Watch CBS News

Bald Predictions - High School Football Playoffs Round Four

JT BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

Can you guys believe that there are only two weeks left in the 2016 high school football season?

I told you all back in August, that it "goes fast". It doesn't seem like that long ago that everyone was getting excited by spring game outcomes and summer 7-on-7 tournaments.

Now look, we're on the doorstep of the state championship games. And before you know it, we'll be back into spring ball and back to sweating under the unrelenting South Florida sun watching a 7-on-7 tournament every weekend.

It all goes by fast folks.

Congratulations are in order to Chaminade-Madonna and Champagnat Catholic for punching its respective tickets to Orlando. The Lions – both school's mascot is Lions – proved the doubters wrong and will get to play for championships next week.

While the Lions' get an extra week off to bask in their own ambiance and make extra preparations, five other teams from South Florida – Miami-Dade and Broward counties – remain and they have the daunting task of punching their ticket to Mickey Town this weekend.

The word of the week is "focus".

It's thrown around a lot by players and coaches, but it will take laser-like attention to every detail for teams to come out victorious in this round. At this stage, it's easy to get caught looking ahead – knowing that you're so close to reaching the state championship game, being able to say "we're going to state" – and sometimes teams will lose focus on the actual task at hand.

Focus means being able to block out mental clutter and operate clearly and effectively. It means not committing a penalty away from the ball or behind the action that wipes away a big play; it means holding onto the all the way into the endzone – not dropping it early in celebration; it also means running your route hard even if you know the ball isn't coming your way, because your effort can help someone else get open.

I'm focused this week because there are so few games to pick. I rebounded from what I felt was a horrible round two by going 7-1 in round three.

You'll notice that all of the out-of-town teams that the South Florida teams are going up against this week are undefeated. I put my faith in Miami-Dade and Broward last week and I don't have reason to stop it now.

Record last week: 7-1
Playoffs record: 33-8
Season record: 468-76 (.860 Correct Pick Percentage)

Four games picked this week with all four games in the Bald Predictions spotlight.

1  2  3  4  5

(1) Plantation American Heritage (12-0) vs. Tampa Jesuit (12-0)
Friday at American Heritage, 7:30 p.m.

Here's a game that I believe could be quite competitive and very interesting to watch.

A battle between a pair of undefeated teams typically makes for an intense and emotional game because neither team has felt the sting of defeat up to this point – and the stakes get raised exponentially since this is a playoff matchup.

American Heritage enters as a team that still seems to be flying under the radar. I cannot quite put my finger as to the reason why, but it seems that the Patriots are being undersold or overlooked.

Perhaps they want it that way. But it's still pretty mind-boggling for South Florida's only remaining undefeated team not to be one of the main topics of conversation.

Still, looking at this Heritage team – I see a roster that's full of talented players and a coaching staff that bring a wealth of knowledge to the table.

On the other side of the field will be a Tampa Jesuit team that comes in with a clear-cut identity: they run the football.

The Tigers' star is 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior running back Malik Davis. The University of Florida commit has had an impressive high school career and has racked up nearly 2,220 rushing yards this season to go along with an eye-opening 31 rushing touchdowns.

Tampa Jesuit offense has put up a heap of points this season. In their previous 12 victories, the Tigers have scored at least 40 points in 10 of those games – with the two lowest outputs being 39 and 34 points respectively.

The one thing that jumps out at me when watching Tampa Jesuit on film and looking at their opponents this season, they haven't been truly tested by a team that has just as much – if not more – speed than it does.

That's where I think American Heritage can gain an advantage. The Patriots have the team speed to close running lanes faster and they can converge on Davis quicker and hold him to a five or six-yard gain, whereas he may have gotten 10 or 15 yards against a different team.

Another area in which the Patriots are going to have to flex their muscles is with its big offensive line. Heritage still has one of the biggest five-man fronts in South Florida and that size is hard to replicate for opponents.

Playing physically up front, winning the battle at the point of attack, and sustaining long drives with runs by Jordan Johnson and Jason Brown will be huge for Heritage chances to come away with a victory.

I wouldn't be surprised if offensive lineman T.J. Slaton saw a reasonable amount of action on the defensive side of the ball during this game to help in stopping the run. In that same vein, defensive backs Marco Wilson and Patrick Surtain Jr. will have to be ready to come up and make tackles in run support.

I think the Patriots win this game, but it's going to come down to their ability to use their speed to overwhelm Davis and Jesuit as a whole and they're going to have to run the ball effectively themselves.

Bald Prediction = American Heritage wins 23-21

1  2  3  4  5

(3) St. Thomas Aquinas (10-2) vs. Venice (12-0)
Friday at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7:30 p.m.

