July 24, 2014

NMB, Jeff Bertani never far from the top


By Larry Blustein
Jeff Bertani has been around the sport of football all of hits life. You can say he was born into the game.

The son and grandson of head football coaches in Miami-Dade County, he has approached this sport in a manner of teaching, developing and winning. He learned - early on - as a player at North Miami Beach High - that you do not settle.

That approach has followed Miami-Dade's second longest tenured head coach through district titles and turning out perhaps more players to the next level and beyond than any other coach in south Florida.

Bertani's recipe for success is to give everything possible to the sport. He has demanded that from his players, coaches and of himself. That is the reason that every year, his North Miami Beach Chargers are in the mix.

When his team lost out on a playoff spot last year, it was something that didn't sit well with Bertani or his team. They all made a commitment to work harder than ever before - and the results - as approach the 2014 season - is that his team will be right in the mix.

With North Miami returning 16 starters from last year, the Pioneers head into this year as the favorite, but that tag has never meant much in a district that the Chargers have dominated through the years.

Even last year when North Miami finished unbeaten in the district and losing just once in the regular season, it was NMB that took them down to the wire. Look for the same thing to happen once again this year.

"The only thing that I have ever asked of my players is to give 100 percent and represent themselves in a first class manner on and off the playing field," Bertaini said. "I want the players on this team to be admired just as much for what they do in the classroom and in the community as what they accomplish on the football field."

With players like Louis Delmas now playing with the Miami Dolphins and others scattered around professional and collegiate football, Bertani is satisfied with what his players have learned throughout the years.

This year's edition of NMB football will once again be loaded with quality prospects that will play on both sides of the ball as well as participate on special teams. That is a trademark of this team that goes back to the beginning when he first started. He learned from the best - and has applied that during his time.

While there are a number of younger players who figure to keep the Chargers in the spotlight for years to come, it's all about this senior class that will assume the leadership role, which is very important to the success of this program.

"I have always looked to my seniors to help guide the way," Bertani said. "It is important to have people like Cedric Wiggins (QB/DB, 6-0, 190) to be a leader on this team.

Wiggins, the younger brother of former Charger standout Doug Wiggins, is a four year player who has already received offers from schools such as Alcorn State, UMass and UConn.

In addition to Wiggins, talented Emmanuel Lubin, a 6-1, 180-pound defensive back/receiver, is also a quality player with outstanding bloodlines. His brother E.J. Biggers, another NFL player, was tremendous for Bertani and there Chargers. Lubin currently holds offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Syracuse, Bowling Green and FIU.

Bertani coached teams have always had football players who give everything of themselves to help the program win. Seniors Bryan Soto (LB/TE, 6-0, 190), Duanne Jones (RB/LB, 5-11, 180) and Eric Fleurima (LB/FB,5-9, 180) are perfect examples.

Every year, NMB boasts some young players who will provide depth and leadership for the future. This year is certainly no exception - with a quality junior class - and a sophomore group that may be the best the school has had.

Class of 2016 prospects Voshon Reid (DL/ OL, 6-2, 250) and Kassy Desir (DL/OL, 6-2, 270) are already considered among the best in south Florida.

Sophomores Alvin Floyd (DB/WR, 5-11, 180), Tyrek Hepburn (DB/QB, 5-10, 175), Woodlyson Alcius (DL/OL, 6-4, 290) and talented Jordan Atkins, a 6-0, 190-pound linebacker/running back are as good as you will find. Atkins is the younger brother of one-time Charger standout Markeith Russell.

NMB is also starting a solid foundation with incoming freshmen Nickolia St.Fort (DB/WR, 6-0, 170) and linebacker/fullback Mitchler Morany (5-9, 190).

Have something to add to this Blog? Drop Larry Blustein a note at Floridakids1@aol.com.

July 20, 2014

Booker T. Washington Wins National NFL HSPD 7-on-7 Tournament


Indianapolis, Indiana – For the second time in three years, the Booker T. Washington F-5 Tornadoes won the NFL HSPD 7 on 7 Tournament. The yearly event features representatives from all 32 NFL teams that play in an elimination tournament until one team is left. Each team must qualify by competing in a regional tournament in the host city, as well as completing the mandatory High School symposium.

Booker T. Washington qualified by going undefeated in the Miami Dolphins 7 on 7 tournament June 14th and 15th. They defeated Hialeah Gardens, American High, Western High twice and Champagnat Catholic before advancing to the quarterfinals at Sun Life Stadium on June 15th. After receiving a bye in the quarterfinals, they defeated Gulliver Prep 27-21 in overtime and then beat Miami Southridge 41-24 to win the Regional Tournament.

“Winning this game means a lot. We've got some great guys out there and they deserve this win,” Booker T. Washington coach Tim “Ice” Harris Jr said. "We've grown stronger as a team. We've worked hard and it's great to see that hard work pay off".

Advancing to the National Championship Tournament is nothing new to Booker T. Washington. In 2012, they went to Indianapolis under the pressure of trying to become the fourth straight Miami Dolphins representative to win the National Tournament. Booker T. Washington ended up beating the team representing the Detroit Lions to win the title and keep the streak alive.

After not qualifying for the National Championship in 2013, Booker T. went back to Indianapolis with one goal in mind and that was to bring the trophy back to Miami. In Pool Play, they dominated the competition by outscoring their opponents 272-86 and going 7-0. The scores for the games were:

Game 1: Miami Dolphins 38 New England Patriots 14
Game 2: Miami Dolphins 44 Buffalo Bills 7
Game 3: Miami Dolphins 38 New York Jets 14
Game 4: Miami Dolphins 41 Philadelphia Eagles 28
Game 5: Miami Dolphins 37 New York Giants 10
Game 6: Miami Dolphins 41 Washington Redskins 3
Game 7: Miami Dolphins 30 Dallas Cowboys 10

Tuesday morning, the tournament started off in divisional play with the Miami Dolphins playing against their AFC rivals in an elimination tournament. They beat the Buffalo Bills 31-10 and then the New England Patriots 34-28 to advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 37-17 to move on to the AFC Championship game against the Houston Texans.

The game against the Texans was close throughout with the score being 24-21 late in the second half. Maurice Alexander threw a touchdown pass to Mark Walton to give them a little cushion and then Terry Jefferson and Davante Davis sealed the game with back to back interceptions to give Miami a 37-21 victory. With the victory, Miami advanced to their fifth straight 7 on 7 championship game.

In the Championship, Miami played against Mallard Creek High School representing the Carolina Panthers. Alexander threw first half touchdown passes to Shaquille Green, Walton and Vaquan Smalls to give Miami a 24-7 lead at halftime. Carolina scored on their first possession of the second half, but that would be the last points they scored. Another touchdown pass from Alexander, this time to Antonio Callaway put them up 31-14 and then an interception by Callaway sealed the 34-14 victory by Booker T. and their second National Title in three years.

“To be able to not only go undefeated in the regional tournament but also the national tournament is a very impressive accomplishment”, Miami Dolphins Manager of Youth programs Troy Drayton said. “This is a team that won the district championship, state championship and national championship in 2013. To start off their 2014 football season this way is very exciting not only for the kids, but shows the hard work that the coaching staff is putting in.”

