High school football picks: Showdowns have lost some luster
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This was supposed to be a big week of high-flying showdowns between nationally ranked teams (American Heritage and Dwyer) and close-to-undefeated rivals (Royal Palm Beach and Seminole Ridge).
It was supposed to be, perhaps, a return to competitive Muck Bowl territory, where Glades Central and Pahokee play each other in games that don't end as soon as they're scheduled.
Instead, the Delray Beach donnybrook between Heritage and Dwyer has a much different tone, as does the Ridge-Royal Palm rumble and the Muck Bowl.
The Muck Bowl will be another blowout. Pahokee's vastly improved from the previous two seasons, but those games were so far gone that the Blue Devils "getting better" means they'll probably only lose by three or four touchdowns instead of nine or 10.
Ridge (6-2) started so slowly that it fell entirely off the Class 8A map for about a month, erasing all the preseason hype that had the Hawks gaining statewide attention for their star-studded defense. They've recovered from that fall, but their opponents this week didn't quite follow up on their splashy 2011 season.
Royal Palm Beach stormed onto the football scene last fall, racing to the playoffs under new coach Willie Bueno. "Encore!" we chanted, hoping this season would be even better. These Wildcats started well, but finished worse, with a more-than-disappointing 35-10 loss to Atlantic in a pivotal district contest, and a could-have-won-it loss to Dwyer a week later.
And then there's Dwyer, a team that reached as high as 25th in the USA Today national high school football rankings. We at The Post said we'd rank Dwyer second all season until it played Heritage, which has All-American running back Greg Bryant and remains nationally ranked with its perfect record.
Now it appears Heritage is in a class of its own, and while we fully expect a deeply talented Dwyer team to make a game of it Thursday night, it doesn't quite have the same feeling as it would if they were both undefeated teams.
Let's move onto the picks before we get too sad:
Games of the Week
(All games at 7 p.m. Friday unless noted)
No. 4 Dwyer (8-1) at No. 1 American Heritage (9-0), Thursday
This was the area's prime time, high-wattage matchup before the season started, but Atlantic's upset of Dwyer kind of derailed the Who's the Best in Palm Beach County Bowl's momentum. That doesn't mean it won't be awesome.
Jeff's pick: American Heritage 24-20.
Matt's pick: American Heritage 28-17.
No. 6 Seminole Ridge (5-2) at No. 9 Royal Palm Beach (5-3)
Royal Palm is likely frustrated after losing to Dwyer and Atlantic in successive weeks, shutting down its playoff hopes. While Ridge's main focus is staying healthy for the playoffs, Royal Palm's injuries up front means Ridge has the edge.
Jeff's pick: Seminole Ridge 20-18.
Matt's pick: Seminole Ridge 24-14.
No. 10 Glades Central (5-4) at Pahokee (3-4), 7:30 p.m.
Earlier in the season, we were talking like this year's Muck Bowl might be close, but Glades Central has found another gear. Rather than a one-and-done playoff entry, the Raiders look like they could go a few rounds. Pahokee enters this Muck Bowl stronger and more confident than it was in the past two, but the Raiders have the edge.
Jeff's pick: Glades Central 45-14.
Matt's pick: Glades Central 41-7.
No. 3 Atlantic (6-2) at Jupiter (1-8)
Last year Jupiter won and gave a retirement gift to retiring coach Charlie Persson. This year, Atlantic should let coach Chris Bean and his staff enjoy an easy week before the playoffs.
Jeff's pick: Atlantic 49-0.
Matt's pick: Atlantic 35-10.
South Fork (7-1) at Glades Day (7-1)
The Kelvin Taylor Show's regular-season finale has major potential to produce fireworks. Last season, Taylor broke the Florida high school football career rushing record against the Bulldogs.
Jeff's pick: Glades Day 28-24.
Matt's pick: Glades Day 46-30.
Olympic Heights (7-2) at Boca Raton (2-6)
This is a game without a reward other than bragging rights, but these two meet from divergent paths. O-Heights posted, by all accounts, a hugely successful 2012 season; Boca has really, really struggled.
Jeff's pick: Olympic Heights 28-14.
Matt's pick: Olympic Heights 22-10.
SOUTHEASTERN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
John Carroll (6-3) at Benjamin (8-1), Thursday: A rematch of a Sept. 7 showdown that John Carroll would love to forget, but will most certainly use as motivation against the Bucs, who've gotten stronger as the season's progressed.
