Posted: 4:45 pm Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Playoff Primer 2012: American Heritage, University meet in powerhouse matchup 

By Jeff Greer

Perhaps the most anticipated high school football game in the country is right here. Heritage travels to University for a big-time matchup complete with more than 20 Division I prospects, great coaching, big boys and a lot of speed.

CLASS 3A REGION 4 SEMIFINAL
Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
At University School, Fort Lauderdale
General admission $8; reserved seating $9.

AMERICAN HERITAGE
Record: 11-0
How they qualified: District 7-3A winner.
Last round: Beat Hollywood-Chaminade 30-14 in regional semifinals.
Average points per game: 33.1.
Average points allowed per game: 5.7.
Offense: 230.3 yards per game (169.1 rush, 61.2 pass)
Defense: 105 yards per game (38.1 rush, 66.9 pass)
Offensive standouts: RB Greg Bryant (1,451 rushing yards, 14 TDs), QB Marcus Davis (50.5 completion rate, 827 passing yards, 14 TDs, 1 INT, 826 rushing yards, 7 TDs), OL Roderick Johnson, TE/H-back Tyler Provo.
Defensive standouts: S Darrion Richardson, S Xavier Swinton, LB Jake Giordano, LB Evan Harvey, DL Ronald Bell.

UNIVERSITY
Record: 9-0
How they qualified: District 8-3A.
Last round: Beat Cardinal Newman 27-0 in the regional semifinals.
Average points per game: 32.8.
Average points allowed per game: 5.8.
Offense: 351.7 yards per game (187.8 rush, 163.9 pass)
Defense: 101.6 yards per game (39.8 rush, 61.8 pass)
Offensive standouts: WR Jordan Cunningham (547 receiving yards, 7 TDs), QB Mike White (68.4 completion rate, 1,764 passing yards, 18 TDs, 2 INT), RB Jordan Scarlett (933 rushing yards, 17 TDs), RB LaJuan Hunt (715 rushing yards, 11 TDs), WR Dionte Taylor (382 receiving yards, 6 TDs).
Defensive standouts: LB Nick Internicola (Rutgers commit), DB Jalen Battle (Kentucky commit).

History
American Heritage bested University 31-20 in the same round last fall in the only playoff game the two teams have played against each other. That game was all about Greg Bryant and the American Heritage offensive line, which got its push and helped Bryant to 175 yards and two scores.

Jeff’s pick: American Heritage 17-14.
Matt’s pick: American Heritage 17-14.
Pinkos prediction: American Heritage by 10.
Lazindex: American Heritage by 3.

Last year’s regional final wasn’t easy for Heritage — the first half was sloppy, with both teams struggling offensively. And as impressive as the stats have been all season for both squads, perhaps this matchup could produce a similar knock-down, drag-out matchup.

University has multiple Division I-bound defensive players and a big offensive line. The Suns have a good passing game, too, paired with two quality running backs, which means this team is well-rounded on both sides of the ball. American Heritage’s defense isn’t oversized, but it is extremely effective, especially in critical-down-and-short situations. The Stallions’ best asset is their running game and upfront blocking. Sound familiar to last year?

The biggest test will be on Heritage’s corners, who will be paired against Jordan Cunningham and Dionte Taylor. Darrion Richardson and Xavier Swinton will be required to help in over-the-top coverage, which takes them both away from the line of scrimmage, where their big hits and tackling ability really make an impact.

For University, the Heritage spread offense is tough to defend. The zone blocking schemes give the Stallions a chance to create lanes for Greg Bryant and Marcus Davis. What helped Heritage against Dwyer in the last game of the regular season were three different things: Huge defensive stops in critical downs, enough offensive success to get field goals and more momentum plays. That Heritage adjusted to Dwyer’s very good run defense and opened up space with its passing game shows that the Stallions have the coaching to match the players.

Bottom line? Expect a lot of good football. This is arguably the best high school football game in the country this week, and these are the No. 1 and No. 2 small-school teams in MaxPreps’ rankings in America. Doesn’t get any better than that.

helmets courtesy of Florida Helmet Project

Other playoff previews:
CLASS 8AIn regional semifinals, Seminole Ridge and Palm Beach Central ramp up the rivalry

CLASS 7ADwyer’s dominant defense tries to contain Boyd Anderson

CLASS 7AFort Pierce Central meets rival Martin County

CLASS 5AGlades Central hitting its stride in playoffs?

CLASS 2APlayoff Primer 2012: Kelvin Taylor, Glades Day cruise into Dade Christian