Posted: 11:07 am Monday, November 25th, 2013

Football: Look Ahead to the Third Round of the Playoffs 

By Anthony Chiang

As most teams begin looking ahead to next season, three local teams have a chance to earn a trip to the state semifinals this week.

Dwyer is one of just three local teams left in the FHSAA playoffs. (Photo by Richard Graulich)

Palm Beach Gardens and Fort Pierce Central are still alive in the Class 8A playoffs, playing in Friday’s regional finals. In the Class 7A bracket, Dwyer is one of eight teams remaining. But there are no local teams left in Class 6A, Class 5A, Class 4A, Class 3A, Class 2A or Class 1A.

Dwyer is exactly where people expected it to be. The Panthers entered the season with high expectations and they have delivered, winning their first 12 games to advance to the regional finals. But Palm Beach Gardens has taken a different route to this point. The Gators weren’t expected to beat Park Vista and Palm Beach Central to make it to the third round, but their offense has led them to a matchup with Miramar on Friday. And Fort Pierce Central’s upset of Bradenton-Manatee in the regional semifinals surprised a lot of people. The Cobras have a lot of talent, but their season was expected to end against Manatee. Instead, Fort Pierce Central now has a realistic chance to make it to Orlando.

Here is a list of the local teams still left in the FHSAA playoffs:

Palm Beach Gardens (8-4): Hosts Miramar in the Class 8A regional finals.
Fort Pierce Central (10-1): Hosts Tampa-Plant in the Class 8A regional finals.
Dwyer (12-0): Hosts Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 7A regional finals.

Games of the Week

Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas (10-2) at Dwyer (12-0): The Panthers will face their toughest test of the season on Friday. Although the Raiders have lost twice this season, it came against two of the best Class 8A teams in the state — Miramar and Deerfield Beach. With the help of running back Madre London, a Michigan State commit, wide receiver Corey Holmes, a Notre Dame commit, and quarterback Wade Freebeck, a Pittsburgh commit, St. Thomas Aquinas has scored 37.5 points per game this year. But Dwyer has a lot of talent on its side, too, with wide receivers Johnnie Dixon, Clint Stephens and Ezra Saffold. It doesn’t hurt that the group of Panthers wide receivers has quarterback Daniel Parr throwing them the ball. This looks like it will be a high scoring game that could go either way.

Miramar (12-0) at Palm Beach Gardens (8-4): The Gators have earned “upset” wins over Park Vista and Palm Beach Central to reach this point. And on Friday, Palm Beach Gardens will be an even bigger underdog in its  regional finals matchup with Miramar. The Patriots have earned impressive wins over Plantation, St. Thomas Aquinas and Deerfield Beach this season. Just like the first two rounds, Gators quarterback JP Caruso is going to have to turn in one of the best performances of his high school career to advance past Miramar. Even though Palm Beach Gardens has the homefield advantage, this is going to be very tough for the Gators.

Tampa-Plant (10-1-1) at Fort Pierce Central (10-1): After being by eliminated by Bradenton-Manatee in the playoffs the past two seasons, the Cobras finally overcame that obstacle last week. But it doesn’t get any easier for Fort Pierce Central this week against Tampa Plant. The Cobras definitely have the talent with quarterback Sam Vaughn, and defensive stars Rashawn Shaw and Sharieff Rhaheed to get by this challenge, too. Shaw and Rhaheed will have to find a way to limit Plant quarterback Colby Brown, who has thrown for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions this year.