In the tournament, Booker T. went 12-0 and outscored their opponents by a total score of 445-176. They were led in receiving touchdowns by Walton with 15, Smalls with 11, Callaway with 11, Darius Scott with 9 and Green with 6. The defense was led by Jefferson who picked off 12 passes in 12 games. With interceptions counting as 3 points in the 7-on-7 format, Jefferson scored 36 points without playing a down on offense. Davis contributed with 4 interceptions and Ocie Rose and Callaway had 3 each.

Booker T. Washington will kick off their 2014 season in Chesapeake, VA against Oscar Smith High School and then will follow that up in Tucker, GA against Tucker High. They go into the season on a 26 game winning streak and have only lost once in the past two years.

July 19, 2014

Hollywood Hills wins Ocala 7-on-7 tournament

By Larry Blustein
OCALA – When Hollywood Hills head football coach Al Lang found out that his Spartans weren’t going to be able to attend this year’s University of South Florida Sling & Shoot 7-on-7 event in Tampa, the veteran head coach scrambled around for a place for his team to head to this weekend.

After seeing that Belleview coach John Ivory was organizing an event in Ocala, he called to see if his Spartans could join a group of quality teams that were headed to the Ocala Sportsplex for a day-long 7-on-7 and linemen challenge.

“We called John to see if there was a way we could get our kids into this quality 7-on-7,” Lang recalled. “When he said yes, we made hotel reservations and plans to make the five hour trip from south Florida. We were excited to have a place to go.”

After finishing 2-2 in pool play, the Spartans really started to make noise once the single elimination took place. With programs such as Orlando Monteverde Academy, Tampa Blake, Ocala Forest, Spring Hill Springstead, Lantana Santaluces, host Belleview, Ocala Lake Weir, Gainesville Eastside, Melbourne Central Catholic, Jacksonville University Christian, defending 1A state champion Trenton, Lake Butler Union County, Fort Myers Bishop Verot, Ocala Vanguard, Tallahassee FAMU and Sparr North Marion, coached by former Miami Northwestern head coach Steven Field, the tournament was very competitive.

“We had played very well during the early portion of the event,” Lang said, but we really started to put it together once everything was on the line.”

The Spartans beat Springstead and North Marion, setting up a quarterfinal battle with unbeaten Trenton, a team that featured quality junior Hamp Cheevers and other players who returned from the state title. This team was one of the favorites to win it all.

Staying on the same field with Trenton gave the Spartans plenty of confidence, moving them into the semifinals against a very athletic Gainesville Eastside team. That narrow semifinal victory gave Hollywood Hills a chance at beating Tampa Blake for the title.

“We had lost to them early in the event,” said receivers coach Brandon Graham. “I think after we beat Trenton, this team felt that they could win it all.”

Playing without standout receiver Edward Aldred, who went out of the tournament early with a concussion, the Spartans looked to senior quarterback Darius Greene and receivers Winston Job III, Ronald Scriven and Miguel Montanez on offense – and Ronald Clayton Jr., Tony Henry, Terrence Williams and Jacarier Salter on defense.

The Spartans went ahead 6-0, only to see Blake tie the game at 6, but it would be the last time the Spartans would look back.

Leading 13-12, they came up with huge plays, scoring again and moving the score to 19-12, 26-12 and stopping Blake for a 28-12 win.

“This was a great win,” said Lang. “We came further than anyone else as a late entrant and really made a statement. I couldn’t be any prouder of this team.”

Job was voted as Offensive MVP of the event, Salter took home the Defensive MVP award, Clayton was one of seven players on the All-Tournament Defensive squad – and lineman Dusan Etienne was selected as Offensive Lineman of the challenge.

Winning Hollywood Hills Spartans included: Edward Aldred, Terence Williams, Darius Greene, Ronald Scriver, Jr., Miguel Montanez, Jacarier Salter, Deric Smith, Lamont Clarke, Toy Henry, Alejandro Duperon, Donovan Henderson, Winston Job III, Patrick Smith, Ronald Clayton II, Marvin Estrada-Campbell, Jakari Latimer, Nicholas Alequin, Branden Garcia, Dusan Etienne, Gerald Louis and Reginald Colson III.

Have something to add to this Blog? Drop Larry Blustein a note at Floridakids1@aol.com.

July 17, 2014

Cypress Bay looks to a number of quality underclassmen in 2014

Cypress Bay's Mark Guandolo has been coaching high school football long enough to know that what you put into this game, you get back along the way.

No matter where he has been during his impressive coaching career, he has lived by the philosophy that hard work and dedication simply has no substitute.

While missing the playoffs in 2013 didn't sit well - especially the year after this football program advanced to the state finals for the first time ever - there is a reason that while this program may not be a favorite to win a competitive district, there will be no quit in the Lightning.

"If you play this game, you have to understand that there are no shortcuts," Guandolo said. "Any team that I have ever been involved with knows that when the season begins, the objective is to win every game and go as far as you can."

Even in a year where Cypress Bay a number of key prospects from that impressive 2012 team that dropped a heart-breaker to Apopka in the 8A title game, last year was a season that this team had numerous chances to grab a playoff spot. This year, even as Miramar and Flanagan go in as favorites to grab the top spot, sleeping on a team coached by Guandolo would be a huge mistake. He has a way of making the best outs of a situation that sometimes is tough on the surface.

The Lightning have a number of seniors coming back. Prospects that expect to grab leadership and help the talented underclassmen along the way.
  On offense, this senior class features quarterbacks Cale Berger (5-11, 200) and receivers Ryan Dugan (5-10, 170) and Cole Moxie (6-0, 175) as well as linemen Nathaniel Crowley (6-0, 230), Samuel Antoine (6-3, 265) and Mike Felix (5-11, 270).

On defense, there are ends Adam Cuellar (6-0, 195) and Matt Bukovi (6-0, 220), linebackers Esteban Delfino (6-3, 225) and Jake Truske (5-10, 185) and defensive back Nathan Seidle (5-11, 165).

The strength of this football team just may be in the quality underclassmen. Players like quarterbacks Kole Stealy (6-1, 170) and Jacob Carrio (5-9 165), running backs Jeo Rodriguez (5-9, 185), Davonte Gayle (5-10, 185) and Justin Nesmith (5-8, 195), receiver Anthony Courcelle (6-1, 170), and linemen Brice Biggs (6-4, 230), Justice Silvera (5-8, 215) and Thomas Mosca (5-9, 180).

Defensively, Cypress Bay boasts linebackers Alex Cassitta (6-0, 195), Christian Gomez (6-1, 200) and Jarrett Hanks (5-10, 190) - and impressive secondary performers in Joshua Beneby (5-11, 165), Darrell Malone Jr. (5-11, 165) and R.J. Rosario, a 5-11, 190-pounder.

With running backs Michael Epstein (6-0, 190), the Lightning have perhaps the most impressive Class of 2017 weapon in south Florida. This one time youth football standout elevated the team last year as a freshman.

In addition to Epstein, the sophomore class will feature defensive end Jake Lichtenstein (6-3, 190) and defensive back/running back Daniel Montoya (5-9, 180).

"I have followed Coach Guandolo at Chaminade, Pace, Miami Southridge, Miramar and now at Cypress Bay," said Dana Wiley of Prep Films. "This is a man who can get everything out of an athlete and bring out the best in them. When he almost beat Central that year with a number of 10th graders, he proved to many that you can never count his teams out."

