There is no hiding the fact that this year the southern portion of the state has a majority of the power teams.
While programs such as Miami Central, Miami Booker. T. Washington, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Apopka and Fort Lauderdale University School are all regarded as nationally-rated teams, the state boast so many other programs that are capable of making positive things happen.
This starting list of programs will play its way out. Just like every year, so if your team has too low or not listed at all, you can almost guarantee that things will play their way out.
As we will remind you throughout this entire 2013 Florida High School Football Preview, these teams will change – almost immediately. It happens that way every year. So, we want you to send the teams that you believe we should watch as well – and being interactive – will post those teams on our FACEBOOK (Florida Kids Recruiting), on Twitter @larryblustein and check out your feedback on [email protected]
Here is a look at the FLORIDA KIDS TOP 25 PLUS as the season unfolds:
1. Miami Central Rockets (HEAD COACH: Roland Smith. 6A): Nobody in the nation has more major college prospects than this program. The offense is basically without flaws, and the defense continues to develop with amazing talent. While Smith is new to the Rockets, the former Miami Northwestern head coach knows football and the culture.
2. Miami Booker T. Washington Tornadoes (HEAD COACH: Tim "Ice" Harris. 4A): All this program has done since Harris returned is win and put themselves in a position where they could be among the best in the country. Since slipping up against Central last year in the second half, the Tornadoes have put on a show and nobody has come within 28 points.
3. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (HEAD COACH: Rocco Casullo, 7A): All this program needed to do is play Raider football after missing out on a title chance in 2011, and they more than did that last year during one of the most impressive state title runs in recent memories. A very good football team that continues to get deeper every year.
4. Apopka Blue Darters (HEAD COACH: Rick Darlington. 8A): There may not be a more respected coach in the state who continues to elevate athletes to a different level every year. An explosive offense that is capable of putting a lot of points up matched with a very athletic defense could spell a return to Orlando in December. But the road will be tough.
5. Fort Lauderdale University School Suns (HEAD COACH: Roger Harriott. 4A): Last year's 3A state champions return this year with talent in every direction. Key losses from last year will be eased by nationally-rated replacements who are capable of doing some huge things. Major obstacle in the way, but the talent is in place for a big run in 4A.
6. Tampa Plant Panthers (HEAD COACH: Robert Weiner. 8A): The best coaching staff in the state? Very few would argue what the Panthers have been able to accomplish over the past decade. This is indeed a very athletic and deep team that has the talent to make a solid run. But life in 8A north is not going to be a picnic, and plenty has to fall into place.
7. Bradenton Manatee Hurricanes (HEAD COACH: Joe Kinnan. 8A): Beaten soundly by St. Thomas last year in the region finals, this is a program that has a lot of rebuilding to do as they make the move one class up to find the competition very stiff. New leaders have to jump into place, but there is no denying that the athletes are indeed on the roster to make a difference.
8. Tallahassee Godby Cougars (HEAD COACH: Ronnie Cottrell. 5A): The defending state champions now have a program that simply rebuild each year. A very impressive group of football players who have the talent to repeat what happened in 2012. While there were a few losses on both sides of the ball, the Cougars have that coaching staff that knows how to win and will drive this team.
9. Miramar Patriots (HEAD COACH: Damon Cogdell. 8A): Sleep on this team and you could be making a huge mistake. From an athletic standpoint, there may not be a team in Florida that has more in the places the Patriots do. The only thing that will slow them early is inexperience. They have already proven they have the football talent to stand toe-to-toe with anyone! If they win this year, they will own Florida the next two years!
10. Seffner Armwood Hawks (HEAD COACH: Sean Callahan. 6A): Spend enough time around this football program and you will understand why they continue to win every year. Gifted athletes on both sides of the ball make this a team that once again will be in the mix to get back to Orlando. Things will never be easy, but if any program is equipped with the football prospects this one is.
11. Oviedo Lions (HEAD COACH: Wes Allen. 8A): Winning the UCF 7-on-7 and making some noise last season started everyone looking in this direction. This is indeed a football team that could have everything to pull that surprise and get to that state title game for the first time ever. But to do it, they will have to sort out their own region and then prepare for some very gifted teams. Keep an eye on this team.
12. Madison County Cowboys (HEAD COACH: Mike Coe. 4A): Old school head coach who certainly has an idea what is needed to get back to state and finish the job this year. Taking an undefeated and nationally-rated University School to the wire showed that this is a program that will always be in the mix and will always have the athlete to compete with anyone. They have a chance to be very special.
13. Homestead South Dade Bucs (HEAD COACH: Nate Hudson, Jr. 8A): Another team that everyone seems to overlook because of the other powers in this region, but the Bucs are indeed as good as you get. Nobody in the country has a deeper receiving corps, and with the addition of some key pieces, this is a program that could make that legitimate first push toward a state title appearance in December. One of the merging coaching staffs in the state.
