(1) American Heritage Patriots (4-0) vs. (5) Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs (5-0)
Friday at Cardinal Gibbons, 7 p.m.
Here’s a game that has had everyone buzzing since last year’s playoff matchup between these two teams. Up until that point, Heritage had easily gotten the best of Gibbons, but that night – when the Chiefs nearly upset the Patriots and only lost 10-7 – everyone felt that the gap between the two programs had closed.
Both teams have lived up to preseason expectations up to this point.
Cardinal Gibbons is in year two of the Matt Dubuc era and the Chiefs seem to be getting stronger each week. I’ve long said that Dubuc’s influence on this team can be felt and seen through its increased toughness – both physical and mental. That was always the knock on Gibbons – while the talent was there, folks questioned whether its schedule tested the team enough.
Dubuc challenged his team right out of the gate this year and they enter this game confident in themselves because they know they’ve lined up against top-notch competition.
American Heritage ascended through the ranks this year and now sit atop the heap as South Florida’s top team. The Patriots look like they are the most complete team – with no glaring weaknesses – and they’ve performed like it.
Looking at this game, I see it as just a bad matchup for Cardinal Gibbons.
The thing that the Chiefs want to do – spread the ball around through the passing game – is the thing that the Patriots are best at disrupting.
Gibbons has a very good quarterback in Nik Scalzo, an underrated set of receivers (especially Carlos Sandy), and a solid offensive line. But American Heritage has a great defensive line – with a pair of elite pass rushers in Nesta Silvera and Andrew Chatfield – fast linebackers, and what is arguably the best defensive backfield in the country.
It’s not to say that Gibbons won’t be able to make some plays through the air Friday – because they will. But you have to know that Heritage will dial up the pressure to get to Scalzo and disrupt his timing – especially if the Patriots take an early lead and put Gibbons into obvious passing situations.
The x-factor that could end up tilting things in the Chiefs favor is if Heritage’s offense is out of sync.
American Heritage has the pieces on offense to a potent group – a big O-Line, quarterback Cam Smith, athletes Jordan Johnson and Miles Jones, and blazing fast receiver Anthony Schwartz – but it will have lulls where things don’t go smoothly.
I think Heritage will ride its defense to a hard-fought victory and I hope that this is just the first of two matchups between these two squads.
Bald Prediction = American Heritage wins 23-17