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December 25, 2012

A final look back at the pre-season top 25

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At the beginning of August, FlaVarsity.com sat down and evaluated our 'Top 25' by looking at teams to keep an eye on. Over the next few days - we'll re-evaluate how we did. Who did we miss on and who did we see good things from. The next in the series is Class 5A, 4A and 3A.

The Top Ten

  • No. 2 - Booker T. Washington - Not a doubt in our mind that this was perhaps the most talented team in the rankings - other than Manatee.

    Then came the week 2 meltdown against Miami Central and people were wondering if Treon Harris just might be cursed.

    Surviving a rash of injuries and a tough schedule - the Tornados managed to storm through the post-season with barely a hiccup - including an impressive 35-7 shellacking of No. 25 Bolles. That was - by far - the worst post-season defeat in the long and illustrious career of Corky Rogers while at Bolles.

    Scary thing is - Booker T returns a lot of weapons for next year.

  • No. 5 - American Heritage-Delray - With a new coach and some key returning players, our theory was that the 3A defending champs were destined to storm right through the 3A bracket. We should have taken notice when Cocoa downed them in a kickoff classic.

    Still, the Stallions pounded almost everyone they played - including Atlantic, Glades Central and Dwyer to end the season. But a second-round matchup with University School proved to be too much and AHD ended their season at 11-1.

    With talent like Greg Bryant, Roderick Johnson and company - the national media even put the Stallions up pretty high - and still ranked them in the final Rivals100 - showing much respect to the 3A class in Florida.

  • No. 8 - Cocoa - Ranking the Tigers this high proved to be a risky proposition. Especially after an 0-2 start and an offense that seemed to be stagnant. But Cocoa bounced back with a big win over Ramsey (NJ) Bergen Catholic and rolled to 11 straight wins before falling to eventual 4A champion Booker T. Washington. Still, losses to St. Joseph's (Pa.) and University School were not pretty and kept the Tigers out of the Top 25 for a majority of the season.

    The Tigers fell hard after being propped up so high - and looked worthy of the ranking in the pre-season, but a one-dimensional offense proved to be the weakspot.

  • No. 15 - Miami Norland - Based off last year's impressive 15-0 run and a dominant team of talented underclassmen we debated long and hard on the Vikings.

    The loss of Randy Johnson proved to be too much - and Norland did make a post-season run, but not to the effect of the year earlier.

  • No. 19 - Palmetto - After taking Manatee and Norland to the very brink, and getting a senior transfer QB - we gave the Tigers a shot at the Top 25 - which looked pretty good until Manatee pasted them 62-0. Palmetto never recovered and ended up losing the district title.

    Of course, the Tigers did make it to the second round of the post-season, but quickly bowed out and did not materialize the run in 5A that we thought they'd make.

  • - No. 21 - Madison County - We kind of thought the Cowboys would be back. After all, they had the experienced offensive attack coming back and a top offensive lineman in Ira Denson. What cost Madison was a lack of a true passing attack, and the Cowboys worked on that.

    Two overtime wins over Pensacola Catholic were the closest games - other than two losses to Gainesville (6A runner-up) and University School.

    Not that we missed on this one - since the Cowboys did make it to Orlando - but maybe we underestimated where they should have been ranked.

  • No. 22 - Immokalee - Incredible talent and the Indians made the serious run to the post-season. It was shaky at first, with losses early to Lake Wales and Naples, but Immokalee showed up when it counted.

    A botched extra point try cost the Indians a shot at overtime in the 5A title game.

  • No. 24 - Pasco - The Pirates steadily climbed the rankings by shutting out a lot of folks and just plain mudstomping opponents. Then came Robinson in the post-season and that was that.

    Pasco's defense was flat-out dominant, but the offense had spurts of inconsistency. A very weak schedule didn't help.

  • No. 25 - Lake Wales - The Highlanders, much like the Immokalee Indians, were hit and miss throughout the season, but made a serious run to the regional finals before bowing out.

    Lake Wales did it with what some would call 'smoke and mirrors' - and a big regular-season win over Immokalee early proved they were ranking worthy.

    Then the slide came. The Highlanders did right the ship and manage to win on the road in the post-season until the regional final.

  • No. 25 - Bolles - With all the off-season issues surrounding long-time coach Corky Rogers, and the pre-season injuries to Jeremiah Theus and Colby Peters we were somewhat hesitant at ranking Bolles in the Top 25.

    But only one loss in the regular season and a gauntlet of a schedule made a believer out of us.

    Bolles was - in fact - ranking worthy.

    Who knew?

    ... That Tampa Robinson would set a state record for most points scored by a defense - en route to an impressive 12-2 campaign that saw the Knights finish one yard away from a possible state title game appearance.

    ... That Tallahassee Godby would be the road warriors, playing every single post-season game on the road and winning game after game -starting with a season-ending win over 7A power Tallahassee Lincoln.

    ... That University School - would be as dominant as they were - ramming through every single game until the Cowboys of Madison County actually dared to take a 17-0 lead on them - and they didn't blink.

    ... That Madison County would bounce back from a 30-3 embarrassment in the 3A title game to be two plays away from perfection - including a fourth-down play against University that was 33 inches short.

    This is what makes picking a pre-season Top 25 so difficult. Still - we managed to rank nine champions or runner-ups - which means in the big picture, we got almost 40 percent of the finals.

    Not too shabby, but room for improvement.



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