This is one of those games where, quite frankly, one team is just more talented than the other and the more talented team just has to come out and "do the little things it takes to win."

That's a phrase I've thrown around quite a bit lately, and it simply means: don't beat yourself. Don't let your opponent hang around. Check all the boxes of things it takes to win a football game, and let your talent handle the rest.

Venice, unlike Tampa Jesuit, has played a much more challenging schedule. The Indians came through it unscathed and showed it can win games with both its offense and its defense. Seven times this season, Venice has held teams to seven points or less. And on the flip side, the Indians have totaled 40 or more points in 11 of 12 of their wins.

Venice too is a run-heavy squad. Rushing for nearly 350 yards per game, Venice's bell-cow is senior Matt "Speedy" Laroche. Laroche has rushed for 2,665 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2016 while juniors Bryce Carpenter and Courtney Doss have combined to rush for another 1,200 yards and have 15 and eight rushing touchdowns respectively.

St. Thomas Aquinas will easily – and I cannot put enough emphasis on that word – represent the toughest and the most talented team that Venice has faced this year.

The Raiders have put their two early season losses behind them and they're running about as smoothly as head coach Roger Harriott could want his team to run at this point of the season.

St. Thomas Aquinas' defense is allowing just over three points a game through the playoffs so far. The front four, anchored by Kivon Bennett and Lashawn Paulino-Bell, should be able to crash running lanes and linebackers Rocky Shelton and Drew White can clean up anything that gets to the second level.

Where Aquinas should be able to pull away will be with its offense. The three-headed running back monster that is Mike Epstein, Kyshaun Bryan, and Daniel Carter will hit the Venice defense like unrelenting body blows; setting it up for quarterback Jake Allen to take shots over the top in the passing game.

St. Thomas just has to avoid committing an abundance of penalties and take care of the football and its talent should prove to be too much for Venice to handle.

Raiders get another step closer to that coveted "three-peat".

Bald Prediction = St. Thomas Aquinas wins 31-17

1  2  3  4  5

(9) Southridge (10-2) vs. (12) Deerfield Beach (10-2)
Friday at Deerfield Beach, 7:30 p.m.

Here's one of those games that makes one say: "is there a field that can hold this game?"

The level of talent that will be on the football field in a matchup like this is seriously astounding.

While this can be said for a handful of high school football games played in South Florida every year, I'll say it again and even more vehemently this time around: there is no other game, anywhere in the country, that you will find this kind of collection of football talent squaring off against one another.

Bald Prediction = Southridge wins 30-28

1  2  3  4  5

(10) Carol City (8-3) vs. Punta Gorda Charlotte (12-0)
Friday at Punta Gorda Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Carol City looks like a team on a mission.

Once the Chiefs got past rival Northwestern, it seemed to re-energize them and give them the juice to stroll into Daytona Beach and make easy work of Mainland.

Really easy work.

Now Carol City hits the road again to take on a Charlotte team that's also boasting an undefeated record and a stud running back.

Charlotte, which defeated North Miami 63-33 during the regular season, runs its offense through senior Maleek Williams. Williams hasn't rushed some gaudy amount of yards like the backs from Venice and Tampa Jesuit – he's run for a respectable 1,280 yards with 23 touchdowns – but he can certainly tote the football.

A three-star, Arkansas commit, Williams has good size (6-feet, 200 pounds) and has enough speed (4.59) to get by folks when given the right crease.

Looking at the matchup, this should be another game where Carol City could use a fast start – like it did last week, jumping out 14-0 on Mainland – and essentially take a large chunk of Charlotte's offense – the run game – out of the equation.

Carol City's defense has played well all season and I'm sure defensive coordinator Damon Cogdell will spotlight Williams all week during practice to challenge his "Dark Side Defense 2.0" to come out and make its presence known on the road.

The Chiefs' offense has fared well over the past two weeks too. Quarterbacks Marlon Smith and Lorenzo Floyd have combined with receivers Kevaughn Dingle and Victor Tucker to challenge opposing secondaries with a combination of great route running (Dingle) and top-level speed (Tucker).

The factor to watch is the health of sophomore running back Nayquan Wright. Wright hasn't played since October 29th and his status for Friday's game is still up in the air.

Whether Wright is able to go or not, Carol City has the great benefit of being able to put the ball in junior Camron Davis' hands. Davis is more than capable of shouldering the ball-carrying load; plus, the Chiefs can give the ball to athlete Terrence Horne to spell Davis.

I know Carol City head coach Aubrey Hill will have his guys ready to play, and going on the road to play a big game won't be the thing that sinks the Chiefs. The key to their victory will be a positive start out of the gates and clamp down on Williams.

Chiefs punch their ticket to Mickey Town.

Bald Prediction = Carol City wins 28-17

1  2  3  4  5


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.