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Bald Predictions - High School Football Week 10

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We're coming to the really fun part of the year.

All the major sports are going on at the same time – football, basketball, baseball and hockey – and we're sliding right into holiday time.

And, in its own South Florida way, the weather is changing. Instead of being 98 degrees during the day, it's 90 – and instead of being 87 and muggy at night, we get to enjoy 82 degrees and a light breeze.

What a time to be alive.

After enjoying a highly successful week nine – correctly picking 44 of 48 games - I'm going to go on the record as to say that week 10 is the most difficult week I'll pick all season.

There are so many extenuating circumstances and so many intangible factors that will come into play in the games this week – it rivals a playoff week.

The great thing about this week, though, is the fact that every district will be settled this week. Whether it's officially crowning a champion or setting the table for a tiebreaker, we'll know who's going to the big dance and who's fans will shift their focus to the basketball team.

Also, I'd like to send one last shout out to Larry Blustein on his induction into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame.

Record last week: 44-4
Season record: 356-55 (.866 Correct Pick Percentage)

45 games picked this week with three games in the Bald Predictions spotlight.

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(2) Northwestern (7-1) vs. (6) Carol City (4-2)
Saturday at Traz Powell Stadium, 7 p.m.

Even though it seems like I say this every week – this could be the game of the year.

This is a monumental matchup between a pair of teams that have gotten themselves out of the "big brother headlock" that Central had on them and now they will square off in a showdown for the District 16-6A title.

Northwestern enters this game as one of the hottest teams in Florida. The Bulls have put everyone on notice – much to the delight of their fan base – that they are back and are very relevant to the football conversation.

Having put the final proverbial nail in the Rockets' coffin with its win over Norland this past week, Northwestern has clinched a playoff spot and they are undoubtedly one of the top teams in South Florida.

Junior quarterback Chatarius "Tutu" Atwell and senior running back Kai Henry are a dynamic offensive duo – capable of grinding teams down (Henry) or striking with a big play downfield (Atwell).

While Northwestern has played a very tough schedule up to this point, standing on the opposite side of the field this week is a Carol City team that has also turned up the heat and is playing its best football of the season right now.

The Chiefs, who won the district title last season, seemed to turn their fortunes around when junior quarterback Marlon Smith emerged. Smith, a lanky 6-foot-3 former basketball player, has proved himself to be a very good signal caller – balancing out Carol City's offense, making teams think three times before trying to stack the box to stop running backs Nayquan Wright and Camron Davis.

Also, Carol City's defense has been showing itself to be one of the top units in the state. The "Dark Side Defense 2.0" has given up a total of 50 points this season – 30 of those points came in the first two games of the season, an overtime loss to Coral Gables (16-13) and a hard-fought fall to Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy (14-7).

Looking at the matchup between these two teams, two factors jump out.

The first is a question of whether or not one believes that Northwestern's offense is or will prove to be the toughest unit that Carol City's defense has faced this season.

The Chiefs held Lakeland to just seven points back in September. Not only has that been the Dreadnaughts only loss of the season, it was the only time this season that they didn't score at least 35 points on an opposing defense.

Carol City also held Central to seven points – and the Rockets scored at least 29 points in all their other contests on the year, including scoring 44 points in the double-overtime game against Northwestern.

The other factor is how Carol City's offense will be able to fair against Northwestern aggressive and attacking defense. Though it gave up a lot of points recently, the Bulls defensive unit is a tough group and head coach Max Edwards has a great defensive mind.

Carol City's offense, while it has been running much better since Smith took over as the main quarterback, still can sputter. Especially when the Chiefs coaches elect to still use sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Floyd in almost alternating series with Smith.

Ultimately, I don't see a lot of points being scored in this game. Something has to go terribly wrong for one of the teams and incredibly right for the other for this game to be a runaway.

A big thing to consider here is that the Chiefs have had an extra week to prepare for this game. I think that will only help them against this red-hot Bulls team.

I correctly picked the score of this game last season, and I feel fairly confident that I can do it again.

Bald Prediction = Carol City wins 16-14

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(3) Coral Gables (8-0) vs. (20) Columbus (5-3)
Thursday at Tropical Park, 7 p.m.

Here's one of the true and great rivalry games in South Florida.

The thing that I enjoy most about this game is that there is legitimate contempt between these two programs. It all stays within the confines of the game of course, but there's always something extra in the air, in every hit and every block when the Explorers and Cavaliers line up opposite one another.

Coral Gables has kind of been the forgotten team. Though the Cavaliers have climbed to the No. 3 spot in the SFHSSports Top 25 Poll, they seem to fly under the radar.

Gables has recorded four shutouts this season and has allowed a total of 25 points in its seven victories. Defensively, the Cavaliers have plenty of playmakers. Junior safety Gilbert Frierson is a stud that makes plays deep in coverage as well as coming up near the line of scrimmage to help bring down ball carriers.

Senior linebacker Kris Moll largely goes unheralded, but he's a stalwart in the middle of head coach Roger Pollard's defense and Moll is a leader with plenty of game experience.

The Cavaliers offense is where I lose some of the air in my confidence balloon with Gables. Sure, Coral Gables have outscored their past three opponents 156-0; but those past three opponents (Miami High, Coral Park and Miami Beach) had a combined record of 7-16.

That's how you'd expect a team of Coral Gables' caliber to beat lesser teams, but the stat could be a bit misleading when they enter a game of this magnitude against a team like Columbus.

Columbus enters this game licking its wounds from a 23-7 loss to Booker T. Washington. But the Explorers are still one of the better teams in Miami-Dade County despite what their record might read.

My respect for Columbus' coaching staff is well-documented, but I'll say once again: the Explorers are one of those teams that get better as the season rolls on because their coaches make adjustments and tweaks that hide deficiencies and accentuate strengths.

