Now that all of that hoopla is done, we can back to our regularly scheduled programming.
The great thing about sports is the fact that it is immense and intense enough to get lost in. You can pretty much block out whatever you want and be all in on your favorite sport, team, league, etc.
High school football is about to get really fun. Really, really fun – actually.
The playoffs are here and that means you can throw out everything that has happened up to this point. The records don't mean anything and the only thing that matters at this point is: who can be the best team on the field for five more weeks?
Unlike basketball, where teams typically play a series, football is win or go home.
Or, to quote one of my favorite movies – "Friday Night Lights" – "win, you move on; lose, you play basketball".
The opening round of the playoffs tends to go "true to form" – meaning the teams that have had success up to this point, typically continue to find it. That's mostly because there's still a good deal of familiarity between the opponents.
It's usually not until we get to the third round when South Florida teams line up against out-of-town opponents that some extra variables get thrown into the equation.
I'll point out again, the next two weeks will be about which teams will be able to execute the best and which teams pay attention to the small details.
Record last week: 37-8
Season record: 435-68 (.864 Correct Pick Percentage)
21 games picked this week with three games in the Bald Predictions spotlight.
(9) Coral Gables (8-1) vs. North Miami Beach (6-3)
Friday at FIU North Stadium, 7:30 p.m. – Region 4-8A Regional Quarterfinals
Here's the opening round game that I am most looking forward to.
I think it's a very intriguing matchup between two teams that could potentially go on a nice playoff run if everything falls in line for them.
Coral Gables enters the playoffs as a team with quite the impressive regular season record, but there's a question of whether or not the Cavaliers were tested enough to deal with the rigors of the postseason.
Granted, Gables earned a week one win over Carol City (16-13 in overtime) and ended the season with a 21-7 win over fellow Class 8A playoff team Southwest, their other six victories came against teams with a combined 19-39 record.
Sure a win is a win, but consider the fact that the Cavs took an L against rival Columbus – a team that played squads like Northwestern (9-1), Southridge (7-2) and Booker T. Washington (7-3 and four-time defending Class 4A state champs).
North Miami Beach is a quintessential "wildcard team". The Chargers come in with an unassuming record (6-3) and they'll be playing on the heels of losing their season finale to South Dade – a team that Coral Gables defeated. As a matter of fact, two of NMB's losses this season came against teams that the Cavaliers defeated.
But that's the very thing that I believe makes the Chargers a dangerous team. Head coach Jeff Bertani has been plugging away at this coaching thing for a good while and he's taken a team to the state semifinals before.
North Miami Beach is a physical and tough team that has good size up front and a more than solid running back tandem with Jordan Atkins and Vinshaun Cobham.
Coral Gables is a team that's built around its defense. Junior defensive back Gilbert Frierson is a star with superstar potential and senior linebacker Kris Moll is the emotional leader of the group and he's one of the more productive defensive players in South Florida.
The Cavs have found something in senior running back Jamar Thompkins. He's really come on as of late and has given Gables head coach Roger Pollard another offensive weapon to use alongside speedster Johnny Ford – who's working his way back from an ankle injury – and senior athlete Kevin Romer.
Looking at the matchup, Coral Gables has an offense – even with Thompkins, Romer and Ford – that will sputter and it makes me weary going up against a team like North Miami Beach, which has enough size up front to potentially clog up running lanes.
Another thing that I believe works in the Chargers' favor is the dual-threat ability of quarterback Wendell Morrison. Morrison shares the team lead in total rushing this season and he's thrown for 11 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions.
Ultimately, I see this being one of those close games that hinge on a couple of key moments. Things like field position and "staying in front of the chains" will be big for both teams.
Some would call North Miami Beach winning this game an upset. I'm not sure it is. I say Chargers win this one close.
Bald Prediction = North Miami Beach wins 20-16
(10) Carol City (5-3) vs. (25) Dillard (6-3)
Friday at Dillard, 7:30 p.m. – Region 4-6A Regional Quarterfinals
Here's a game that, quite frankly, lost whatever potential luster it would've had when Dillard lost its season finale to a Blanche Ely team that lost six games by a combined score of 192-27.
Yes, it was the "Broward Soul Bowl" and it represents a true rivalry game between the Panthers and the Tigers, but plainly put – it's a hard sell to make as to why Dillard lost that game.