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

Top Prospects Start To Rise For The Class of 2018

My good friend Coach J has a pulse on the young football prospects in south Florida, and always keeps me updated on what players to keep an eye on.

While I have covered youth football for over 30 years, and have often promoted many before they ever reached high school, there are a number of quality coaches who have the opportunity to see many of these prospects at the ages of 7 and 8, and keep a close eye on their progress through the years.

Coach J has always been on the cutting edge, and sends me youngsters to keep on the radar. Today, we have some prospects for the Class of 2018 - the group of rising freshmen who figure rot make a solid impact at the varsity level - right away.

While these are just a few of the prospects who will emerge, we will continue to promote football talent that will enter high school and bring them right to you. Remember, it's all about getting the names out there for the over 2,000 college coaches who follow us daily and weekly.

If you have additional prospects to send our way, you can e-mail me at Floridakids1@aol.com and I will list them and send them on to Coach J as well.

1. Cajun Smith, WR, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer
2. Nikolas Bonito, DE, Fort Lauderdale University School
3. Samuel Llewellyn, RB, Fortt Lauderdale University School
4. Marlon Pelot, LB, Miami Booker T. Washington
5. Chatarius Atwell, Athlete, Miami Northwestern
6. Miles Jones, Athlete, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
7. Jason Swann, OL, Pembroke Pines Somerset Academy
8. Shannardo Houston, RB, North Miami
9. Herman McCray, TE, Riviera Beach Suncoast
10. Chad Kiernan, OL, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
11. Sharron Chester, DL, Miami Carol City
12. Jamain Lovett, DE, Riviera Beach Suncoast
13. Terrance Gray, OL, Miami Monsignor Pace
14. Jordan Johnson, RB, Plantation American Heritage

July 11, 2014

South Florida Class of 2017 Football Prospects

Over the past 5 plus decades, our main objective is to promote as many prospects in south Florida as possible.

With the many avenues we have to reach college coaches across the country, getting the names of these prospects out is the only thing that matters. Thanks to coaches, players and our advantage of seeing so many athletes, we have compiled these lists for many years, resulting in scholarship offers down the road - helping in the process.

This list of Class of 2017 prospects will be one that will be viewed by thousands of coaches, prospects and fans who follow high school football.

This list is only designed to promote and give players the exposure that they deserve. We will continue to add to this list daily and also send out - with video links to college coaches from Florida to Hawaii and everywhere in between.

If you have a prospect that should be added to this growing list, please drop Larry Blustein a note at Florida kids1@aol.com.

In addition, we are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Tacarrius Brown, 6-0, 165, Hialeah Miami Lakes
Dylan DiBello, 5-9, 165, Miami Palmer Trinity
Orlando Hidalgo, 5-7, 150, Miami Christopher Columbus
Bryce Holiday, QB, 6-1, 180, Hialeah
Marcelo Rodriguez, 6-2, 170, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna
Stanford Samuels III, 6-0, 175, Pembroke Pines Flanagan
Murphy Theodore, 5-10, 165, Miami High

O.J. Armstrong, 5-9, 175, Miami Ransom Everglades
Jordan Atkins, RB/LB, 6-0, 190, North Miami Beach
Neil Blanc, 5-7, 150, Miami Dr. Krop
Patrick Brown, 5-9, 185, Miami Dr. Krop
Robert Burns, RB/LB, 5-11, 200, Miami Gulliver Prep
Daniel Doriscar, 5-7, 155, Hialeah Mater Academy
Mike Epstein, 5-11, 180, Weston Cypress Bay
Giavante Evans, 5-9, 175, Deerfield Beach
Pedro Garcia, 5-10, 175, Miami Belen Jesuit
George Golden IV, 5-7, 170, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
Yael Gomez, 5-7, 170, Miami Christopher Columbus
Zayin Henry, RB/LB, 5-8, 175, Sunrise Piper
Javis Johnson, 5-10, 170, Miami Southridge
Kahvon Lovett, 5-10, 178, South Miami
Robbie Robinson, 5-11, 200, Miami Booker T. Washington
Dave Small, Jr., 5-9, 185, Plantation
Matthew Smith, RB/SS, 5-10, 175, North Miami
Bruce Un, 5-8, 155, Miami Braddock.
Michael Whyte, 5-8, 165, Miami Westminster Christian
Tajue Williams, 5-9, 170, Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson

Andrew Block, 5-10, 155, Miami Dr. Krop
Dontavious Butler, WR/DB, 6-1, 175, Hallandale
Jimmy Dieujuste, 5-7, 145, North Miami
Kevaughn Dingle, WR/LB, 6-2, 185, Miami Dr. Krop
Darnell Durham, 5-8, 155, Homestead South Dade
Savion Edwards, 5-8, 160, Homestead South Dade
Richardson Fremond, 6-2, 170, Homestead
Kemore Gamble, 6-3, 180, Coral Gables
Ty Gamble, 5-8, 150, Homestead
Natron Grayson, FS/WR, 6-3, 160, Miami LaSalle
Emmanuel Greene, 5-9, 150, Coconut Creek
Trevon Grimes, 6-3, 180, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Michael Harley, 5-10, 150, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Leroy Henley, 6-2, 175, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
Tyrek Hepburn, WR/QB, 5-9, 150, North Miami Beach
Zaire Jacobs, 5-10, 170, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Colson Jean, 5-10, 156, North Miami
Marco Jean, 5-10, 165, Homestead South Dade
Jerry Jeudy, 6-1, 174, Coconut Creek Monarch
Clinton Jewels, 6-3, 140, Miami Dr. Krop
Milan Lemon, 5-9, 160, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
Jordan Merrell, 5-10, 170, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
Anthony Mirabet, FS/WR, 5-10, 160, Miami Braddock
DeVante Mitchell, 5-9,170, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
Diego Ortega, 6-1, 155, Miami Belen Jesuit
Kevin Romer, 5-9, 165, Coral Gables
Rodney Scott, 6-1, 170, Miami Southridge
Clevan Thomas, 5-10, 180, Miami Booker T. Washington
Lavarus Tigner, 6-2, 187, Miramar

Corey Stoor, TE/DE, 6-4, 215, Hialeah

Corey Gaynor, OL/DL, 6-1, 220, Parkland Douglas
Kedonis Haslem, 6-4, 285, Miami Dade Christian
Robert Hawkins, 6-5, 250, Plantation
Dontavis Johnson, 6-2, 268, Homestead Barrington Christian Academy
Andre Lopez, 6-4, 280, Miami Braddock
Tedarrell Slaton, 6-5, 315, Plantation American Heritage
Kyron Taylor, 6-1, 265, Homestead South Dade
Kadeem Telfort, 6-6, 310, Miami Norland

Woodlyson Alcius, OL/DL, 6-4, 290, North Miami Beach
Jordany Bruny, 6-2, 255, Miami Dr. Krop
Jonathon Ford, DE, 6-3, 215, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
Matthew Hanson, DE, 6-2, 220, South Plantation
Chei Hill, DE, 6-0, 205, Homestead South Dade
Deandre Johnson, DE, 6-3, 220, Miami Killian
Jake Lichenstien, DE, 6-3, 190, Weston Cypress Bay
Josh Pierre-Louis, 6-0, 225, Coral Springs Taravella
Kevin Oliver, 6-2, 220, South Plantation
Brandon Penerton, 6-0, 280, Homestead South Dade
Guy Thomas, DE, 6-2, 200, Hialeah
Jose Valdevia, 5-11, 195, Miami Dade Christian
William Wallace, 6-0, 265, Coconut Creek Monarch
Deandre Wilder, DE, 5-10, 175, Miami Carol City
Jordan Wright, 6-3, 225, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
Torri Young, DL/OL, 6-1, 220. Fort Lauderdale.

