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While the rest of the state of Florida continues to take in some of the national exposure that fan websites and mythical rankings bring their way, South Florida athletes have always lived in a world of reality.

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As many Florida high school football purists continue to turn their attention away from nationally-rated, but independent power Bradenton IMG Academy – which is truly nothing more than an academy of athletes from all over the country – the reality is that when it comes to South Florida football programs, the weekly rigors of knocking heads with more college-ready talent than any other region of the nation has to be addressed.

As talented programs such as Daytona Beach Mainland, Venice, Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy, Cocoa, Tampa Plant, Apopka, Seffner Armwood and Jacksonville Bolles receive plenty of recognition – you have to look at the teams they compete against every week. While nobody will say that these outstanding football programs are not talented, many challenge the schedule that they play, in much weaker regions of the state.

Common sense tells you that if you put them in down south and have them play a schedule that many of the teams do here each year, without going out of state, their success would never be anywhere what it has been.

This is not bias or looking at the situation in any other manner than the facts. Those programs above – with the exception of Oxbridge, which has had success against Miami-Dade and Broward teams – annually lose to those South Florida programs who have had to run a talented gauntlet before playing in the playoffs or state title game.

As a football fan, sometimes facing the truth is never easy. But as you watched on opening day in the NFL, it was hard to get around the fact that Miami-Dade and Broward Counties had three times the amount of players on rosters than any other region of the country. That means when you see teams such as St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage, Coral Gables, Christopher Columbus, Carol City, Flanagan, Northwestern, and Booker T. Washington and Miami Central, who both won four straight state titles, the proof is right there in black and white for all to read.

Even with the addition of rising programs such as Cardinal Gibbons, McArthur, Mater Academy, Doral Academy, Southridge, Champagnat Catholic and Deerfield Beach, the road to state is never automatic. Not when you have to go through so many gifted programs with elite athletes who are being recruited by many of the national powerhouses.

For much of the past decade, fans of Northwestern’s football team have been waiting to proclaim that the “Bulls are back!”

After last Saturday night’s 17-14 win over Carol City in a game that was dictated by heavy rains and winds, Bull fans everywhere can, for at least a few weeks, say that this team is indeed back in the mix for a state title.

While the Chiefs dominated the contest for nearly 45 playing minutes, it was the last three that gave this program its first district title in nearly 10 years. Mistakes and turnovers certainly played a huge role in this turnaround.

“We told this team that if we played hard and took advantage of what was given to us, we would come out of this with a win,” said second-year head coach Max Edwards, who has completely turned Northwestern around. “This goes back to the way things ended last year – and the commitment that every one of the young men on this roster made.”

With the state playoffs getting under way next week, many believe that there will be another meeting between these two programs in the second round. Same place and same outstanding game.

Round one goes to Northwestern.

Stand by for Round two.

2018 – Yasir Abdullah, LB
2018 – Johaun Beresford, WR
2018 – Mark Carter, Jr., DB
2017 – Jerrod Clersaint, DL
2017 – Naytron Culpepper, DB
2018 – Camron Davis, RB
2018 – Irshaad Davis, DB
2017 – Kevaughn Dingle, WR
2017 – Jason Dunois, OL
2017 – Jamare Edwards, DL
2018 – Terrece Horne, Jr., WR
2019 – Juwan James, DL
2018 – Leonard Lucas, OL/DL
2017 – Harvey Martin, OL
2018 – Daequan Nelson, LB
2018 – Kewon Parker, LB
2018 – Randy Russell, S
2018 – Marlon Smith, QB
2017 – Terry Straughter, LB
2017 – Donelle Thomas, DB
2017 – Victor Tucker, WR
2017 – Deandre Wilder, LB
2019 – Nay’Quan Wright, RB

2017 – Andre Adams, WR
2018 – Chatarius Atwell, QB
2017 – Jude Barthlemy, WR
2019 – Samuel Brooks, DE
2017 – Travon Brooks, LB
2018 – Terron Carey, OL
2018 – George Coleman, DB
2018 – Tyquan Cooper, OL
2018 – Kiaryn Davis, RB
2017 – Taurus Dotson, DB
2018 – Zechariah Esdaille, S
2019 – Mark Fox, OL
2017 – Ben Garland, DB
2017 – Travon Gordon, DL
2018 – Avery Hall, OL
2017 – Harry Hanna, OL
2017 – Kai Henry, RB
2018 – Justin Hill, Jr., WR
2017 – Schneider Jonassaint, DE
2018 – Billy Joseph, LB
2018 – Roy Livingstone, WR
2018 – Aaron Louis, RB
2017 – Al-Malik Moore, WR
2018 – Sharrod Oliver, DB
2017 – Demetrius Taylor, LB
2017 – Kevin Washington, DL