14. Orlando Dr. Phillips Panthers (HEAD COACH: Rodney Wells. 8A): One of the huge favorites the past two years to play for a state title, this is a season that the Panthers will have to fight for everything they accomplish. The region has gotten very competitive, which means that this program cannot afford lose any key players during the season. If things fall into place, it could get interesting.
15. Miami Northwestern Bulls (HEAD COACH: Stephen Field. 6A): After missing the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, the Bulls returned to post season play last year, and with several off season additions, things could get very interesting for a program that never strays too far from being in the state title mix. While this is not the overall team many are used to, the talent is certainly there.
16. Miami Jackson Generals (HEAD COACH: Antonio Brown. 5A): For those across the state who do not follow this program, you had better be ready for an impressive run for a team that loaded up in the off season. This team went further (three rounds) than anyone expected last year - and comes in as a huge favorite in the south - with as many skilled players on both sides of the ball.
17. Gainesville Hurricanes (HEAD COACH: Mark Latsko. 6A): Two years ago, this was the team that almost stopped Armwood from a return to the state finals. Last season, with as much talent as this program has had in years, things fell into place during a run that ended up with a second place finish. While several key pieces are gone from 2012, there is plenty of younger prospects on hand.
18. Miami Killian Cougars (HEAD COACH: Cory Johnson. 8A): This is indeed a team that has found a way to tap into one of the most successful youth football pipelines in the state, and over the past two years, have remained in contention. With perhaps the best 2015 prospect in the nation, do not lose track of where the Cougars are in a very competitive district. They have a tremendous defense that can slant the field, quickly!
19. Cocoa Tigers (HEAD COACH: Johnny Wilkinson. 4A). Easily one of Florida's most successful programs that have used a strong youth feeder system and prospects who have elevated their play along the way. One of the best coached teams in the state will never be too far from the playoff mix. The region is stacked, but never count out a team that knows its way to Orlando very well.
20. Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer Panthers (HEAD COACH: Jack Daniels. 7A): While many experts want to push this team out of the spotlight, it makes you think how little anyone knows about this program, a superb coaching staff and athletes who continue to take their talents to the next level. This is indeed a football team that you never turn your back on. No matter how good the competition is around them.
21. Largo Packers (HEAD COACH: Rick Rodriguez. 6A): Another of the very consistent programs that wins, produces talent and has made a name at the state level. Several key prospects return from a team that has been on the verge of doing some great things over the past two years. This is one of those well coached teams that will always compete hard.
22. Tallahassee Lincoln Trojans (HEAD COACH: Yusuf Shakir. 7A: Here is a programs that continues to produce as much football talent as any program. The defending 7A runner-ups have the chance – of things fall into place – to be very special. While they are starting out lower than many expected, things will play out as this team wins.
23. Fort Pierce Central Cobras (HEAD COACH: Joshua Shaffer. 8A): Back in the 1970s and 80s, this was one of the state's elite programs, but new schools opened and thinned out the talent pool. Now, things are getting back to the way they were with quality football prospects at every turn and a coaching staff that is committed to making a solid state championship run. A team to keep an eye on.
24. Lakeland Lake Gibson Braves (HEAD COACH: Keith DeMyer. 6A): While Lakeland High has long received the attention in this area, there are very few Polk County teams that have remained competitive and in the spotlight like this program has for over a decade now. Loaded with athletes on both sides of the ball, and a coaching staff that has years of service and experience in the community and has earned the respect.
25. Kissimmee Osceola Kowboys (HEAD COACH: Doug Nichols. 7A): One of the state's premier programs for several years, things appear to be getting back to that place as tremendous coaching and superb talent continue to make this is a team that will be in the mix - from the first day of the season. Keep an eye on this group of Kowboys!
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH:
Bratt Northview Chiefs (1A).
Clearwater Central Catholic Marauders (3A).
Hialeah Thoroughbreds (8A).
Hialeah Champagnat Catholic Lions (2A).
Immokalee Indians (5A).
Jacksonville First Coast Buccanneers (8A).
Jacksonville Trinity Christian Conquerors (3A)
Jacksonville University Christian Fighting Christians (2A).
Lakeland Dreadnaughts (7A).
Lithia Newsome Wolves(7A).
Miami Westminster Christian Warriors (3A).
Naples Golden Eagles (6A).
Ocala Trinity Catholic Celtics (3A).
Palm Bay Pirates (5A).
Tarpon Springs East Lake Eagles (8A).
Weston Cypress Bay Lightning (8A).
NEXT: The impressive Class of 2014 – The Top 100!
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