Zach Applegate, 5-10, 170, Coral Springs
Matthew Bethel, LB/RB, 6-0, 180, Miami Dr. Krop
Romelo Brooks, 6-0, 205, Miami Killian
Brian Charles, 5-9, 175, North Miami
Tyler Dunning, 6-1, 215, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
Jon Falcon, LB, 5-9, 200, Hialeah
Nadarius Fatan, 6-1, 180, Coral Gables
Jonathan Francois, 6-0, 210, Miami Dr. Krop
Bernard Hudson, III, 6-0, 160, Homestead South Dade
Brandon James, 6-2, 180, Miami Southridge
Sammy Laster, 5-11, 180, Miami Booker T. Washington
Hunter Moreno, LB/FB, 6-3, 215, Miami Gulliver Prep
Travis Murray, 6-0, 210, Miami Southridge
Franklin Natta, 5-8, 170, Miami Springs
Mike Nesbitt, 6-2, 185, Fort Lauderdale Stranahan
Brandon Oliver, 6-1, 205, Sunrise Piper
Deandre Richard, 6-2, 180, North Miami
Joseph Ruma, 5-8, 175, Cooper City
Edwin Sosa, 6-0, 190, Southwest Miami
Waynmon Steed, 6-1, 205, Miami Central
Fabian Thomas, LB, 5-10, 190, Hialeah
Isaiah Thomas, 6-1, 175, Coral Springs

Trajan Bandy, 5-7, 165, Miami Christopher Columbus
Renard Bozeman, 5-9, 160, Fort Lauderdale Dillard
Latavious Brini, 6-2, 170, Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy
Henry Brito, DB/WR, 5-9, 185, Hialeah
Austin Chacon, 5-11, 160, Miami Christopher Columbus
Shawn Davis, 5-11, 170, Miami Southridge
Brian Edwards, 6-4, 175, Miramar
Alvin Floyd, DB/WR, 5-11, 180), North Miami Beach
Billy Gibson, 5-11, 170, Hialeah Champagnat Catholic
Faion Hicks, 5-10, 185, Fort Lauderdale University School
Michael Hicks, 5-10, 155, Plantation American Heritage
Nathaniel Hidalgo, DB, 6-1, 180, Hialeah
Juwan Horne, 5-9, 170, Miami Killian
Allen Jones, 5-8, 150, Miami Central
Devonta Lopez, 5-9, 165, Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy
Anthony Machado, 5-10, 165, Miami Westminster Christian
Dedrick Mackey, 5-11, 180, Miami Booker T. Washington
Daniel Montoya, DB/RB, 5-9, 180, Weston Cypress Bay
Ray Moore, 5-10, 170, Miami Dade Christian
Eligah Myrthil, DB, 5-10, 165, Hialeah
Marquise Parnell, 5-9, 165, Homestead South Dade
Marqui Passmore, 5-9, 175, Homestead South Dade
Vladimir Santana, 5-10, 170, Miami Braddock
Kaory Simmons, WR/DB, 5-11, 155, Sunrise Piper
D.J. Terry, 6-1, 170, Miami Dade Christian
Marco Wilson, 5-9, 165, Plantation American Heritage
Daniel Wright, 5-9, 170, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

July 08, 2014

Aquinas RB Jordan Scarlett, WR Sam Bruce plan on recruiting South Florida after committing to UM

More on the UM commitments from Jordan Scarlett and Sam Bruce that could not make Wednesday's Miami Herald:

Scarlett before his announcement Tuesday afternoon of he and Bruce: “We’re just a good 1-2 punch. This year at St. Thomas, we’re going to do some great things together because you’re going to have to respect the run, and you can’t [defend Bruce] 1-on-1.

“We’re ready to do that [at UM] and hopefully with some other Florida guys, who can take care of business.”

Added Bruce: “We’re planning on bringing the University of Miami back.”

During Bruce's radio announcement, Scarlett called in from Oregon to say, "Bruce, man, you know I love you. I’m happy we’re doing this thing together at Miami, man."

Bruce's response: “Let’s make it happen.”

Their visit to Coral Gables on June 28 and playing close to home were instrumental factors in their pledges to UM. 

“It’s in my backyard and I know all my family will be able to attend my games,” Bruce said. 

Scarlett becomes UM’s 20th member of its 2015 class, which ranks ninth in the country by 247Sports. Bruce is UM’s fifth member to the 2016 class, which already has four-star studs wide receiver Dionte Mullins, quarterback Jack Allison and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.

Scarlett, who had previous intentions to commit to a school after his senior football season, said he and Bruce are moving their focus to getting others to join them playing close to home.

“That’s why we’re definitely doing the commitment now,” Scarlett said, “so we can get some other guys’ attention, and hopefully we can get them.”

Added Bruce: If guys from Fort Lauderdale and further south commit to the University of Miami, there’s no way we can’t win a national championship.

On top of Scarlett’s list are Monarch High School stars and Alabama commits Shawn Burgess-Becker and Calvin Ridley, whom Scarlett has known since they played optimist football together.

“We definitely want to play together at the college level,” Scarlett said. “We’ve been talking about it. They’re trying to make me go to Alabama, but they said they’ll see how the season goes.”

Scarlett, Burgess-Becker and Ridley are among 14 players from South Florida participating at The Opening. UM’s three other running back commits Jordan Cronkrite (Miami Westminster Christian), Mark Walton (Miami Booker T. Washington), and Dexter Williams (Winter Garden West Orange) are also at the event.

Scarlett said he’s had casual talks with Cronkrite on Tuesday, but “not about Miami or anything like that.”

Cronkrite told the Miami Herald on Friday he “doubts” he’d stick with his commitment to UM if Scarlett were to throw his name in UM’s 2015 recruiting class.

After Scarlett’s announcement, Cronkrite said “I’m good right now,” while hanging out with Killian safety and UM target Jaquan Johnson. Cronkrite said he didn’t really have a reaction to the news and is just going to wait things out.

Williams – who is being heavily recruited by Florida, USC, Tennessee and OhioState – told 247Sports on Tuesday his commitment to UM “is high because that's the place I want to be.” Williams also said he’s not concerned with Scarlett’s pledge adding to the Canes’ running back competition because "It's football. You're going to have a couple players there that you're going to have to beat out for the position.”

Walton told the Miami Herald on Friday: “It doesn’t matter how many running backs are committed to the University of Miami. That’s where I’m committed to. If Jordan [Scarlett] decides to commit to us, too — if all four of us go in — at the end of the day I’m still going to be a hard worker when we’re all out there.”

