1Miami Central (6A- 16): The Rockets will be at or near the top of several national
rankings, thanks to a boatload of college-level
talent returning and the program’s three
consecutive state championships. New names
… same result: winning.
2Mainland (6A- 13): The Bucs look as good on paper as they have in more than a decade.
There are explosive playmakers just about
everywhere, and don’t be surprised if Mainland
does what it was able to do in 2003 – win it all.
3American Heritage – Plantation (5A- 16): This school needs to change its name
to Reload Heritage. The back-to-back state
champs lost a ton of FBS talent, but they have
more to fill the void. Look for a long playoff run,
if not a state title.
4St. Thomas Aquinas (7A- 14): The real ques- tion here is: When are the Raiders ever
bad? They did lose 17 seniors from last year’s
team, but there is still a load of talent and a
key transfer or two to help settle things.
5Apopka (8A- 4): Apopka, the defending 8A state champion, took it to a very strong
Kissimmee Osceola team in the spring game
– and there are great skill players returning for
the Blue Darters along with a great defense.
6Cocoa (4A- 5): The Tigers have All-Staters back, big-time college commitments back,
a veteran coaching staff back and they post
double-digit wins just about every season. With
28 returning lettermen, this will be a special
year, again, at Cocoa.
7Trinity Christian – Jacksonville (3A- 2): The Conquerors are quite a juggernaut
as their two-straight state titles would attest.
This year’s team may turn out to be more of
an offensive power than last year’s defensive
power. It should be fun to watch.
8Lakeland (7A- 7): The Dreadnaughts – a powerhouse for decades – return starters
at 12 positions and missed out on a state
championship appearance only because of an
overtime loss. Lakeland is back this year, folks.
Actually, it never left.
9Columbus (8A- 14): The Explorers nearly brought home a state championship last
fall and starters at 12 positions return to try
to get there again. The skill kids, O-line and
secondary are strong – and the coaching staff
has won a lot of games in Miami.
10 Plant (7A- 8): The question isn’t why Plant is in the Top 25, the question is: When
has this program been down in recent years? The
Panthers haven’t struggled in more than a decade
and this should be another strong campaign.
11 Carol City (6A- 16): Central is in the same district and Miami-Dade’s teams
shred each other locally before they even get
to the state playoffs, but this is one team that
looks strong. The skill positions are loaded
with talent and Carol City has won before.
12 Flanagan (8A- 12): It looks like the Falcons may be in position to once
again strangle opponents on defense. In
addition, transfers will help shore up holes on
the offensive side of the ball. This team will be
a Broward powerhouse.
13 Ed White (6A- 4): There’s nothing a coach loves more than to have his
entire O-line intact, especially at the high
school level where it is rare. That’s where it all
starts for the talented Commanders, and the
skill talent is very good, too.
14 Palm Beach Gardens (8A- 9): The skill- position players will be the difference
this fall as PBG has some of the county’s best
talent at those key positions. The QB position
is sound, but the offensive line needs to
develop quickly. The defense looks stout.
15 South Dade (8A- 16): The Bucs won a state title in 2013 then went 7-3 and
missed the postseason last fall. There are
starters back at 16 positions, so it appears the
postseason drought will be short-lived.
16 Dwyer (7A- 13): Palm Beach County’s traditional powerhouse didn’t make
the playoffs last year, the first time since 1998.
There will not be a repeat as a new playoff streak
will begin. Look for a strong bounce back this fall.
17 Vero Beach (8A- 8): With 30 kids back who earned letters on last year’s 10-0
team (regular season), the Indians look primed
to make another deep playoff run. There is
big-time, college-bound talent on the roster,
too. Watch out, 8A.
18 Kissimmee Osceola (8A- 7): Whether they’re in 7A – like last year – or 8A,
this team is going to perform. With eight starters back from an explosive offense and a solid
group back on defense, expect the Kowboys to
make a deep playoff run.
19 Lake Gibson (6A- 8): The Braves have some holes to fill, namely at the offensive skill positions. But there is talent galore
and this is clearly one of the best teams in a
talent-heavy area of the state (Polk County/
Heartland). The defense looks tough.
20 Gainesville (6A- 5): The defending district champion Hurricanes return
eight offensive starters and a ton of skill-talent
yardage, while the defense returns its top
personnel. This should be one of the toughest
teams in its region as the Hurricanes are loaded.
21 Booker T. Washington (4A- 8): The Tornadoes have won 41 games in
a row and three straight state titles, but the
team is very young this time around. Young
teams have won before at Booker T., but will
this one do the same; and how often?
22 Hallandale (5A- 16): The Chargers are going to be tough to stop on offense
with a three-year starter returning at QB and
nine offensive starters back. There is also
talent on defense, though not quite as many
23 Godby (5A- 2): Last fall, the Cougars reached the state title game for the
second time in three years. Though there are
some key components missing from last year’s
team, Godby returns several key players and may
end up being the top team in the Panhandle.
24 Armwood (6A- 7): The Hawks are always good. They are in the process of reloading and should have a relatively easy path to the
postseason this fall. There are college prospects
on the roster and some great linemen, while the
defense should be tough as usual.
25 Heritage – Palm Bay (6A- 14): No team in the state playoffs gave Miami
Central more fits last year than Heritage, which
also happens to return a slew of All-State talent and perhaps more starters than just about
any other team in its area.
NO TE: Only programs
eligible for the state playoff
system were ranked.