The dominance of prep football schools in South Florida in 2022 is undisputed.
The area sent six schools to the state finals in Metro Classifications. A reason all six didn’t win state titles is two of them were matched against each other. When the dust settled, South Florida hoisted title trophies in Class 1M (Chaminade-Madonna), Class 2M (Miami-Central), Class 3M (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Class 4M (Columbus).
The runners-up were American Heritage Plantation, which fell to Central, and Homestead, upended by St. Thomas Aquinas.
The common thread among all these schools, besides, of course, having talented players, is these schools are well coached.
Not only does South Florida sport great players, coaching in the area also is top shelf.
As SBLive Sports Florida puts a ribbon on the 2022 season, we ask for your input in helping decide who is the best coach in South Florida.
The candidates are listed below (in alphabetical order).
Dave Dunn, Columbus: The single-most gutsy call in the state finals is a play they will be talking about for years to come at Columbus. Dunn’s decision to go with the “Explorer” on third-and-five in overtime lifted Columbus to the Class 4M state crown. The trick play resulted in receiver AJ Arellano throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Alberto Mendoza, lifting the Explorers to a 16-13 win over Apopka in the championship game. Columbus finished 14-1, with its only loss to Central, 42-35. Columbus won its first state title since 2019.
Roger Harriott, St. Thomas Aquinas: Winners of four straight state championships, and 27 games overall, you still get a feeling that St. Thomas Aquinas (14-0) doesn’t fully get all the credit it deserves. The Raiders dominated Class 3A, and took home the state crown by beating Homestead, 38-21, in the state title game. The closest margin of victory St. Thomas had was 11 points, in a 48-37 win over St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia) in a showcase shown on ESPN. In the semifinals, St. Thomas crushed Tampa Jesuit, 45-3. Harriott and his staff are clearly doing something right.
Dameon Jones, Chaminade-Madonna: The Lions are a powerhouse, and arguably the best team in the state of Florida. Without question, Chaminade-Madonna is the top Class 1M school, breezing to the state title with a convincing, 48-14, win over Clearwater Central Catholic in the championship game. Jones’ has lead the Lions to back-to-back state titles. The only blemish in a 13-1 season came in the GEICO Bowl in Las Vegas. A week after winning the state championship in Florida, the Lions were beaten handily by Bishop Gorman, 49-14, in a game with national ranking implications. For the season, the Lions outscored their opponents, 672-189.
Jube Joseph, Miami-Central: All he does is win. Joseph and his staff guided Central to a fourth-straight state championship. The Rockets finished 14-0, and were named national champions by NationalHSFB.com. According to SBLive Sports Florida, Central finished No. 1 in the state of Florida. Joseph and his staff had the challenge of keeping his players motivated, considering the number of blowouts they played. Central edged a tough American-Heritage team, 38-31, in the Class 2M state championship. Another signature win came in Central’s first game. On the road, the Rockets beat national power IMG, 20-14. Joseph recently coached the Miami-Dade County All-Stars to a 23-21 win over the Broward County stars in “The Battle for the Crib.”
Philip Simpson, Homestead: How far has Homestead come in just a few years? Well, in the COVID-plagued 2020 season, Homestead went 2-8. Simpson, who pushed for upgrades to the weight room and facilities, spearheaded tremendous upgrades for the program, including adding more coaches to the staff. In 2021, Homestead went 11-2, and in 2022, the school lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 3M state finals. Homestead finished 12-3 in Simpson’s third and final season with the school. Simpson now is leaving behind a solid foundation as he departs to join the University of Nebraska coaching staff as an assistant defensive line coach.
Mike Smith, American Heritage Plantation: In his first year as head coach, Smith guided the Patriots to the state championship game, where they were edged by Central, 38-31. American Heritage finished 13-2, with the only losses at Chaminade-Madonna (42-34) and in the Class 2M title game. Heritage had signature wins over Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.) and Los Alamitos (Calif.), as well as two wins over a very tough Cardinal Gibbons club. In the state semifinals, the Patriots defeated Jacksonville Bolles, 21-14.