Recognize South Florida

Updated: February 17, 2009, 1:49 PM ET
ESPNRISE.com

Football - St. Thomas Aquinas


Tradition never graduates. The powerhouse Raiders won their second consecutive Class 5A state title and finished first in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 rankings by dominating opponents with a rare blend of explosive offense and shutdown defense. Never was that more clear than in the championship against Lakeland, a team that has given Aquinas its share of troubles over the years. The Dreadnaughts had won each of the previous four times the teams met in the state finals, including two poundings in 2004 and 2005 and a 45-42 heartbreaker in 2006. There would be no such drama this year, as Aquinas manhandled Lakeland in a 56-7 win. "They have as good a program as any in the country," Aquinas coach George Smith says. "To be able to beat them in the state final and finish 15-0 and win the national championship was special." As they had done all year, the Raiders expertly deployed all of their weapons. That's saying something on a squad with 11 senior Division I recruits: WR Duron Carter (Ohio State), QB Ryan Becker (Penn), WR Dylan Drake (Yale), WR Dwayne Difton (UConn), TE Gabe Holmes (Purdue), DB Dezmen Southward (Wisconsin), DB Ronnie Kennedy (Central Michigan), P Ben Turk (Notre Dame), OL Jordan Cowart (Notre Dame), LB Conor O'Neill (Wisconsin) and OL/DLWilliam Nesselt (UMass). Along with talent, the team had tradition and purpose on its side. "Our success of this year was started by teams in the '70s, '80s, and '90s," Smith says.



Flag Football - Douglas


The Eagles soared last season, advancing all the way to the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champ Leon in a close contest. Don't be surprised if they're in the mix again come May. Douglas returns senior signal-caller Taylor Thomas, a Miami Herald All-Broward first team pick, and junior rusher Amanda Belarmino, who earned first team All-State Defense honors from FlagMag.com in 2008.



Boys' Track - Carol City


A strong cast of juniors and seniors returns for last year's Class 6A runner-up. Junior Antron Jackson narrowly missed an individual title in the high jump, placing second with a personal-best jump of 7 feet. Senior Akeem Williams took third in the 400 at state and was part of the second-place 4x400 relay team  along with juniors Xavier Hopkins and Allen Hurns  and the third-place 4x800 relay team with senior Albert Florvil.

Girls' Tennis - Dr. Krop


Arguably South Florida's preeminent girls' tennis program, Krop didn't let up last season. Brittany Dubins won the No. 2 singles division championship and teamed up with her sister, then-senior Taylor, to take home the No. 1 doubles crown. Meanwhile, Akemi Maehama won the No. 3 singles title as Krop won its second consecutive Class 4A state title. Both Dubins and Maehama are juniors this season.



BREAKOUT TEAMS


BOYS' LACROSSE  GULLIVER PREP
Seniors J.T. McCook, Justin Mills and Peter Roth pace last year's District 12 champs.

GIRLS' TRACK  JENSEN BEACH
The team returns a deep stable of 400 and 800 runners led by juniors Julie Holling and Samantha Haddad.

BASEBALL  TARAVELLA
All-Broward seniors Willie Medina and Cody Styles return for last year's regional semifinalists.

SOFTBALL  HOLLYWOOD CHRISTIAN
All-State first teamer Cassy Famularo, a senior, is a threat at the plate and on the mound.

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