Scarlett, who said "It's all about the U. It's just Miami. And I love it," when asked if he had any upcoming visits to other schools in the works told the Herald he has tentative plans to visit FSU during its camp on June 16-18, and South Carolina on June 25. Scarlett said he’s visiting the other schools that missed his cut so “I won’t have to worry about it later on in the process.”

Scarlett and Bruce were heavy FSU leans at one time, but Scarlett told 247Sports on Monday he had fallen out of touch with the Seminoles’ coaching staff.

“I feel like they are not stable with communicating with the recruits,” Scarlett said. “It is something they could work on, and maybe that could change my decision later on in the process.”

National Signing Day for Scarlett and other 2015 prospects is Feb. 4. For 2016 prospects like Bruce and Mullins, add another year.

“We just made that decision together that we would commit [Tuesday], and it was just the best decision for us,” Scarlett said.

July 07, 2014

Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE” Youth League 7-on-7 Flag Football Camp


MIAMI - Overtown Optimist Club Presents NFL Houston Texans CB Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE” Youth League 7-on-7 Flag Football Camp Championship Series, taking place at City of Miami Parks & Recreation’s Gibson Park, 401 NW 12th Street, Miami, FL 33136 - Saturday July 12th and July 19th from 9:00AM-1:00PM featuring South Florida’s top youth football teams in competition.

Overtown Optimist Club Presents NFL Houston Texans CB Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE” Youth League 7-on-7 Flag Football Camp Championship Series will take place in the City of Miami for the 2nd year to nurture sportsmanship, competition and athletic training to the youth teams from all over South Florida. Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE” Youth League 7-on-7 Flag Football Camp Championship Series will feature 2 weekends of Nike SPARQ Combine Training for ALL athletes participating and a South Florida Youth League Coaching Clinic hosted by the Defending National Champion Miami Booker T. Washington F-5 Tornadoes Football Coaching Staff on July 12, 2014 at 2:00 PM at Miami Booker T. Washington Senior High School Auditorium - FREE of charge. 7-on-7 football tournament championship play will commence on July 19, 2014.

The Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE” Youth League 7-on-7 Flag Football Camp Championship Series will feature former South Florida standouts & NFL Celebrity Guests/Drill leaders Allen Bailey, DeMarcus VanDyke, Lavonte David, Marcus Forston, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Lamar Miller and Davon Johnson. 2013 Winners included Overtown Tornadoes, Richmond Giants, Liberty City Warriors and Gwen Cherry Bulls – All played in the Sean Taylor Classic Super Bowl & 3 were Pop Warner National Champions. Free food will be provided to all participants courtesy of JC Crump.

The Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE” Youth League 7-on-7 Flag Football Camp Championship Series is a FREE service to the community and all participants. Event Times will be 9:00AM-1:00PM. The Tournament Championship play will be devised of 4 age groups: Seniors (15-14), Juniors (13-12), Sophomores (12-11) and Freshmen (10-9). ALL South Florida Youth Football Leagues are invited. Sponsors are Overtown Optimist Club, Brandon Harris “NO FLY ZONE”, City of Miami, Nike and JC Crump. For more information – Contact: Tim “ICE” Harris timiceharris@gmail.com or Torian Bean torianbean@gmail.com.

The Overtown Optimist Club is a cooperative agreement amongst local organizations throughout South Florida to provide summer recreational/semi-competitive level flag football for participants ages 9-15. The camp strives to create a fun environment for youth to increase their physical activity, learn sportsmanship and skills that will help those succeed in future endeavors both on and off the field.

July 06, 2014

8A Football: Monarch May Be The Biggest Surprise!

When the 2013 high school football season came to an end last November, Monarch head coach Calvin Davis never had to give that season-ending speech. His players had already looked forward to 2014.

There was a feeling for this northwest Broward program that there would be enough talent returning to make a serious run in what already looks like a competitive 8A field that features Broward schools, Miramar, Flanagan, Cypress Bay and Deerfield Beach, a few programs in Palm Beach - and five Miami-Dade schools that have a reason to believe that Orlando is a realistic destination.

"When we finished that season with a loss to Miramar, there wasn't one of the 17 returning starters on this team that didn't believe that we should be in Orlando in December of 2014," Davis said. "I think while people were fixed on the tremendous skilled athletes we had coming back, they didn't pay attention to both sides of our line and our quality linebackers."

While having University of Alabama commits Calvin Ridley (6-1, 175) and Shawn Burgess Becker (6-2, 195) back on both sides of the ball was a given, this program did have enough underclassmen from last year to believe that there was more than just two players that would spark the Knights this coming season.

On offense, the senior class featured state-rated quarterback Michael Harris (6-1, 175), Ellex "Pooh" Davis (5-9, 160) and Brandon Pope, and returning running back Cavarri Morss, a 5-9 speedster, who had a huge spring.

What this program did in the off season was add depth at running back with bruising Brayon Parrish (5-11, 180) and two-way performer Deon Thompson (5-8, 205), who also plays linebacker. Offensive lineman Roberto Montanez (6-4, 270) was also a huge key.

"I think people underestimate the balance that we have on this offense," Davis said. "We showcase that in all our classes."

The senior class on defense is also a spot many took for granted. Led by quality secondary performers Ronnie Hoggins (5-10, 170) and Antone Hodge (5-9, 175), this is a strong and athletic unit. Add in defensive end Musa Abuzahrieh (6-2, 210) and linebacker Chauncey Edwards (5-10, 205) and things get interesting.

"Our defense is very underrated," said Hoggins, who is being looked at by schools such as Wisconsin, TCU and Louisville. "We are athletic, talented and have a reason to believe we can compete with anyone."

Where the Knights figure to make the biggest impact in 2014 will be with the depth that the underclassmen provide. The junior class features defensive lineman Matt Croyle (6-2, 250), secondary performers Isaiah McIntyre (5-9, 175), Buddy Lewis (5-9, 160), Javrick Taylor (6-0, 160) and Delmedris Berry, a 5-10, 155-pounder. Offensive linemen Phillip Douglass (6-2, 270) and Joshua Varona (6-4, 260), and speedy and versatile Cavin Ridley (6-2, 195).

"The true measure of a championship team is the ability to use all the players you have on the roster," Davis said. "We have to believe that there are very few programs that have the talent in all classes that we do."

Sophomore receiver Jerry Jeudy (6-2, 175) has already received numerous college offers - defensive lineman William Wallace (6-0, 265) is an up and coming standout.

Even incoming freshmen such as defensive end Keldrick Hooks (6-4, 270) and defensive lineman Karl Paul (6-0, 260), running back
Jalen Barther (5-10, 155) and linebacker K.J. Lewis (6-0, 180) figure to add to the mix of talent.

"There is really nothing that we are going to say to programs that are the favorites to get to Orlando," said Hoggins. "The only thing we will do is go out every week and show them that we are one of the teams to beat."

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

Jordan Cronkrite updates his commitment status with the University of Miami

More of my interview with Jordan Cronkrite that could not make The Opening story in Sunday’s paper:

Cronkrite, the Miami Westminster Christian running back who committed to UM in April, said Friday he doubts he will stick with his pledge to the Hurricanes if Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas back Jordan Scarlett were to commit to UM.

Scarlett decommitted from Florida Atlantic on June 27 and lists UM, Florida State, Ohio State and South Carolina among his favorites.

“I doubt I’d probably still be with UM,” Cronkrite said. “I’d probably look somewhere else.”

