High school football playoff predictions: Expect Dwyer, Glades Central to roll, plus expanded previews
The playoffs are upon us. It seems amazing that this whole season started 15 weeks ago when fall practices began.
Since those predawn workouts in Palm Beach Gardens and mosquito-bitten sessions in the Glades, we've seen what feels like two seasons' worth of Palm Beach County and Treasure Coast football.
We saw teams try to work out the kinks in kickoff classics, new coaches earn instant respect, and freshmen lose their breakfast trying to prove they had what it takes.
We saw defensive struggles and offensive gems, individual performances that left eyebrows raised and stole the air from our lungs.
We saw stunned, sobbing Dwyer players on the floor of a locker room in Columbus, Ohio. We saw a different kind of tears from John I. Leonard coach Wayne Monroe after his team clinched a playoff spot.
We saw poignant tributes, like Glades Central's Crevon LeBlanc dragging blades of grass across his chest to remember his late father. We saw showings of solidarity -- Dwyer teammates taking turns wearing suspended Nick O'Leary's No. 34.
The Muck Bowl took a year off from competitiveness while the Fort Pierce Showdown lived up to its billing. District 8-6A was as confusing as ever, and we watched two other districts settle playoff spots with tiebreakers.
There was utter disappointment -- Atlantic's heartbreaking, last-minute loss to Seminole Ridge. There was unparalleled joy -- Lake Worth's first district title in 24 years and Seminole Ridge's first-ever crown.
Cardinal Newman made its way back to the playoffs with a boot and a prayer; Pahokee reeled from attrition and stumbled to the finish. Glades Central and Dwyer convinced everyone -- except maybe the haters -- that they were far and away the two dominant teams in the area. And King's Academy hit all the right notes on its way to a 9-1 season.
Every Friday night during the regular season, we saw some of the best high school football talent in the country.
Oh, but it's far from over. For those still left, this long and winding road leads to Orlando, and we'll be there every step of the way.
The playoffs are upon us. Funny how everything feels new all over again.
WHO THEY'RE TAKING (All games at 7:30 p.m.)
For expanded previews of games, click the bold link of your chosen game.
Matt Porter's picks
Atlantic (6-4) at Treasure Coast (6-3) | Preview: The Eagles turned the ball over eight times last week, and this week considered making roster cuts. Not good. Treasure Coast 14-7.
Vero Beach (6-3) at Seminole Ridge (9-1) | Preview (GOTW): The Hawks turn the ball over as often as the Marlins make a common-sense baseball decision. Seminole Ridge 31-24.
John I. Leonard (5-5) at Bayside (7-3) | Preview: It's been a magical run for the Lancers, but I think it ends here. They'll have trouble with Bayside's play makers. Bayside 35-21.
Melbourne (6-4) at Lake Worth (8-2) | Preview: Area's top-ranked offense gives the home fans a show. Lake Worth 38-12.
Boyd Anderson (7-3) at Wellington (5-5) | Preview: Boyd QB Dane James (22 TD passes) will test Wellington's secondary. Boyd Anderson 28-21.
West Boca (6-4) at Blanche Ely (8-2) | Preview: Bulls battle, but Ely shows why it's ranked No. 8 in the state among 5A teams. Blanche Ely 38-24.
New Smyrna Beach (6-4) at Fort Pierce Central (8-1) | Preview: Cobras don't put up points, but that defense can be stifling. Fort Pierce Central 21-7.
Martin County (8-2) at Palm Bay (9-0) | Preview: One of the week's best matchups. Martin County dents the ship, but can't sink the Pirates. Palm Bay 17-10.
Fort Lauderdale-Stranahan (5-5) at Dwyer (9-1) | Preview: Stranahan beating Dwyer would be akin to me lasting a round with Manny Pacquiao. Dwyer 42-14.
Jeff Greer's picks
Okeechobee (3-7) at Hollywood Hills (6-4) | Preview: The Brahmans can run on Hollywood Hills, but Hills RB Jeremy Donaldson is way too much to handle. Hollywood Hills 28-14.
Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy (8-1) at Fort Pierce Westwood (9-0) | Preview: Westwood has loaded offensive and defensive lines that are talented and big; they'll carry the Panthers far. Westwood 21-13.
Suncoast (3-7) at Plantation-American Heritage (6-4) | Preview: The Chargers need to contain American Heritage's freshman sensation Sony Michel if they want to win. Good luck with that. American Heritage 35-21.
Fort Lauderdale-Cardinal Gibbons (6-4) at Glades Central (9-1) | Preview: Central's defense and emerging running game will be the keys to a long run in the 2A playoffs. Expect the defense to dominate Gibbons. Glades Central 26-6.
Cardinal Newman (7-3) at Miami-Monsignor Pace (9-0) | Preview: Cardinal Newman needs to rediscover its offensive moxie after a 21-0 loss to King's. It will, but not enough for the upset. Monsignor Pace 34-24.
King's Academy (9-1) at Dade Christian (9-1) | Preview: This is one of the best area matchups. The King's defense will have its hands full, but Dade Christian's youth will shine through. King's 24-21.
Miami-Westminster Christian (7-3) at American Heritage (7-3) | Preview: Can anyone touch the Stallions in the early going of the 1A playoffs? I don't think so. American Heritage 45-12.
Pompano Beach-Highlands Christian (8-2) at Jupiter Christian (9-1) | Preview: The Eagles played bigger schools to prepare for this moment, now's their chance to show what they learned. Jupiter Christian 44-21.
Glades Day (6-4) at Florida City-Barrington Christian (5-2) | Preview: There's some concern about the effectiveness of the Gators' offense, and they can't afford to look past Barrington Christian. Glades Day 24-20.