In the heart of 8A, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s largest classification, lie the Southridge Spartans and the Christopher Columbus High School Explorers.
The Explorers are coming off of a state semifinal appearance in 2015, and are only two years removed from a state championship game appearance. The Spartans; on the other hand, have struggled in recent years despite a history of success within the program. The Spartans suffered a defeat at the hands of Columbus last season and then lost in the second round of the playoffs against district rival South Dade.
But once the 2016 offseason took shape, it became apparent that past struggles were in the rearview mirror for Miami Southridge High School. A wave of transfers including former Miami Killian running back Bentavious Thompson joined the program, and under state championship winning head coach Billy Rolle, the Spartans are ready to roll.
Miami Southridge comes into this game 2-0 after back-to-back shutout wins over Miami Edison and Dr. Krop High School, and have been penned by many as the favorites entering Friday night.
Columbus comes into this game with a record of 1-1, and are looking to bounce back after a heart-breaking loss against Northwestern last week in which the Explorers were a completion away from winning. A motivated Explorers team is always a dangerous one, and one can be assured this experienced coaching staff will have the team ready to go.
Sports writers for South Florida High School Sports and the Miami Herald have Southridge taking down Columbus in this one, but regardless of the outcome, Miami Hurricanes commits will be all over the field.
2017 Trajan Bandy, Columbus, 5’9” 175 lbs DB: Bandy is no secret amongst Miami Hurricanes fans for the 2017 recruiting class, and the defensive back has proved year after year he is a force to be reckoned with. Bandy got the game winning interception for Columbus last year against Southridge, and will be looking for success against one of the best receiving corps in Miami-Dade County. Southridge boasts depth at receiver, led by Mark Pope and together with former Miami commit Rodney Scott and 6’3” wideout Darquris Wiggins making a weekly impact as well. Bandy will have his hands full tonight, so ‘Canes fans should tune into how he plays tonight in one of his biggest games of the year.
2017 Billy Gibson Jr. , Southridge, 6’1” 175 lbs DB: Gibson is a Southridge player who has stuck by his commitment to Miami despite teammates such as Rodney Scott and Bentavious Thompson choosing to go elsewhere. Gibson has been expected to make major strides this season for the Spartans, as the hard-hitting safety looks to lead a Southridge defensive backfield with several division one talents. Gibson will not face a Columbus receiving corps loaded with division 1 talent like in years past, but the Explorers wideouts will take advantage of anything mistakes defensively. The Columbus receiving unit is spearheaded by Orlando Hidalgo and Tyler Harrell, and should provide Gibson with a different type of challenge due to their speed and agility.
2017 Christopher Henderson, Columbus, 6’1” 175 lbs RB/DB: After committing to Miami in February, Christopher “CJ” Henderson has created momentum for Miami on the recruiting trail. Henderson was a first year starter last year for Columbus, and starred at running back due to his incredible speed. Henderson went to Nike’s “The Opening” recruiting event over the offseason, and garnered national attention alongside teammate Trajan Bandy. Despite not playing defensive back last season, Henderson is expected to live in the defensive backfield once he reaches Coral Gables next year. Henderson got an interception for Columbus last week, so it will be interesting to see how his athleticism will be utilized tonight.
2018 Darquris Wiggins, Southridge, 6’3” 175 lbs WR: Standing at 6 feet 3 inches, Wiggins provides a size mismatch for nearly every cornerback he faces. Wiggins is ranked #195 on the ESPN Jr. 300, and is expected to get a lot of favorable matchups this season due to the fact that Mark Pope and Rodney Scott will be garnering attention. Wiggins was one of the Southridge players who transferred from Miami Killian High School during the offseason, and will have an opportunity on a big stage tonight. Columbus’ defensive backfield is one of the best in Miami-Dade county, so Wiggins will have an opportunity to show everyone what he can do against top-flight talent.
2018 Josh Jobe, Columbus, 6’1” 180 lbs DB: As a sophomore all-american in 2015, Josh Jobe has set high expectations as a Miami commit. Jobe has left his imprint on nearly every game he has played for Columbus, and whether it’s offensively on creative reverses, or defensively through ground shaking hits, he has constantly struck fear in opposing defenses. Jobe, like the rest of Columbus’ secondary, will have his hands full tonight against the talented Southridge Spartans, and should have a direct impact on how well Columbus does defensively. Jobe has been penned as one of the best defensive backs in his class, so it will be interesting to see how well he plays under the spotlight tonight.
2019 Diamante Howard, Southridge, 6’2” 178 lbs LB: As one of Miami’s newest commits, Howard is looking to make an impact on Friday night as a starter. Howard committed last Thursday night to Miami, and is currently ranked as a top 50 overall player in his class. Howard is the cousin of legendary Miami safety Sean Taylor, and will have his hands full tonight with whatever Columbus Head Coach Chris Merritt throws at him offensively. Howard is a force in the front seven, and should key in on stopping Columbus’ running game. If Howard plays well Southridge should be hitting on all cylinders defensively, so look for the Explorers to try and get him off his game early.
This should be a tight game between two powerhouses, and regardless of what transpires on the field, this matchup will serve as a showcase for several Miami commitments.