Cronkrite said he spoke with the UM coaching staff before the recent dead period started to see where he stood with the Canes.

“I had a talk with the coaches about the future,” he said. “And where I stand and where we stand at the running back position and all that. It was a nice talk.”

The topics of discussion?

 “If things were to change or more people commit to the school – not certain names – but just what would happen with me and how our relationship would be, and where I’d go on their board if certain people commit.

“They told me I’m still on top of their list right now.”

Cronkrite remains committed to UM in the meantime, and will wait to see how things will unfold in the months to come.

There are multiple reports regarding Dexter Williams’ family wants the Winter Park West Orange tailback to play at the University of Florida.

And the reclassification of Miami Booker T. Washington’s Mark Walton gives UM its most solid commitment at the running back position in the Class of 2015.

Cronkrite simply would prefer not to play in a loaded backfield with Walton, Scarlett, Joseph Yearby, Gus Edwards and Walter Tucker where carries will be scarce for all parties involved.

“[I’m] not running away from competition, but just being realistic,” Cronkrite said. “They said they’re bringing in two and there’s three. There’s more time for me to be seen for the next level after college.”

Cronkrite listed West Virginia, Ohio State, South Carolina and Florida as “the main” schools in contention for his potential services. Cronkrite said he has a close relationship with a coaching staff member from each of the first three schools on that list.

Cronkrite has tentative plans to visit South Carolina and Ohio State after The Opening, which ends on Thursday. He visited West Virginia earlier this summer, and has visited UF before.

July 05, 2014

Plantation American Heritage QB Torrance Gibson gets invite to Elite 11 after all

Plantation American Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson left for Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon on Sunday -- a day earlier than his counterparts participating in The Opening.

Gibson -- who was invited to The Opening as an athlete and not the Elite 11 quarterback competition -- will participate in the Elite 11 after all, but not be in the running for the title crowing the country’s best high school quarterback.

Gibson will get to train and practice with the other 18 quarterbacks in the event on Sunday and Monday. He’ll move over to wide receiver when The Opening begins Tuesday and catch passes during the 7-on-7 competitions, according to Todd Huber, a personnel director for the event.

Gibson -- a five-star prospect who is deciding to attend Tennessee, Auburn, Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Miami and Central Florida -- is taking his opportunity to show off his quarterback skills in stride.

“It means a lot!” Gibson said in a text message Sunday afternoon. “All I want to do is play QB and the Elite 11 is giving me the shot to play QB. It’s a humbling experience.”

***Stay tuned Saturday night for my story with the inside scoop on the three University of Miami running backs, and the Canes’ biggest target at the position, all attending The Opening.*** 

July 04, 2014

UM picks up two WR commits on Al Golden's birthday in Terrell Chatman, Dionte Mullins

Al Golden got himself two wide receivers for his 45th birthday.

The University of Miami picked up commitments Friday from Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Central’s Terrell Chatman and Gulliver Prep’s Dionte Mullins after both raved about their recent visits to the school.

Chatman visited UM on June 27, and came away impressed with offensive coordinator James Coley and wide receiver coach/recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll, and the school’s campus. Chatman (6-3, 180) is rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.

“They sent a clear message that they wanted me," Chatman said to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "When I went down there it was everything I expected. I was surprised how small the campus was, but I really liked that. It's always been a school that I really liked.

Mullins, a 2016 freak of an athlete underrated with four stars by 247Sports, and his mother visited UM a day after Chatman, and came away wowed after their meeting with Coley, Carroll and Golden.

“It was a great meeting with had together – like a family meeting,” Mullins said Sunday during the Nike Football Festival event at Ransom Everglades High. “I felt like I was home.”

Playing close to home, family and friends were also an overwhelming factor for Mullins, who said the UM coaches made an impact keeping a focus on academics -- while football was the main topic of discussion, of course.

“They said I’d be a great weapon they can use,” said Mullins, who had more than 15 offers from schools around the country including Florida State and Alabama. “I kept that in mind a lot.”

Mullins may have also been leaning more towards UM after the coaching staff hired Gulliver offensive coordinator Jorge Baez to be its new assistant director of player personnel on Monday.

Baez, who was coaching the Gulliver Prep team on Sunday during its 7-on-7 tournament, said through a text message he took the UM job because “it was a great opportunity for me and my family.

Baez has had previous coaching experiences at the college level as the wide receivers coach at Southern University (Louisiana) and a quality control assistant at Ole Miss.

“After talking with Coach Golden and seeing how many changes he has done to the football facilities and the level of commitment the university has made to improve the program, it was a blessing to receive this opportunity,” Baez said.

Chatman becomes the 19th prospect to join UM’s 2015 class. On Thursday, UM picked up its 18th commitment in the 2015 class with Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons defensive end Richard McIntosh.

Mullins becomes the fourth recruit in UM’s 2016 recruiting class, which could add Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce to its list on Tuesday. Bruce is choosing between UM, FSU and Ohio State.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be in this situation right now,” Mullins said. 

June 28, 2014

Productive June Boosts UM's Recruiting Perception

For those who have long poked holes in the University of Miami’s recruiting strategy under coach Al Golden, it may be wise to take a few steps back and see what was accomplished this June in Coral Gables.

Less than a year after coming off NCAA probation, the Hurricanes geared up to make this June one of the most special ones since Golden and his staff arrived. Five one day camps on campus that attracted not only stellar athletes from throughout the state and country, but also helped this program make a statement that south Florida would once again be a priority.

With last weekend’s 1,000 campers in two days, the five camps brought in over 2,500 athletes who spent six hours learning from coaches, present and former players and local high school coaches – as well as college coaches from schools such as Appalachian State, Temple and dozens of programs throughout the country.

In addition to the on campus events, the University of Miami’s successful “Deserve Victory Tour” helped to stake a claim in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties – with visits to local parks such as Lauderdale Lakes, Betty Ferguson in Miami Gardens, Gibson Park in Overtown and Richmond Park in Perrine, bringing in another 2,000 athletes.

With former players and current high school coaches such as Roland Smith (Miami Central), Earl Little (Miami Jackson) and several local coaches who brought players in record numbers, this was indeed a season that not only got the prospects on to campus, but netted several commitments along the way.

“When you can get top prospects on your campus and showcase your coaching staff, it’s huge for the program,” said Smith, who starred at the school and now runs one of the most successful programs in the country. “The chance for some of these top athletes to see current players is a big thing.”

At a time when the school is moving forward after the probation and bowl sanctions, this June was vital to bring top flight prospects onto campus, and form players such as Miami Booker T. Washington receiver Antonio Callaway, it was a chance to showcase his skills against some of the best defensive backs around.

“This was a great camp for me to attend,” Callaway pointed out. “I had the chance to learn a lot and run patterns against defensive backs that have offers from schools across the country.”

This June saw the Hurricanes attract major names to Coral Gables. Rising seniors such as Palm Beach Gardens linebacker Tevon Coney, Palm Beach Lakes’ defensive back Maxwell Howell, Deerfield Beach defensive end Jason Strowbridge, Coral Gables receiver Shaquery Wilson, Miami Westminster Christian standouts Jordan Cronkite and Tim Irvin, Miami Northwestern corner DeAndre Baker, South Plantation safety Rod Archer, Norland defensive back Antonio Howard, Braddock receiver Chris Linares, Miami Jackson defensive back Tovias Parker, Miami Central defensive lineman Fermin Silva, Cardinal Gibbons defensive lineman Richard McIntosh and Hallandale defensive end Dana Levine – to name a few.

