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What to watch in Florida this weekend

11/17/2011

Playoff primer, part I: St. Thomas Aquinas stumbles in

Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas is used to being at the top of the national rankings but this year they will enter the playoffs as a district runner-up after a shocking loss to Cooper City (Fla.) two weeks ago. Aquinas also lost to Miramar (Fla.) last month giving the Raiders a two-loss season for the first time since 2006.

Miami commitment Jelani Hamilton is finished for the season with a knee injury and Bryan Cox Jr. is still dealing with a hand injury that might force him to miss one or more weeks of the postseason. Junior Joey Bosa should be ready to go but the team's strength has been diminished.

“Aquinas strength was on the defensive line where they have three major prospects but without Hamilton and Cox it's going to leave a lot of the responsibility to Bosa,” said Miami Herald reporter Larry Blustein, who covers high schools in the region.

On the bright side, Aquinas still has a solid running-back tandem with senior Dami Ayoola and junior Fred Coppet. Quarterback Max Lescano has also had his moments and has the experience of being part of two championship teams at the school.

“They are still St. Thomas Aquinas and the kids know what it takes to win championships,” Blustein said. “Yes they are a little banged up but they will still be tough to beat.”

Playoff primer, part II: First for First Coast?

Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast has had as many major prospects as any program in the state over the past few years but they have failed to come up big in the postseason. Under Armour All-American wide receiver Chris Black wants to put the past behind them with a dominating performance this year.

“We are so focused on winning a state championship this year and we've got the team to get it done,” Black said. “It's something that's been on our mind all year and it's important for us to focus and make it happen.”

Black is joined by a plethora of talent including fellow wide receiver Brandon Brooks, a Troy commit, and linebackers Joseph Jackson (North Carolina) and Reggie Northrup (Miami commits).

The key to success for First Coast could be with their freshman quarterback De'Andre Johnson, who already reportedly has a verbal offer from Clemson.

Playoff primer, part III: The chase for 10,000

With Emmitt Smith's career rushing record behind him, Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Day junior running back Kelvin Taylor will go for 10,000 yards and could reach that landmark if the Gators can reach their third consecutive state championship game.

Taylor had nearly 1,200 yards during Glades Day's four playoff games last year, including a 437-yard performance against Jupiter Christian.

“Really all that matters to win is winning a third state championship ring,” Taylor said. “I don't think about the stats or any particular landmark. Just winning a third title with my team and an eighth for this school is all that matters to me.”

Taylor said that Alabama, Florida and LSU are the top three schools for his services.

Miami gains big-time wide receiver

Miami gained the commitment of Miramar (Fla.) wide receiver Malcolm Lewis on Wednesday night. Lewis has 29 catches for 444 yards and five touchdowns this season.

The 5-11, 185-pounder had offers from West Virginia, Florida State, LSU, South Carolina, Kentucky and several other programs.

The Hurricanes are currently on a hot recruiting streak as Lewis is the program's fourth commitment in about two weeks joining wide receiver Ricquan Southward (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland), running back Danny Dillard (Venice, Fla./Venice) and safety Rayshawn Jenkins (St. Petersburg, Fla./Admiral Farragut).

Lewis is the Hurricanes' sixth wide receiver in the Hurricanes’ 2012 class.

Miami loses big-time linebacker

The long-awaited decommitment of Miami Norland four-star linebacker Keith Brown happened Wednesday night as the 6-1, 230-pounder switched his commitment from Miami to Illinois. The Illini also received a commitment from Brown's teammate and brother Lamar Atkins.

Brown's commitment to the Hurricanes became shaky after an official visit to Clemson in September. After the visit Brown suggested that the Tigers were in the lead for his services. Later he backed off and said that Miami and Clemson were even.

He also took official visits to Purdue and South Florida. Brown is expected to enroll in January and is expected to shut down his recruitment while Norland goes through the playoffs.