It has been 16 years since a Broward County team did not play for a state title. Miramar or St. Thomas Aquinas can extend that streak.
By MANNY NAVARRO, Miami Herald
The year? 1995.
In the 15 seasons since, Broward has had nine state champions — including the Miramar team Cogdell led to a title two years ago. The last thing Cogdell wants to see is Broward’s reign come to an end this week in the regional finals.
So he’ll be rooting for St. Thomas Aquinas (10-2) to win at Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer (11-1) while pushing for his own team, which hosts Palm Beach Gardens (9-2-1), to carry the flag forward for Broward.
“You could tell this week they’ve been picking up the tempo a little it, looking hungry,” Cogdell said of the Patriots, 12-0 and ranked fourth nationally by USA Today. “I told them if you don’t have a little taste of blood in your mouth right now I don’t know what else I can do for you. We’re two games from the big show. It’s time to get locked in.”
On paper, Miramar has the easier draw. Aquinas, which has won three state titles over the last four seasons, face a Dwyer team that has won 11 games in a row since losing to Class 5A No. 1-ranked Glades Central (12-0) to open the season. The Panthers have given up just 42 points over their last nine games and first-year starting quarterback Faton Bauta, a Georgia commitment, is playing like a Tim Tebow clone.
“If you asked me a few months ago if [Bausta] could play quarterback at the next level, I would have said no. But he’s the hardest-working kid to ever come through here,” Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said of the 6-3, 225-pound quarterback, who leads the Panthers in rushing with 534 yards and six touchdowns and is 69 of 132 for 1,229 yards passing, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“He definitely reminds me of Tebow on tape,” Aquinas junior nose guard Joey Bosa said. “He can run and he’s a big kid, but I haven’t seen him make any real impressive throws really. So, we’re definitely going to have to watch him with the run. They definitely don’t want to throw, they want to run it.”
The same could be said of Aquinas, whose passing game somewhat non-existent in the playoffs.
In last week’s win over Cooper City, the Raiders threw for 45 yards on five completions and relied heavily on running backs Fred Coppet and Dami Ayoola (Illinois) to carry the load.
“We’re labeled as [underdogs], but we definitely don’t feel like it,” Bosa said. “Coach [Rocco Casullo] has been calm, not nervous. We like the fact people expect Dwyer to win.
“We know how good we are. For people to put as underdogs is kind of funny.”
The team Miramar is playing almost feels the same way. The Gators are led by highly touted 6-6, 280-pound offensive tackle Avery Young (rated ranked 10th best at his position by Rivals.com) and a two-headed backfield led by West Virginia-bound tailback Roshard Burney (6-0, 205), who has run for 1,966 yards and 19 touchdowns on 278 carries.
Burney’s running mate, Alex Clark (5-11, 190), has rushed for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns on 123 attempts.
“It feels like every week has been a big test for our defense,” Cogdell said. “But those guys respond. I’m glad we played Cypress Bay last week who is one of the most physical teams in the state of Florida. This team is a run first team. They’ll run a couple jet sweeps and throw a couple deep balls.”
Said Miramar All-American defensive back Tracy Howard: “We’ll be ready.”
Miami Herald Writer Walter Villa contributed to this report.