Jeff's pick: Benjamin 27-20.
Fort Lauderdale-Pine Crest (8-1) at Pope John Paul II (8-1), Thursday: Pope's only loss was to Pine Crest, by 10 points in September. Pine Crest's only loss was to Benjamin, which Pope beat by two touchdowns in September. Coin flip says ...
Matt's pick: Pope John Paul II 24-21.
JEFF GREER'S PICKS
Santaluces (5-3) at Vero Beach (7-1), Thursday: Santaluces put together a very impressive, much-improved season, but this is one of the toughest places to play in Florida. Vero Beach 35-20.
Marathon (1-8) at St. Andrew's (1-8), Thursday: The only win for St. Andrew's this fall came almost two months ago, but the drought will end this week. St. Andrew's 21-14.
No. 7 Palm Beach Gardens (6-2) at Lake Worth (1-7): If the goal for Gardens was scheduling a sneaky tough game before the playoffs, mission accomplished. But the Gators should eventually control it. Gardens 35-14.
West Boca Raton (2-6) at No. 8 Park Vista (7-1): Another trap game for a big school hoping to tune up for the playoffs, but the Cobras' multiple ball carriers should grind out a win at home. Park Vista 21-10.
Melbourne-Palm Bay (6-3) at Treasure Coast (4-4): Treasure Coast struggled against Vero Beach, and has its hands full against a very good Palm Bay team ahead of the playoffs. Palm Bay 35-21.
Berean Christian (6-3) at Summit Christian (3-6): This has the potential to be a really good game, with the home-standing Saints hoping to finish on a high note. Summit Christian 28-21.
John I. Leonard (4-5) at Suncoast (2-7): Leonard's record just doesn't do it justice -- the Lancers are one of the area's best under-.500 teams. Suncoast isn't. John I. Leonard 42-7.
Jupiter Christian (3-6) at Melbourne-Holy Trinity (6-3): A down year for JCS ends on the road against a very good Holy Trinity squad, and it should be quick and painless. Holy Trinity 45-10.
Inlet Grove (5-3) at Wellington (3-6): Can Wellington salvage its season after a six-game slide erased the goodwill of its hot start? Tough task against playoff-bound Inlet Grove. Wellington 28-26.
Martin County (4-5) at Jensen Beach (4-5): This is a true Treasure Coast tossup, but Martin County's playing on a short week after a playoff tiebreaker Monday and Jensen's at home. Jensen Beach 22-19.
MATT PORTER'S PICKS
No. 5 Palm Beach Central (6-2) at Palm Beach Lakes (1-8): Cakewalk for Central, which will probably rest its starters by the half. Palm Beach Central 45-0.
Boynton Beach (4-4) at Cardinal Newman (8-1): Boynton has a good quarterback and skill players, but Newman has more talent and is finally healthy. Cardinal Newman 24-10.
Fort Pierce Central (8-0) at Wauchula-Hardee (3-6): Hardee snapped a four-game losing streak last week, but is down from last year's 10-3 squad. Fort Pierce Central is a state-level team up for a long postseason run. Fort Pierce Central 38-10.
Village Academy (4-4) at Dade City-Pasco (9-0): Village is a strong, playoff-bound team, but Pasco is the No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A and has six shutouts in nine games. Pasco 44-14.
Forest Hill (1-8) at Key West (5-4): Tough road trip for the Falcons, who are playing a team that lost to powerful Miami-Norland by just seven points. Hopefully they'll get to relax on the beach after. Key West 42-6.
King's Academy (6-3) at Orlando-Lake Highland Prep (1-7): LHP has been tested in a district that includes Cocoa and Jones. Stopping King's rushing attack is another challenge. King's 33-14.
Port St. Lucie (2-6) at Centennial (1-7): Points have been hard to come by for Centennial (82 scored in eight games) but the Eagles have a decent defense. Port St. Lucie could be fired up or crestfallen coming off Monday's three-way district tiebreaker. Centennial 10-7.
Okeechobee (4-5) at Clewiston (4-5), 7:30 p.m.: A toss-up. Both have had impressive wins and surprising losses. Expecting a good crowd and a good game in Sugar Town. Clewiston, 24-23.
Jeff: 15-2 last week, 122-30 overall
Matt: 12-6 last week, 123-31 overall