Posted: 3:45 pm Monday, October 31st, 2011

Football: Inside the Week 9 rankings 

By Jeff Greer

It’s the last week of district play, and bottom half of the top 10 is as fluid as ever.

Here are the updated rankings, complete with records and this week’s opponent:

1. Glades Central (8-0) vs. Boynton Beach
2. American Heritage (6-1) at Fort Lauderdale-Calvary Christian
3. Dwyer (7-1) vs. Royal Palm Beach
4. Fort Pierce Central (5-1) at Port St. Lucie
5. Park Vista (7-0) at John I. Leonard
6. Seminole Ridge (6-2) at Jupiter
7. Palm Beach Gardens (5-2) vs. Wellington
8. Royal Palm Beach (7-1) at Dwyer
9. Atlantic (5-3) at Lake Worth
10. Cardinal Newman (7-1) at Benjamin
Also considered: Jupiter Christian, Centennial, Palm Beach Central, Glades Day, Martin County.

The top three are pretty solid heading into their final district matchups. Glades Central has coasted through the soft part of its schedule, and the Raiders will be heavily favored against Boynton Beach on Friday. American Heritage put on the after-burners against Cardinal Newman and clinched the district title, taking all the meaning out of Heritage’s trip to Fort Lauderdale to play Calvary Christian. And Dwyer held court Thursday, routing Lake Worth with an impressive defensive effort.

Our top three teams have one prevailing characteristic: They all play great defense. Dwyer has been unbelievable, allowing 36 points total over the past seven games. Top-ranked Glades Central gave up 10 points — in the month of October. American Heritage had its shutout streak snapped at three when Cardinal Newman posted 13 points in Heritage’s 40-13 win last week. Combined, American Heritage (3), Dwyer (3) and Glades Central (2) have pitched eight shutouts this year.

Fort Pierce Central meets Port St. Lucie in an enticing matchup if you like offense. The Cobras had their Friday night dance with Centennial washed out, much to the chagrin of area football fans expecting a fun clash. But that doesn’t change our feelings about Central, which has been very impressive this season on both sides of the ball.

The next few teams in our rankings are three weeks away from beating each other up in the first round of the playoffs. Park Vista clinched a district title two Fridays ago, and the Cobras have two more regular-season games left. An undefeated 9-0 record is a good possibility. Once the playoffs hit, Park Vista will probably play Palm Beach Gardens, an offensive machine that should qualify for a playoff with a win over Wellington on Friday. Seminole Ridge can clinch its second consecutive district title with a win over Jupiter. All three of those teams could make a run in the playoffs, but they have to get past each other first.

Look at Royal Palm Beach, climbing up the rankings and making everyone take note that the ‘Cats are back. Tremane McCullough is putting up numbers right and left. On Friday, Royal Palm gets a crack at Dwyer, which is obviously a huge task for the Wildcats. But this much we know: Royal Palm is in the playoffs, and McCullough is a serious Player of the Year candidate.

The final two spots were tough to pick. Atlantic is so talented, it’s a shame the Eagles will miss the playoffs. Two consecutive goose eggs in critical games is rough, especially with the skill players Atlantic has. Cardinal Newman couldn’t be seriously punished for losing to a very good American Heritage team, so we kept the the Crusaders in.

There’s no reason to believe Jupiter Christian and Glades Day won’t play each other again in the playoffs, and we expect another classic. They’re both in the also considered group this week. So’s Palm Beach Central, which Park Vista coach Brian Dodds called the most talented team in 8A in the area. Central’s playoff hopes ride on their Friday matchup with Boca. Martin County is a team we’ve eyed all season, but Centennial caught our attention with a huge win over Vero Beach last week. Unfortunately, Centennial’s great matchup with Fort Pierce Central was ruined by the weather.