Moments after Christopher Columbus wrapped up the district title, knocking off previously unbeaten rival Coral Gables, 14-7, the attention quickly shifted to the second week of the playoffs.

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With respect to North Miami Beach and American – the first two opponents in the state playoff, both Columbus and Coral Gables fully expect to be back at Tropical Park for another round in what has become an impressive showdown between two of South Florida’s top Class 8A programs.

While the Explorers got the best of the Cavaliers in winning the district title in a game held up a number of times by poor weather, rain and lightning, many who follow this game know that the potential second round matchup between these two powers will be the one that bragging rights will stick. Not some rain-asked contest that truly handicapped both teams.

As they both finish up the season this coming week, head coach Chris Merritt of Columbus and Coral Gables’ Roger Pollard realize that even though NMB and American will come to play, the attention certainly shifts to the second round when it will be same time, same place and a game that will define 2016 for both programs.

2017 – Trajan Bandy, DB
2017 – Max Gonzalez-Brito, TE
2017 – Austin Chacon, DB
2019 – Luis Cristobal, OL
2019 – Carmine Dascoli III, TE
2019 – Darren Davis, Jr., RB
2018 – Willie Davis, WR
2017 – Danyel De Villiers, OL
2017 – Michael Estevez, FB
2017 – Michael Flaherty, OL
2017 – Yael Gomez, RB
2018 – Tyler Harrell, WR
2017 – Sean Heffernan, DE
2017 – C.J. Henderson, DB
2018 – Joshua Jobe, DB
2018 – Shaun McReynolds, OLB
2018 – Tony Mills, DE
2017 – Hunter Moreno, TE
2019 – Dylan Perez, NG
2017 – Robert Perez, OL
2017 – Rony Powell, DE
2017 – Cole Quigley, S
2017 – Marcelo Rodriguez, QB
2017 – Michael Rodriguez, OL
2017 – Anthony Roig, S

2017 – A.J. Bettencourt, OL
2017 – Marlon Brooks, Athlete
2017 – Adryan Ellis, LB
2017 – Elyjah Felton, DB
2018 – Johnny Ford, RB
2018 – Gilbert Frierson, DB
2017 – Nick Galuppo, QB
2019 – Everton Henry, OL
2017 – Kahvon Lovett, Athlete
2017 – Robert McWilliams, DE
2017 – Kris Moll, LB
2018 – Shamar Munroe, Athlete
2017 – Kevin Nuno, OL
2019 – D’Angelo Paul, DL
2018 – Derrius Perryman, LB
2017 – Kevin Romer, WR
2018 – Jaafari Stephens, OL
2018 – Rashad Wildgoose, DB

There was no way to convince anyone before last Friday night’s crucial district game at Miramar that head coach Adam Ratkevich and his Western Wildcats had a chance of knocking off the Patriots.

In a game that showcased the defensive units for both teams, appeared to be over after Miramar went ahead 6-0 in the third quarter and turned back every attempt for Western to claw back into the game. But as every coach and player will tell you, there are four quarters in this game for a reason.

With less than a minute left in the contest, the Patriots started to relax, and although the yards were hard to come by, the Wildcats took what was given to them, and when they tied the game and made the extra point, things were looking very much like this was going to be a night to remember.

Coming away with a stunning 7-6 win, the Wildcats advance to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years – and in the process – knocked Miramar out of the playoffs, setting up a first round matchup at Class 8A power Deerfield Beach.

For Ratkevich, a Miramar graduate, it was the culmination of three years of hard work and sacrifices.

“I just cannot say enough about this football program,” he said. “Our trademark all year long was to never give up and we didn’t tonight. Proud of this entire team, because we beat one of the most talented football teams in South Florida.”

