lost last week to Pahokee, but this one will be smoother sledding for the Lions. King's 35-21.
Merritt Island Christian (3-4) at Berean Christian (6-2): It's never easy for a small school to travel well, but MIC has some impressive wins this fall. Merritt Island Christian 27-23.
Cardinal Newman (7-1) at Spanish River (0-8): Newman's tuning up the playoffs, while River is having one of the worst seasons in local football history. Newman 42-0.
LaBelle (3-4, 1-3 6-4A) at Clewiston (3-4, 3-1 6-4A), 7:30 p.m.: This is a win-and-in playoff game for Clewiston, and playing a rival makes it even easier to take it seriously. Clewiston 35-14.
Matt 10-0 last week, 111-25 overall
Jeff 6-3 last week, 107-28 overall