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December 17, 2013
State Finals notebook: 5 things we learned
The 2013 high school season is over. The champions have been crowned. Stands will be empty on Friday nights until August. To hold you over, we'll take a look back at what we learned in at the 2013 State Finals:
1. Everyone is Chasing Miami-Dade
No county was nearly as dominate as the most populous county in the state. Four of the eight champions hailed for Miami, including 4A winner and National Champion Booker T. Washington, who crushed Jacksonville Bolles. Miami Central walloped a talented Armwood squad 52-7 in the 6A game, behind four touchdowns from four-star RB Dalvin Cook. FSU commit C.J. Worton tied a finals record with three touchdown receptions as South Dade corralled the record shattering offense of Apopka. Champagnat Catholic won the 2A title by beating Victory Christian Academy 14-7, in a game where the scoreboard didn't reflect the on field talent gap. Miami Dade's teams outscored their northern competition 147-63. Whatever they are putting in the water in South Florida, drink it.
2. Look to the Stars
The more heavily recruited team won almost every state title this year. While Friday Night Lights magic can guarantee stories to tell for a lifetime, talent puts up banners. No game proved that more than the 5A tilt between Clay and American Heritage Plantation. Clay had won its previous three playoff games by five points, but American Heritage has eight players ranked two stars or higher, including five stars Sony Michel and Tarvarus McFadden. Manpower overwhelmed magic, by a 66-8 final that was cut short by a running clock.
3. Eye Popping Underclassman
While there were seniors that showed us why they will be playing on Saturdays in the fall (Dalvin Cook, Isaiah McKenzie, Treon Harris, Johnnie Dixon, to start a very long list), some sophomores and juniors emerged in the spotlight and will have ample chances to repeat their performances. Niceville sophomore RB Elijah Stove impressed with physical runs, gaining 74 total yards on ten touches in a losing effort. Trenton's Hamp Cheevers, also a sophomore, was the best player on the field in the 1A game, racking up an incredible 124 yards and a TD on only three touches. American Heritage QB Torrance Gibson, a 2015 Rivals 100 member, went 9-10 passing and gained 314 yards of offense and three touchdowns. His miraculous end of half TD pass grabbed the number one spot on Sportcenter's Top Ten, markedly more impressive than anything I did when I was 17. Tarvarus McFadden, Miami Central's Da'Vante Phillips, Dwyer's QB Daniel Parr, Apopka's Chandler Cox and Trinity Christian's Kevin Toliver II all shined as well.
4. Speed Speed Speed
Outside of geography, there was no clearer indicator of victory than team speed. The faster team won every single matchup. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) burned Central Catholic with a 27-point outburst in the first seven minutes of the second half. Booker T Washington and Miami Central (more on them later) both ran circles around slower competition. Even Apopka, who brought in the fastest and highest scoring offense in state history, was caught flat footed by the team speed of South Dade.
5. We Need a Rematch
Booker T Washington and Miami Central both cruised to state titles in finals matches that were thoroughly uncompetitive. The teams combined for a record of 27-1, with Miami Central's loss coming in a 28-17 loss in early September. Booker T. needed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to secure that game and the teams only got better as the year went on. They were the most impressive teams in Orlando in December. Nothing would satisfy prep football thirst in the Sunshine State like a rematch to decide a true state champion. Maybe in Sun Life this Sunday, when the Dolphins are in Buffalo? Please?