(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.

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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.

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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

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