Carol City, on the other hand, walks into the playoffs as "not your typical" district runner-up. By the middle point of the season and for 46 minutes into their game against Northwestern, the Chiefs were one of the hottest teams in South Florida.
Having found offensive balance in the form of junior quarterback Marlon Smith to go along with the dynamic running back duo of Camron Davis and Nayquan Wright, Carol City became a team that didn't have to completely rely on its very stingy defense.
Speaking of Carol City's defense, or "Dark Side 2.0.", it will be going through the playoffs without the services of senior defensive end/linebacker Deandre "Eye Candy" Wilder. Unfortunately, Wilder has "aged out" – meaning he's older than 19 years and nine months and is no longer able to compete in sanctioned high school games.
His athletic presence will definitely be missed by this Chiefs defense, just not this week.
If Dillard gave up 12 sacks to Ely, there's no telling how many Carol City will be able to rack up once defensive coordinator Damon Cogdell starts dialing up the blitzes.
Bald Prediction = Carol City wins 26-7
(12) Deerfield Beach (7-2) vs. (20) Western (7-2)
Friday at Deerfield Beach, 7:30 p.m. – Region 3-8A Regional Quarterfinals
Here's a game that I can't shake the feeling will be a lot closer than a lot of people think.
Deerfield Beach losing to Cardinal Gibbons in the season finale was worthy of the eyes emoji. Not taking anything away from Gibbons – I think the Chiefs are a very good team – but you'd think a team like the Bucks, who some are still picking to make it to Orlando in Class 8A, would be able to fair a lot better than what they did.
Still, Deerfield is one of the most talented teams in the state and they'll have at least half of the 10 best players on the field in every game; so I expected much better.
Western is a team that I've kept an eye on all season. The Wildcats earned their spot on the bracket with a big win over Miramar and showed that they have a tough squad – both mentally and physically.
Looking at this matchup, Western has the ingredients to make this a close game. Specifically speaking, the Wildcats have a pair pass rushers – Matthew Hanson and Kevin Oliver – that will be able to put pressure on Bucks quarterback Nick Holm.
Putting pressure on Holm gets Deerfield's offense out of sync. Once the Bucks see that Hanson and Oliver are too good to keep out of the backfield, they'll start using the short lateral passing game – almost serving as long handoff runs – to receivers Jerry Jeudy, Leroy Henley and Daewood Davis.
The two things that will lift Deerfield Beach to a victory will be the fact that its receivers should be able to turn short passes into long gains and the Bucks defense should be able to use its athleticism to keep Western's deceptively spry quarterback Harrison Story in check and stymie the Wildcats' offense.
Bucks move on, but Western won't go down without a fight.
Bald Prediction = Deerfield Beach wins 22-17
(1) Plantation American Heritage vs. Fort Pierce Westwood = American Heritage wins by 35
(2) Northwestern vs. Boynton Beach = Northwestern wins by 20
(3) St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Palm Beach Lakes = St. Thomas Aquinas wins by 28
(4) McArthur vs. Doral Academy = McArthur wins by 9
(6) Booker T. Washington vs. Belle Glade Glades Central = Booker T. wins by 10
(7) Flanagan vs. (17) Piper = Flanagan wins by 16
(8) Cardinal Gibbons vs. Riviera Beach Suncoast = Cardinal Gibbons wins by 21
(11) Southridge vs. (23) Southwest Miami = Southridge wins by 14
(13) Columbus vs. Hialeah American = Columbus wins by 28
(14) Miami Edison vs. Clewiston = Edison wins by 1
(15) Mater Academy vs. Cooper City = Mater Academy wins by 21
(16) Miami Palmetto vs. (22) Belen Jesuit = Palmetto wins by 2
(18) Chaminade-Madonna vs. Palm Beach Cardinal Newman = Chaminade wins by 6
(24) Champagnat vs. Community School of Naples = Champagnat wins by 4
Key West vs. Archbishop McCarthy = Archbishop McCarthy wins by 13
Westminster Christian at Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy = Oxbridge Academy wins by 21
North Broward Prep vs. Calvary Christian = Calvary Christian wins by 7
Palm Beach King's Academy vs. Pine Crest = King's Academy wins by 11
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