Florida will be involved in a number of intriguing interstate matchups next season, with St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
hosting Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.)
and Washington (Miami)
and traveling to play Cedar Hill (Texas)
But the showdown between Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
and Central (Miami)
could be the most compelling of the bunch.
Grayson, the defending AAAAA state champions, will host Central, which has played for state titles in its last two seasons, in a nationally televised affair on Friday, Aug. 31.
It's the second time in three seasons that Central is traveling to Georgia, as it narrowly lost to Camden County 45-42 in 2010.
Meanwhile, Grayson took on Edgewater last season and claimed a decisive 49-21 victory.
For Central, it's a matter of state pride.
"We always try to represent to the fullest for the state of Florida," said coach Telly Lockette. "And not just the state of Florida, but for Dade County."
Central lost in the Class 6A state finals to Armwood, but returns sophomore sensation Joseph Yearby
, who rushed for 2,260 yards and 24 touchdowns. Additionally, quarterback Brandon Diaz
transferred over from Columbus and could give Central a Division I signal-caller behind center.
However, Central's offense will face a very stiff challenge against Grayson's defense, a unit that returns 10 starters after allowing just more than eight points per game last year. Grayson head coach Mickey Conn believes that if it works hard, the team's defense has a chance to be something special.
"Every year, the team is different. This year, we'll go where our seniors take us," Conn said. "If they want to rest on their laurels, they'll pay a price. If they want to work and be dominant, they have the ability to do that."
Conn's defense is spearheaded by reigning U.S. Air Force National Junior of the Year Robert Nkemdiche
, the nation's top recruit in the class of 2013.
Although he has an NFL-ready body, it's his motor that sets him apart, Conn said.
"A lot of times, I've seen guys that have the body, but not quite the motor he has," said Conn. "Robert has it all, and he works hard, too."
Miami Central is well aware of Nkemdiche, who has registered 36 sacks over the last two seasons.
"I know he's a tremendous talent. I think he's a great athlete," Lockette said. "I think it's going to be good for our kids to play against the No. 1 recruit in the nation."
Both coaches said they had not spent any time seriously studying their opponent's game film. Conn said that he saw some of Central's highlights on YouTube and came away impressed.
"They seem to be a really athletic team. They can run really well," Conn said. "They appear to pride themselves offensively on the spread. We pride ourselves on defense."
If Grayson's defense can bottle up Central's explosive offense, it will be one hurdle cleared in Grayson's attempt to repeat as state champions and potentially earn a national title.