Posted: 4:48 pm Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

The top 5 toughest football schedules in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast 

By Jeff Greer

There’s no shortage of good football games on the calendar for this fall. Find out which teams put together the toughest slates in the area.

A long review of this fall’s games show one thing: Area teams weren’t afraid to play the big boys. Several nationally ranked teams will play Palm Beach County opponents, including Miami Central, the No. 1 team in the nation. Beyond that, with a quality crop of local teams, the district schedules here are tougher than they’ve been in recent years.

What shouldn’t surprise fans is which teams made the toughest-schedules list. They’re all considered the best squads this area has to offer.

Here are the top five toughest schedules in the area, with a few other contenders listed at the bottom.

Roosevelt Blackmon wanted to challenge his Glades Central team in his third year as coach.

1. Glades Central
Glades Central starts the 2013 season with a new district and a tougher-than-ever road to the state finals. Fort Lauderdale-University, the defending Class 3A champion, moved up a class and into Central’s district. The newly formed district rivalry starts in Belle Glade in mid-October. A week later, the Raiders play Miami Northwestern, another nationally ranked powerhouse. And of course the Muck Bowl against ready-to-break-out Pahokee finishes the season.

County-assigned non-district games with Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach Central only made the Raiders’ list of games stick out even more. And the season opener against Dwyer is only matched in-county by a Thursday night game at American Heritage on Sept. 12. And when Central gets to the playoffs, it’ll likely have to play Gulliver Prep or Miami Washington, one of the top 10 teams in the country.

Toughest Games: Aug. 30 — Dwyer; Sept. 6 — Palm Beach Central; Sept. 12 — at American Heritage; Sept. 20 — at Pompano Beach-Blanche Ely; Oct. 11 — at Palm Beach Gardens; Oct. 18 — Fort Lauderdale-University*; Oct. 25 — Miami Northwestern; Nov. 8 — Pahokee.

2. American Heritage
A kickoff classic at nationally ranked First Coast starts a five-week bum-rush of good opponents. Cross-town rival Atlantic hosts Heritage for the season opener before the Stallions head south to play their sister school Plantation-American Heritage. They’ll have a short six-day turnaround before their home game against Glades Central. Then, before the much-needed bye week, another nationally ranked team, Cocoa, travels south for a much anticipated showdown in Delray Beach.

In-district games against Pahokee and Cardinal Newman should be fun to watch, though Heritage’s lines will be the difference. The Stallions finish up at home against Gulliver Prep, a playoff regular from Miami Washington’s brutal district.

Toughest games: Aug. 23 — at Jacksonville-First Coast (exhibition); Aug. 30 — at Atlantic; Sept. 6 — at Plantation-American Heritage; Sept. 12 — Glades Central; Sept. 20 — Cocoa; Oct. 4 — at Pahokee*; Nov. 1 — Cardinal Newman*; Nov. 8 — Miami-Gulliver Prep.

3. Palm Beach Central
The Broncos once again have high hopes. A year removed from their first district title and second consecutive playoff appearance, they’ll challenge themselves in a must-see kickoff classic against Miami Northwestern. Central will be a significant underdog in that game, but it’ll be a great experience before the season starts. The rest of the games, including some tough district contests, are against tough in-county opponents.

Toughest games: Aug. 23 — Miami Northwestern (exhibition); Aug. 30 — Royal Palm Beach; Sept. 6 — at Glades Central; Sept. 27 — Seminole Ridge; Oct. 18 — at John I. Leonard*; Nov. 1 — Park Vista*; Nov. 8 — Palm Beach Gardens.

4. Dwyer
Before the season ends, Dwyer will be considered among the best teams in the state. The Panthers won’t surprise anyone with their talent at receiver, with three BCS-quality wideouts. But they might catch people off-guard with their defensive speed and their quarterback play. Paired with running back Alonso Smith and a good offensive line, Dwyer has plenty to work with, which is why coach Jack Daniels scheduled some good in-county games. None sticks out like the kickoff classic against Miami Central, the No. 1 team in the country. The rivalry game at Gardens will be fun, and Dwyer’s games against Glades Central always entertain.

Toughest games: Aug. 24 — Miami Central** (exhibition); Aug. 30 — at Glades Central; Sept. 13 — at Palm Beach Gardens; Oct. 4 — at Royal Palm Beach*; Oct. 25 — Atlantic*.

5. Palm Beach Gardens
None of these games necessarily stretches the map — a game at Vero Beach is the farthest Gardens will travel — but Gators coach Rob Freeman put some tough local teams on Gardens’ slate. Each presents a different type of challenge, with Leonard, Vista and Glades Central being speed teams and Ridge and Palm Beach Central representing some of Palm Beach County’s more physical teams. The biggie on here is a Sept. 13 game against Dwyer. Not only is it a huge rivalry that took a few seasons off, it’s also a game against one of the best teams in the state.

Toughest games: Aug. 30 — at John I. Leonard; Sept. 6 — Park Vista; Sept. 13 — Dwyer; Oct. 4 — at Seminole Ridge*; Oct. 11 — Glades Central; Oct. 25 — at Vero Beach; Nov. 8 — at Palm Beach Central.

The best schedules of the rest: Fort Pierce Central, Pahokee, Park Vista, Royal Palm Beach, Seminole Ridge.