By: Wells Dusenbury
It's hard to believe, but we've reached playoff time for the high school football season. Friday night, 19 teams will hit the gridiron, hoping to kick off a potential state title run.
Two of the most intriguing games are a pair of 8A re-matches from earlier in the season. In week two, Park Vista knocked off Seminole Ridge 21-7 in Loxahatchee and will once again hit the road to take on the Hawks.
In the first meeting between the teams, Seminole Ridge's offense was unable to muster much of anything and turned the ball over three times in the 14-point loss.
The Hawks though are a much different team offensively this go-around. Ridge was inexperienced at the skill positions with the team having to break in all new starters, but their offense has gelled as the season's progressed.
In their 31-21 win against Palm Beach Gardens, the Hawks dominated on the ground and finally began to look like the Seminole Ridge offense we've become accustomed to.
In the other 8A re-match, Palm Beach Central will get a chance to avenge a 10-6 home loss to Palm Beach Gardens. Much like Ridge, Central is another team that has vastly improved since the beginning of the season.
The Broncos have ended the season on a five game winning streak and have looked unstoppable at times offensively.
Behind their massive offensive line, Central's now four-headed monster of Lloyd Howard, Tommy McDonald, Ray Wilson and Kemar Downer have chewed up opponents on the ground and give the Broncos one of the best rushing attacks in the state.
Gardens was able to win a low-scoring affair back in week three between the teams, but that will be a more difficult task this time with Central's progression offensively.
Five other intriguing match-ups
-In a playoff re-match from a year ago, Martin County will once again make the three-hour trek to across the state to take on Punta Gorda-Charlotte. Martin County stunned Charlotte a year ago, driving 85 yards in the final minute of the game and scoring the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left to win 14-10.
The Tigers though aren't the same team that pulled off that thrilling upset last year. Without dynamic wideout Justin Simmons and running back Treyvon Johnson, Martin County has struggled at times offensively, with the team heading into the postseason with a 4-6 record.
At 6-4 though, Charlotte isn't an unbeatable team though, so we'll see if the Tigers still have some late-game magic left in them.
-Coming off a 55-point outburst against Glades Day, South Fork may be the hottest team offensively heading into the postseason. Friday, they'll get the chance to square off with a familiar out-of-area foe in Palm Bay.
The Pirates played Ft. Pierce Central and Treasure Coast this season, falling to both opponents.
Last year in the postseason, South Fork was no match for Melbourne with the Bulldogs falling 35-0 in the first round. Palm Bay is a beatable squad though, so South Fork might be able to improve upon last year's showing.
-Glades Central has been one of the more interesting teams this season, with the Raiders ending the season on six-game winning streak after an 0-4 start.
While Glades Central seems much improved from earlier in the year, the Raiders didn't look overly impressive in a penalty-filled Muck Bowl win over rival Pahokee.
Regardless, it will be intriguing to find out how much the Raiders have really improved with their first round tilt against Rockledge.
-The good news for Village Academy? They're making their first ever playoff appearance. The bad news? They have to play the state's top ranked team in 2A.
On Friday, the Tigers will travel down south to take on 9-0 Dade Christian. Village head coach Don Hanna has put together a grueling schedule of top competition, so his team should be prepared to take on a talented opponent like Dade Christian. Whether they can break through for the school's first playoff win is another thing.
-It's hard to believe that Dwyer isn't hosting a first-round playoff match-up. Due to their 28-12 loss to Atlantic, the Panthers will hit the road to take on Oakland Park-Northeast.
This one is also a playoff re-match from a year ago. Dwyer pounded Northeast 45-14 in the Regional Semifinals last year, with the Hurricanes unable to do much of anything.
This year's Northeast team is much improved from a year ago and could give the Panthers trouble. Despite their revolving door at quarterback, Dwyer's defense will probably be too much for the Hurricanes to handle.
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There are no games scheduled for today.