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September 2, 2014
Expert Analysis: Around the State - Week One
FlaVarsity.com has compiled a team of regional analysts to dissect several area's high school football. This will usually be premium content, so here is what FlaVarsity.com subscribers can expect for the rest of the season with a premium subscription!
Check out the notes and analysis below.
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For White, the loss is disappointing, but it was going to be a tough test facing the notoriously sturdy Raines defense. The Commanders should be happy, though, with Taylor Thomas' 74-yard touchdown run. The Utah commit will be huge to their offense this year and is sure to break off many more long runs this season.
As for Fletcher, new quarterback Augie Debiase, a transfer from Providence, impressed in his regular season debut for the Senators, throwing for 160 yards and four touchdowns. Stud running back Matt Henderson is also back from a terrible leg injury he suffered last season and he looks to be picking up right where he left off, carrying five times for 77 yards and a score last week.
Both teams are coming off dominant performances (Fletcher downing Stanton 54-7, First Coast defeating Ribault 41-6), so they'll be coming in to this match up hot. It will be a huge test for the Fletcher defense and will certainly be a great game.
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Dr. Phillips won 24-13 on Friday night despite a tough Timber Creek offense that utilized running back Jacques Patrick to perfection on Friday night, running the senior 28 times in a primarily wildcat formation. While Dr. Phillips held high-scoring Timber Creek to 13 points, which by all accounts is a success, but Dr. Phillips' offense sputtered at times and that may be a result of an improved Wolves defense. The Panthers got down to the one yard line late in the fourth quarter, which would have put DP in the 30-point range, but this offense has the talent to put 30 up in the first half and that was a surprise to many Central Florida pundits. Overall, Timber Creek had an excellent game plan and ran enough time off of the clock to keep DP's playmakers off the field. In one sentence: Dr. Phillips is among the favorites in 8A, while Timber Creek has improved enough on defense to make a deep (and possibly surprising) playoff run out an 8A Region 1 that includes First Coast, West Orange, Apopka and Lake Mary. They will need to surpass district foes Winter Park, Oviedo and Orlando-University first.
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I also think that Largo vs East Lake will be a very interesting match up. East Lake, a 7A state semifinalist last year, didn't look great in their kick off classic game against Manatee that I attended. Four-star wide receiver George Campbell is a freak talent, but that offense is really missing 2014 Clemson signee Artavis Scott. Largo isn't getting too much buzz in Pinellas County, but athlete Jonathan Crawford and quarterback Donovan Hale should put on a show on Friday night. I actually have Largo pulling off the upset in this one on the road.
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The Tigers lost arguably their two best playmakers in seniors Bob Rice and Daniel Cobb. Rice was arrested on Wednesday on battery charges and was in the Lee County Jail as the Tigers gave up 47 unanswered points to Naples. Rice was dismissed from the team prior to the game. Cobb, a Cincinnati verbal commit, broke his foot in practice and will be out at least four more weeks. The losses certainly will hurt Dunbar moving forward this season. -Bleich
Other Southwest Florida games of note:
South Fort Myers at Dunbar: It will be interesting to see if Dunbar's physical defensive line gives South problems. The Tigers need to pressure South quarterback Keith Smith in this game or they could quickly fall to 0-2 this season.
Cape Coral at Estero: Estero moved the ball at will in its season opener against Mariner and in its preseason loss to Lely. If the Wildcats can do that against Cape Coral, they may have a chance to win this one in a shootout. Estero's undersized defense will definitely be tested in this game. -Bleich
As for American Heritage-Plantation, it shows that they have made a lot of progress over the years, but still have a long way to go. In STA's 38-7 win over Heritage, quarterback Torrance Gibson was held to 102 total yards (57 passing; 45 rushing) and a late touchdown pass. It was a stark contrast to what he showed against defending 7A state champion Dwyer in the kickoff classic, when he went off by throwing for six touchdown passes in the ESPN showcase. At the end of the day, AH-Plantation is still the best team in all of Class 5A and will still be the favorite to repeat as state champs.
But one thing's for sure: Heritage is not in the same class as STA. At least not this year. With that said, STA has made a compelling case for being the best team in the state. The Raiders have a bye in Week 2 before they go on the road to face national power Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) in Week 3. By then we should know for sure whether or not STA has emerged as the state's clear-cut No. 1 team. In other words, it's currently a tight race between STA, Miami Central and Booker T. Washington for the top spot. It's too close to call right now. Enough said.
What's crazy is that No. 1 BTW and No. 2 Miami Central will be playing against each other in Week 2. The state's best game is going down this Friday night (7:30 kickoff) at Traz Powell Stadium in Miami. If you're in the 305 area, you do not want to miss this epic battle. But before we talk about the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, it must be noted that both team took care of business in their two out-of-state games.
BTW took down national power Oscar Smith (Va.) in a 57-21 rout on national television, but had to grind it out in a 19-7 win over Tucker (Ga.) in Week 1. Meanwhile, Miami Central squeaked by national power Hoover (Ala.) in a 24-21 victory on national television and went toe-to-toe with Stephenson (Ga.) before pulling out a 21-20 win in the end to cap a 305 sweep in the Florida vs. Georgia Border Series.
As a result, both BTW and Central returned home with 2-0 records - and bragging rights over Georgia for at least another year. With all that said, Week 2 will let us all know which team is truly the state's No. 1 team - at least for a week. Last season it was BTW over Central. Will the Rockets turn the tables this time on the Tornadoes? We'll know the answer on Friday night.
Few saw a 12-7 home loss to Glades Central coming in Week 1. Few anticipated Dwyer's offense to be stagnant against its early-season rival. But it happened. And for that reason alone, the state's former No. 11 team took a nosedive in our latest rankings.
Dwyer lost 20 of 22 starters from last season, bringing back only QB Daniel Parr and TE Nick Martinsen. The Panthers added new weapons on offense in WR Tavares Martin (John I. Leonard transfer), WR Isaiah Johnson (Glades Central transfer) and ATH Erick Hardnett (Cardinal Newman transfer; cousin of Newman alum and FSU freshman WR Travis Rudolph.
Dwyer plays its entire regular season schedule against Palm Beach County teams, with potentially two tough ones ahead. Palm Beach Gardens (8A; Week 3) and Royal Palm Beach (7A; Week 6) will likely be the biggest remaining tests for the relatively young team.
While it's not fair or right to write Dwyer off heading into Week 2, it is fair to say that another state title run is not likely to happen this season. But that's why we play the game. You never know how the season could turn out for Dwyer - or any other team in South Florida.
Follow South Florida expert Naji Tobias on Twitter - Follow @NajiTobias