Even when some of the athletes didn’t work out at the camp, they still took the time to come with their parents and coaches to check out the program and campus. That was something that hadn’t happened in the past.

“I have been watching the recruiting here at this school for decades,” Dana Wiley of Prep Films pointed out. “I would have to say that this June was perhaps the most active in the past five years. This school finally got off probation and now was on that even playing field with the rest of the programs.”

What Golden and his staff wanted out of this June was to put their best foot forward. The growth of the campus is evident at every turn. New building are popping up in every corner, and the football facilities – once viewed as archaic – have been elevated in a major way.

For Class of 2017 quarterback Toddy Centeio of Royal Palm Beach, the opportunity to come to the camp and work with some of the top quarterback coaches, the visit was well worth it. He came with his father and some teammates who took the tour of the campus during the visit.

“This is a great place,” Centeio pointed out. “Plenty of history here and a great future as well.”

Underclassmen really made this June special. Class of 2016 prospects such as Miami High’s Keyshawn “Pie” Young, Champagnat Catholic receiver Darnell Salomon, Hallandale quarterback Tyler Huntley, Dillard defensive lineman Aaron Thompson – as well as Cardinal Gibbons standouts Elisha Daniels, Elijah Daniels and nationally recruited running Deon McIntosh all took part as well.

In addition to Centeio, Cardinal Gibbons’ defensive back Daniel Wright, the brother of former St. Thomas Aquinas and current NFL safety Major Wright and receiver Leroy Henley came out. So did Miramar receiver Lavarus Tigner.

The camp also attracted out of area prospects such as quarterback Jack Allison (Palmetto), lineman Geron Christian (Ocala Trinity), Christian Pellage (Brooksville Nature Coast), Tallahassee Godby lineman Brendan Loftus and Scott Patchan from Tampa Freedom.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

June 27, 2014

Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett has change of heart, decommits from FAU

Many felt it was only a matter of time before Jordan Scarlett hit the open college football recruiting market once again.

Scarlett – a 5-11, 210-pound running back now attending Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas – made it official by decommitting from Florida Atlantic on Friday.

Scarlett’s commitment to the Owls came within hours of Roger Harriott’s hiring as FAU’s assistant head coach in December. Scarlett considers Harriott to be a father-figure so his pledge came during an emotional time with Harriott leaving his post as Davie University School’s head coach.

“[Harriott] understood my decision and he wants the best for me,” Scarlett said Friday.

Scarlett’s decision comes the day after he visited the University of Miami campus with his cousin Rodrick Archer, a 2015 linebacker from South Plantation, and close friend Sam Bruce, a 2016 slot receiver from Aquinas.

When asked if he was ready to de-commit from FAU before his visit to UM Thursday, Scarlett flat out said “no.”

“I just came to the day where I just wanted to make that choice [and decommit] because I felt it was the best decision for me,” Scarlett said. “I felt like there’s other schools out there other than FAU that can get me ready for the NFL and that’s my goal.”

UM has been on Scarlett with constant contact and multiple invites to come visit the campus unofficially. Scarlett said he had a great time just talking to coaching staff.

“I feel like they really cared about me and they stuck with me throughout the whole process,” he said regarding UM.

Three other schools are also in the picture now for Scarlett, who is no longer considering FAU at the moment.

South Carolina is “an SEC program and you can start as you soon as you get there,” Scarlett said. Former U-School teammate Skai Moore was a standout freshman linebacker for the Gamecocks last season.

Ohio State is “a Big Ten program and they have a great offensive line,” Scarlett said. “They run the ball a lot.”

Florida State has also made its mark with Scarlett, who said the Seminoles are “just telling me that’s the place I need to be because that’s where I’ll excel.”

Despite his new list, Scarlett -- who had 119 carries for 979 yards and 17 touchdowns last season for U-School -- has a strong desire to attend an in-state college.

June 23, 2014

Florida Fire is flawless at fourth-annual IMG7v7 Championship

BRADENTON - Miami’s Florida Fire was crowned as the national champions after upending Tampa, Fla.’s Unsigned Preps, 20-18, and going a perfect 9-0 (4-0 pool play, 5-0 tournament) during the fourth-annual IMG7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy, Jun. 20-22. The Fire were led by a high-powered scoring assault orchestrated by QB Kato Nelson (Champagnaut Catholic School/Hialeah) and star-studded Alabama-commits Calvin Ridley (Monarch HS/Coconut Creek) and Shawn Burgess-Becker (Monarch HS/Coconut Creek), and according to Head Coach Dennis Marroquin, the team was eager to prove itself as the nation’s best.

“The kids were very hungry and it goes all the way back to our tryouts,” said Marroquin. “The kids knew that to get the respect they deserved, they had to go out there and win... to win against this level of competition and that are known nationally known, we earned this.”

Unsigned Preps were vying to keep the National Championship in Tampa, after back-to-back champion Team Tampa was eliminated earlier in the day. Unsigned Preps featured an opposing wide receiver trip comprised of Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech/Tampa, Fla.), Nate Craig (Tampa Bay Tech/Tampa, Fla.) and Ray Ray McCloud (Sickles HS/Tampa, Fla.).

However, the biggest movers on the day were the Detroit-based Michigan Elite. The Michigan Elite entered the day as the #32-seed after coming up shy in each of their four pool play games. It was a total team effort spearheaded by superb QB play from Jacob Baldwin (Grand Ledge HS/Grand Ledge, Mich.) and ATH Sean Bunting (Chippewa Valley HS/McComb Heights, Mich.) and excellent play on both sides of the ball from ATH , that allowed the team to rally on Sunday for a third-place finish.

“We weren’t surprised how things went today – we started off pool play a little slow, but we were close in every game yesterday so we knew we could win,” remarked Michigan Elite Head Coach Ron Rice. “I don’t know what happened over night, I don’t know what they had for breakfast, but everything started clicking… It was a long trip, but the guys had a great time, but very well worth – they played a lot and learned a lot.”

Meanwhile, the Future STARS division ended with a south Florida matchup between Ft. Lauderdale’s Adrenaline Rush and Miami’s Red Zone Elite. A year ago, the Adrenaline Rush were one errant pass away from reaching the finals, but this year, closed the gap and won it all after taking down Red Zone Elite.

“This year, we re-tooled and knew more of what to expect and our kids did their job and earned the title,” said Adrenaline Rush Head Coach Jerry Scalzo. “Our players held their own here against some of the best competition from around the country at some of the best facilities in the nation and got to size up against other players – it was great.”

At the end of the day, the top-four teams at the IMG7v7 National Championship, in order, were 1. Florida Fire, 2. Unsigned Preps, 3. Michigan Elite and 4. BBT Athletics (Los Angeles, Calif.).

June 21, 2014

Bush, Flanagan Have Built A Quality Football Team

Devin Bush remembers when it happened. The time and place where his Flanagan High football program had finally tuned that corner and became a team that was no longer a pretender in the race to get to the state championship game.

