Posted: 3:27 pm Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Dwyer ranked 78th in Rivals national high school football poll; more to come? 

By Jeff Greer

Dwyer football, with its loaded defense and lethal receiving corps, will almost certainly rate among the best teams in Palm Beach County and Florida. Rivals.com puts the Panthers among the best in the country, too.

Malik Brown leads an uber-talented Dwyer defense.

Dwyer, which opens its season with an anticipated Aug. 31 opener against Glades Central, is ranked 78th in the Rivals.com Preseason RivalsHigh 100. Rivals counts down the rankings, building up to No. 1. American Heritage is expected to be listed in the coming weeks, higher up the poll. Surprisingly, Glades Central, usually a fixture in the national rankings, will likely take a step back in national stature this fall, despite the presence of do-everything athlete Will Likely.

Here’s what Rivals says about Dwyer:

Coach: Jack Daniels

Last Season: 12-2, Florida Class 7A semifinalist. Ranked No. 62 nationally.

Fast Fact: The last time that Dwyer did not have a 10-win season was in 2005. Since that season, the Panthers have won 71 games and have not lost a single contest within their district.

Key Player: Defensive end Malik Brown. Dwyer will be younger on the offensive side of the ball than the defense and so it will be on the leader of that group to pick up the play and that will fall on Brown. The 6-foot-3, three-star player has impressive speed from the weakside that allows him to get around the corner to make plays as well as run them down from behind.
The Good: The young receivers. Dwyer had some issues in the passing game last season but that could be improved upon this year. The team has two players from the Class of 2014 that are boasting offers at the position as Johnnie Dixon and Clint Stephens have impressed on the field and in the summer circuit. Dixon is the more polished right now with offers from all over the SEC, including Florida and Alabama, while Stephens has a Florida State offer and has shown the ability to get off the line and run good routes.

The Bad: The quarterback. Dwyer has had a run of FBS-level quarterbacks with Faton Bauta, who is now at Georgia, calling the shots last year. The two years prior, the team had Jacoby Brissett, who is now at Florida. Currently the team is without a legitimate FBS-caliber play-caller and that could be its undoing as it has struggled offensively against strong defensive teams in the past.

The bottom line: At worst Dwyer will be a one-loss team entering the playoffs, if not undefeated, which is where we will learn the most about the Panthers. The season slate of games opens with Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central and then is awash with wins until the playoffs start in mid-November. The quarterback play will have plenty of time to develop and the defense will likely not be tested very frequently. Expect Dwyer to buoy in this rankings range until then unless something stands out in a great or very bad way.

Most of the commentary makes sense, though the quarterback play this spring showed Dwyer may be an unstoppable force in the passing game, at least locally. Both Rob Nittolo and Clay Meister looked smart and efficient in Dwyer’s 43-26 win over Fort Pierce Central, one of the better teams in Florida. And with receivers Johnnie Dixon and Clint Stephens, paired with speedster Ezra Saffold, Dwyer owns a very promising arsenal of passing options.

Also, Dwyer’s schedule should be tougher than the national experts think. Seminole Ridge, which is stacked with Division I prospects and gave Dwyer a good game last year, and American Heritage both host the Panthers, and there are tough district games against Atlantic and Royal Palm Beach, too.