2017 – Devin Adams, LB/PK
2018 – Adrian Brabham, Jr., DL
2017 – Karon Brown, WR
2017 – Deondre Chambers, OL
2017 – Josh Cross, WR
2017 – Habujahma Derival, OL
2017 – Elijah Desir, OLB
2017 – Sebastian Dolcine, OL
2017 – Brian Edwards, DB
2017 – Jaylen Floyd, DB
2017 – Dalshad Guilford, OL
2017 – Jawaun Hardy, WR
2017 – Armstrong Johnson, WR
2017 – Tavares Ladler, LB
2017 – Xavier Laing, OLB/DE
2017 – Trevaughn Lucas, S
2018 – Quinto Mauricette, RB
2017 – Sidney McCloud, Jr., S
2017 – Antoine Murray, WR
2017 – Anthony Needham, WR
2017 – DeAndre Powell, DE
2017 – Kaheem Roach, DB
2017 – Collin Salmon, Jr., OL/DL
2017 – Brandon Shaw, OL
2018 – Chris Smith, LB
2018 – Steve Williams, QB
2017 – Brian Witter, LB
2017 – Kevin Woods, WR

2018 – Jordan Chambers, LB
2018 – Keshaun Clarke, RB
2018 – Daniel Colon, RB
2018 – Steffen Fernand, WR
2017 – Matthew Hanson, DE
2018 – Jacob Kaplan, OL
2018 – Dylan Litsenberger, LB
2017 – Darius Maxwell, WR
2017 – Fabian McNichols, DB
2017 – Dylan Merino, Slot
2017 – Henry Morar, DT
2017 – Chris Nunez, OG
2017 – Kevin Oliver, DE
2018 – Andy Rodriguez, WR
2017 – Evan Rojas, OL
2018 – Robbie Ruebel, DB
2018 – Danny Sanders, WR
2017 – Hunter Stephens, FS
2018 – Harrison Story, QB
2017 – Ki-jana White, WR

Through the success of the first year, making the state playoffs for the first time in school history, head coach Jase Stewart knows that his talented Doral Academy Firebirds are capable of doing some amazing things this season.

Despite coming in second in the district to Mater Academy, Stewart and his team finished off district play last Thursday afternoon with ease, 56-14, against South Miami. The win now sends this young but talented team up to Hollywood for a first-round state playoff game against the unbeaten McArthur Mustangs in a game that this program certainly has a chance of winning.

“The great thing about what has happened this year is our young kids, and we have a ton of them, are getting valuable experience,” Stewart explained. “We cut back on our mistakes and I believe that this team is capable of playing with anyone. But those mistakes loom large against better competition.”

2017 – Angel Alvarez, QB
2019 – Kevin Arcia, DB
2019 – Andres Chavero, OL
2018 – Terrell Cofield, LB
2017 – Jovan Cruz, LB
2017 – Sebastian Delgado, OL
2018 – Braden Dominguez, DB
2019 – Breion Fuller, WR
2020 – Harry Henderson, DB
2019 – Juan Henry, LB
2017 – Dextan Hodge, Jr., WR
2017 – Daniel Ibanez, DL
2018 – Carlos Jacoby, OL
2020 – John Joachin, DE
2020 – Jethro Joseph, LB
2017 – Christian Malagon, OL
2017 – Guillermo Miraz, OL
2018 – Natavious Payne, WR
2017 – Vladimir Rivas, PK
2018 – Tyler Steen, DL
2017 – Andres Taquechel, RB/LB
2017 – Murphy Theodore, WR
2017 – Steven Tobie, LB
2017 – Javier Zuniga, RB

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2017 – Romelo Alvarado, DE
2019 – Storm Banks, WR
2018 – Diori Barnard, Jr., OLB
2019 – Ian Boschi, QB
2019 – Jayson Contreras, LB
2020 – Carlos Coronado, DB
2017 – Mike Ferguson, WR
2019 – Basilio Fernandez, OLB
2018 – Kyle Fernandez, OC
2020 – Jose Hechavarria, DT
2018 – Julio Iglesias, WR
2017 – Alex Lam, FB
2017 – Chris Pardo, OLB
2017 – Mike Rangel, OL
2017 – Guarionex Rivera, S
2019 – Nick Rodriguez, OL
2017 – Daniel Triana, OL
2018 – Arrington Veargis, S