In an era when many of the top high school football teams in the country routinely choose to cross state lines and clash with power programs from other states, it’s almost refreshing to see a big marquee matchup between two neighboring high-profile schools that are located just a few miles down the road from one another.
That’s the type of treat that we’ll get to see tonight when two of the top teams in the talent-rich state of Florida: the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders (Fort Lauderdale) and the American Heritage Patriots (Plantation) square off at Sun Life Stadium.
Seperated by just eight miles, the Broward County schools aren’t just two of the top teams in the Sunshine State; they’re two of the teams in America.
Aquinas, which enters the game ranked as the No. 3 team in the country by Maxpreps, and Heritage, which enters ranked No. 5 nationally, are both loaded with blue-chip recruits. The Raiders, who have gained a reputation as a pro-producing powerhouse, earned the top spot on FanSided 150’s 10 most talented teams list, while Heritage checked in at No. 6.
In most normal high school football games, you’ll be lucky to see just one FBS-caliber player on the field. Tonight, there will be over a dozen on display.
While the game may be shaping up to be a star-studded affair, there will be no more magnetizing star than Heritage QB Torrance Gibson. In terms of potential and raw natural physical ability, Gibson is a truly unique specimen.
The dynamic dual-threat quarterback came into the 2014 season with plenty of momentum, following a stellar junior campaign, in which he led the Patriots to a 15-1 record and a 5A state title. The highly-rated 6’4’’, 210-pound signal-caller started off his senior season with a bang last Sunday, when he led Heritage to a huge 49-23 victory over Dwyer High School (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida) in front of a national audience on ESPN.
Gibson showed why he’s considered such a valuable and coveted commodity, as he completed seven of his 11 pass attempts for 298 yards (42 yards per pass) and accounted for five total touchdowns in the rout.
Though he has offers from plenty of prestigious programs, the fact that the undecided recruit opted to wear Ohio State cleats in the first game of the season is a telling clue about his interests.
On defense, Heritage has another standout playmaker: CB Tarvarus McFadden, who’s just just as heralded as Gibson. Ranked as the No. 29 overall prospect in the class in 247Sports’ composite rankings, the highly athletic 6’2’’, 198-pound 5-star CB is certainly an impressive physical specimen. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon and USC are some of the big-name schools that are chasing him.
Though St. Thomas Aquinas doesn’t have a true premier prospect that can compare to Gibson or McFadden, they do have an extremely deep roster that’s chock full of future FBS players.
RB Jordan Scarlett, who transferred from nearby University High School over the summer, is the must-watch player. The 5’11’’, 207-pound back is one of the fastest and most athletic players in the 2015 recruiting class. He proved that this summer at Nike’s The Opening Event, when he clocked a 4.30 40-yard dash and a 38-inch vertical leap. The Miami commit has the combination of size, power and speed to do major damage to any defense he faces.
Joining Scarlett on offense is fellow RB Deltron Sands—a Maryland commit, WR Devante Pee—a 4-star recruit, who is considering offers from Miami, Ohio State, Alabama and LSU, and two standout offensive linemen: 6’4’’, 301-pound Samuel Clausman and 6’5’’, 300-pound Colin Byrne. Both Clausman and Byrne are committed to Syracuse. Junior WR Sam Bruce, a Miami commit, is also a dangerous weapon.
The defense is stocked full of talent as well. It’s a unit that features at least seven players who will sign with FBS schools. CB Rashard Causey is committed to Florida Atlantic. DE Chris Hart is deciding between offers from Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi State and Wisconsin. CB Damon Arnette is committed to South Carolina. DT Brandon Boyce is committed to Duke. DE Wyatt Ray is committed to Boston College. Safety Tyson Cisrow has offers from Cincinnati, Duke, Penn State, Rutgers, West Virginia and Wisconsin. DT Richerd Desir-Jones has offers from Cincinnati and Syracuse.
As if having so much veteran senior talent on defense wasn’t enough, the Raiders also have two of the top-rated prospects in the 2016 class—five-star prospects DT Edwin Alexander and DE Nick Bosa—causing chaos in the trenches.
With so much talent on display, this is a showdown that is a must-watch game for any real football fan. Luckily, for those outside of the greater Miami area, the game will be streamed live on FoxSportsFlorida.com.
Both teams look like potentially elite squads. Now, it’s time to find out who truly owns Broward County. We’ll find out tonight which star players are ready to shine on the big stage.