Posted: 7:17 pm Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Only two area teams remain in 2011 football playoffs 

By Jeff Greer

Dwyer and American Heritage are the last hopes for Palm Beach County football teams in the 2011 playoffs.

Dwyer, ranked second in the final Palm Beach Post poll of the regular season, bested Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas in a thrilling 6-3 slugfest in a Class 7A region final.

In the Class 3A state semifinals, American Heritage (11-1) started slow against Tampa Berkeley Prep but a heavy dose of Greg Bryant and Jeremy Gaskins turned the tide and helped the Stallions win 17-9.

Heritage will play in the 3A state title against Madison County at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The Stallions have a chance to win their third state championship in five years.

Dwyer (12-1) will hit the road for a Class 7A state semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Bradenton-Manatee. The Panthers are looking for their second state championship in three years, and they haven’t lost a game since Labor Day.

Dwyer’s opponent, Manatee, upended Fort Pierce Central 13-10 in a defensive struggle. Manatee (11-2) hasn’t lost since Sept. 16, when it lost 22-16 to the New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep, one of the top-rated teams in the nation.

While the teams have never played in the state playoffs, they do have some history together. In 2009, Dwyer won the 4A state championship a day after Manatee lost in the 5A state final.

For American Heritage, the junior Bryant ran for 203 yards and a touchdown, outplaying Berkeley Prep standout senior Nelson Agholor in a battle of two highly touted prospects. Heritage’s hulking offensive line had its way with Berkeley Prep’s defense in the second half, and it’ll be tough for Madison County to stop Bryant and Gaskins next week.

The Stallions lost 27-10 to Jacksonville-Trinity Christian in the state title game last December, and they’ll be looking for a better result this time around.

They’ll have their hands full against a good Madison County team. Madison County has played in five state championship games and won twice, with the last title coming in 2007.

In addition to Fort Pierce Central, three other area teams fell.

Glades Central, the top-ranked team in 5A, struggled offensively and couldn’t contain Miami Norland running back Duke Johnson, whose 265 yards and four touchdowns wore down Glades Central’s defense in a 29-13 loss.

In 8A, Palm Beach Gardens scored first but struggled in a 35-7 loss to nationally ranked Miramar. And down in 2A, Glades Day and Kelvin Taylor finally met their match in the state playoffs for the first time in three years, losing 42-16 to St. Petersburg-Admiral Farragut.