Also, what I will give Columbus a lot of credit for is playing a tough non-district schedule – losing to three very good teams in Northwestern, Southridge and Booker T. Playing in games like that only makes me give the edge to Columbus in a game like this one.

One of the big factors in this matchup is the health of Coral Gables electric running back Johnny Ford. Ford sustained an ankle injury weeks ago and it would appear that he's going to be available to the Cavs for this game.

Ford is capable of sparking his team with a big play as a receiver, a running back or as a kick returner – so having him, healthy, will be a big plus for Gables.

Still, Ford or no Ford, I think Columbus has the edge in this game. I think the Explorers will keep the ball on the ground with Yael Gomez and Darren Davis Jr. and defensively do enough to keep the Cavs out of the endzone.

Columbus wins close, perhaps on a late field goal.

Bald Prediction = Columbus wins 17-14

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(9) Booker T. Washington (6-3) vs. (10) Edison (6-0)
Thursday at Traz Powell Stadium, 7 p.m.

Here's a matchup that has picked up a lot of steam in recent weeks as Edison continues its renaissance season.

The Red Raiders have earned the respect of a lot of folks around South Florida with what they've been able to accomplish this season – an undefeated record up to this point and clinching its first playoff berth in over a decade.

Aside from the work that Edison head coach Napolean Joseph and his coaching staff has done, the biggest reason for the Red Raiders' success is the fact that they've managed to keep their best players wearing red and black instead of leaving for greener pastures.

Booker T. Washington is still "the old standby". They are consistent, they've been there and done that and the Tornadoes have settled into a groove and remain one of the premier programs in South Florida.

I'm not one for "moral" or even "morale" victories, but I will say that Edison and the Red Raiders supporters should relish in the fact that they will enter a game like this and be in a position to go toe-to-toe with a team that won a mythical national championship just three years ago.

Looking at the matchup, I think Booker T. has the edge in just about every department. The biggest advantage would have to be the Tornadoes' offensive line against Edison's defensive line.

Booker T. has one of the biggest and most talented lines in South Florida – and it typically overwhelms other Class 4A teams when they line up and get moving.

Also, I think Booker T.'s sophomore quarterback Daniel Richardson is seasoned enough to handle throwing into Edison's talented secondary – which is spearheaded by Jamauri "Bam" Laguerre and LSU commit Nadab Joseph.

Edison will stand in there and throw punches with the four-time defending Class 4A champs, but I think Booker T. will prove to be too much for the Red Raiders.

Bald Prediction = Booker T. wins 26-16

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Other Games

(1) Plantation American Heritage vs. Hallandale = American Heritage wins by 14

(4) St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Blanche Ely = St. Thomas Aquinas wins by 40

(5) Flanagan vs. (11) Chaminade-Madonna = Flanagan wins by 5

(7) McArthur vs. Nova = McArthur wins by 21

(12) Piper vs. (15) Deerfield Beach = Deerfield Beach wins by 10

(13) Cardinal Gibbons vs. Stranahan = Cardinal Gibbons wins by 16

(16) Miramar vs. Western = Miramar wins by 9

(17) Mater Academy vs. Sunset = Mater Academy wins by 44

(18) Dillard vs. Boynton Beach = Dillard wins by 2

(19) Miami Palmetto vs. Killian = Palmetto wins by 10

(21) Boyd Anderson vs. Northeast = Boyd Anderson wins by 28

(22) Southwest vs. Braddock = Southwest wins by 32

(23) Champagnat Catholic vs. Melbourne Central Catholic (Fl.) = Melbourne Central Catholic wins by 17

(24) North Miami Beach vs. American = North Miami Beach wins by 18

(25) Doral Academy vs. South Miami = Doral Academy wins by 42

Hialeah vs. Hialeah Gardens = Hialeah wins by 37

Scheck Hillel at Palmer Trinity = Palmer Trinity wins by 14

Somerset Academy Silver Palms vs. Somerset Academy Pines = Somerset Silver Palms wins by 21

Cooper City vs. West Broward = Cooper City wins by 6

Hollywood Hills vs. South Broward = South Broward wins by 14

Plantation vs. South Plantation = Plantation wins by 2

Keys Gate Charter vs. Monsignor Pace = Pace wins by 5

A&T Mourning vs. Ronald Reagan = Reagan wins by 28

Westland Hialeah vs. Miami Springs = Miami Springs wins by 20

Hialeah-Miami Lakes vs. Gulliver Prep = Gulliver Prep wins 14

Coral Reef vs. Belen Jesuit = Belen Jesuit wins by 21

Miami High vs. Miami Beach = Miami High wins by 4

Coral Glades vs. Westminster Academy = Westminster Academy wins by 17

Taravella vs. Coral Springs = Coral Springs wins by 16

Everglades vs. Cypress Bay = Cypress Bay wins by 12

Calvary Christian vs. North Broward Prep = North Broward Prep wins by 2

International School of Broward vs. Delray Beach Village Academy (Fl.) = Village Academy wins by 8

Key West vs. Archbishop McCarthy = Archbishop McCarthy wins by 13

University School vs. Riviera Beach Suncoast = University School wins by 11

Stoneman Douglas vs. Monarch = Douglas wins by 21

Pembroke Pines Charter vs. Riviera Beach Inlet Grove = Pines Charter wins by 14

Pompano Beach vs. Coral Springs Charter = Coral Springs Charter wins by 7

Coconut Creek vs. Miami Jackson = Jackson wins by 17

North Miami vs. Dr. Krop = North Miami wins by 2

Varela vs. Ferguson = Ferguson wins by 16

Homestead vs. South Dade = South Dade wins by 13

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