(9) Southridge (11-2) vs. Orlando Dr. Phillips (12-2)
Saturday at Orlando Camping World Stadium, 8 p.m.

Here’s the game that’ll probably be one of the more emotional and more competitive games of the weekend.

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Southridge is making an appearance in a state championship game for the first time in over 20 years and the Spartans are not only carrying the expectations that come along with having one of the most talented rosters in Florida but they’re also carrying the banner for all of the southern part of Miami-Dade County.

What happens – more than it should – is that people will get caught up in what goes on in central and northern Dade County and will overlook the south. I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of it too.

But this Southridge team was too good to ignore. All season, we kept an eye on this Spartans team because of how talent-laden the roster is.

While its offense has its stars, Southridge’s defense has proved to be the heart and soul of the team. The defense has recorded eight shutouts this season and allowed just 17 points through the first four playoff games.

Each level of the Spartans defense has playmakers and their confidence is at a supreme level.

Standing on the other side of the field will be a Dr. Phillips program that traditionally has its fair share of athletes and plays a brand of football similar to many of the teams in South Florida.

Ironically, Southridge and Dr. Phillips have played each other already this season. Granted, it was during the summer 7-on-7 tournament season – it was a showdown between the teams’ skill players, which the Panthers won.

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These teams also draw parallel comparisons in the fact that Dr. Phillips’ two losses this season came to a Class 4A team (Cocoa) and a Class 6A team (Daytona Mainland). Just like Southridge lost to Booker T. Washington (Class 4A) and Miami Carol City (Class 6A).

Dr. Phillips strength lies in its defense too. Senior defensive end Robert Parcher, outside linebacker Nick Smith and middle linebacker Dylan Meeks leads a talented but not invincible group.

The Panthers have given up 58 points in the past two weeks.

Southridge’s offense will have to step up Saturday night. Running back Bentavius Thompson will have a huge role to play as will senior tight end Kemore Gamble. Thompson is a physical runner who can also run away from defenders, while Gamble is a bonafide dual-threat tight end that will definitely win every matchup if he’s covered by a linebacker and will also beat out most safeties and corners.

Ultimately, the Spartans have to make sure they don’t do things that’ll put them in a whole. That means not turning the ball over six times – like it did against Deerfield Beach – and it means being extra solid on special teams, as to not give up free points while it’s defense isn’t on the field.

I could see this being a fairly low-scoring game. But I think Southridge’s defense will once again shine through and its offense will do just enough to earn that ring.

Bald Prediction = Southridge wins 16-10

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