"After year of playing top-flight teams such as Lakeland on the road and coming up short, it was a game last year against Sanford Seminole." Bush recalled. "When we went up there and won that game, I looked every player on this team and told them that we had indeed arrived."

Bush was right. The former Hialeah-Miami Lakes, Florida State University and NFL standout defensive back, who took over the Falcons last season, knew that once his program could beat a quality opponent on the road, he could tell them that they had arrived - and using that win - this football program had the best season on school history, finishing 9-1 in the regular season and narrowly losing to power Deerfield Beach in a game that this program could have easily won.

"Last year was one of those seasons where you can honestly look at this football program and say that the corner had been turned," Bush explained. "We can no longer settle for moral victories and second place prizes. To tell you the truth, we fully expect to be in Orlando in December and playing for that 8A state title."

As he watched his team mature over the past season, Bush knows that this is a football program that not only has the talent, but now has the experience to win those close games - and it all starts on offense, where this team really has the talent to come out on top.

Led by rising senior quarterback Ryan Stanley (6-2, 185) and sophomore Stanford Samuels (5-11, 165), the Falcons have the most promising pair of quarterbacks in south Florida. Both have proven that they can move this team and have what it takes to make the offense special.

"I think people were looking at this team as a more defensive program this year," Bush pointed out. "But this offense is stronger and more experienced than last year - ad that's what will set us apart."

With a more confident Stanley, who enters his fourth season at the varsity level, this unit can boast some quality football talent. Senior receivers Robert Foy (5-11, 190), Keavon Mitchell (6-0, 170), Walter Jackson (5-11, 190), Paul Clarke (5-7, 140), Stanley Poisson (6-1, 160) and University of Miami commitment Emonee Spence (6-3, 190), and tight ends Bradley Martin (6-2, 190) and Deandre Hampton (6-0, 190) provide plenty of firepower. Add in juniors Tyler Peppers (6-3, 165), Keith Coffee (6-2, 170), Isaiah Collins (5-7, 150) and Maurice Codner (5-10, 165) and the quality depth is in place.

"We wanted to build a program where if one player went down, we wouldn't struggle," Bush said. "If I found out anything in my years of playing this game, it's a deep team is a successful team."

In the spring, the Falcons found out plenty about how much balance the offense had, especially at running back where seniors Michael Francis (5-9, 170), transfer Arkeem Granger (6-0, 210) and gifted sophomore Anthony Johnson (5-9, 160) all gave this team plenty of speed, athleticism and talent.

In addition, the offensive line, which was viewed as a spot that needed the most improvement, showed why this unit will be in great hands. Seniors Cameron Campbell (6-3, 255), Darnell Brown (5-9, 230), Kevin Lambert (6-2, 260), Brandon Salmon (5-8, 285) and Bryanna Pages (6-0, 215) received plenty of help from juniors Isaiah Murray (6-3, 215), Sean Remmey (6-2, 305) and Giovannie Ramos (6-1, 265) - as well as sophomores Anthony Vega (6-0, 265), Marcus Etienne (5-11, 235) and Jamar Lambert, a 6-4, 340-pounder.

While the offense has been a huge surprise, the defense will be as solid as ever - with perhaps the most impressive and deep group you will find anywhere. Leading the way is Bush's son Devin Jr., a highly recruited junior who stands 6-0, 215-pounds is among the best in the country. Joining Bush Jr. are seniors Donte Brown (5-9, 180), Western transfer Adrienne Talon (6-1, 200) and Jordan Clarke (5-11, 200), and juniors Natrone Ray (5-11, 230), Michael Bowe (6-2, 205) and Nicky Donadel (6-0, 195).

"While we are strong at linebacker, our defensive front is quick and athletic," Bush said. "Seniors such as Jawan Roulhac (5-11, 190), Julian Wright (5-11, 185) and Emanuel Strachan(6-1, 180), and junior Dennis Jackson, a 5-11, 255-pounder."

The Falcons' secondary is another place that improvement will be noticed. Seniors Bradley Hall (6-2, 180), Willie Williams (6-2, 160), Raekwon Johns (5-8, 155), Jackie Senat (5-11, 160), Nicoli McCarthy (5-11, 180) and Jamal Souffrant (5-7. 155), Will Viveiros (6-2, 170), and a strong underclass - led by gifted Devin Gil (6-1, 205), Rocco Marucci (6-1, 160), Mark Pleffner (6-0, 190), Charles Williams (5-10, 175) and Joshua Metellus (5-10, 180).

"Our goal this past year was to assemble a team where quality depth would be in place," Bush admitted. "I think we certainly accomplished that."

In addition to a tough district that features Miramar, Cypress Bay and Everglades, the Falcons will get a challenge from Miami Norland as well.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

June 15, 2014

Columbus will rely on a more experienced team in 2014

When Christopher Columbus head coach Chris Merritt and his assistants look back on the 2013 football season, the lack of experience jumped out as the reason this team failed to win the district and posted an “average” 7-5 record.

While a 1-4 start put the Explorers in a hole, it didn’t stop this quality program from finishing strong with 40 seniors helping to keep the team together down the stretch.

In a year where four of the five losses came by a combined 14 points, it was one of those seasons where the players, coaches and fans were left shaking their collective heads when the season came to an end during a two-day playoff game against rival Coral Gables. The Explorers were in control when the rains came on the first day, but seemed to fall apart on the second day.

Coral Gables, which had one of its best seasons in nearly 14 years, ended up advancing and narrowly lost to eventual 8A state champion South Dade. That gave Merritt and his team a feeling that a few breaks here and there and this program could have been holding its first ever state championship trophy last December.

“It really was a frustrating season because we just didn’t have the experience to make those plays needed to be a championship team,” Merritt explained. “The talent was there, but many of the players we had on the roster were never in a position of making those plays in the big games.”

What Columbus faced the past two years was losing 78 seniors and replacing them with several younger prospects. Add to that the many players who transferred out over a two-year period and that could very well be why those close losses defined the season.

As the 2014 season looms on the horizon, there is a different feeling around campus. While there are a record 54 seniors on this year’s team, many of those 2015 prospects are ready to be those decision makers.

Prospects such as quarterback Tucker Beirne, running back Ernest Donaldson, receivers Austin Maloney and Xavier Williams, and versatile Andres Fernandez on offense – and lineman Alejandro Levy, linebackers Fernando Escobar and Peter Delatour, and quality secondary performers J.R. Garrigo, Zack VanDemark and Anthony Rosenfeld.

“The big difference is with Tucker on offense,” Merritt explained. “Two years ago, he was thrust into a position where he just wasn’t ready, but nobody has worked harder to be a leader and a physical threat like he has. Levy has done the same on defense.”

While this senior class is indeed gifted and now loaded with the experience needed, its underclassmen – perhaps the best in recent memory – that will give this program a huge lift and provide them with enough talent to be one of the favorites to get to Orlando this season.

The junior class is stacked with difference makers on both sides of the ball, with athletic Ivan Smith, speedy running back Amir Rasul, Palmetto transfer Jerron Rollins at receiver, steady linemen Kyle Mann and Kevin Householder, and quarterback Alejandro Ros adding to the offense.

Emerging linebacker/defensive end prospect Bryce Handy and linebacker Dean Maestu have proven to be quality players who will be instrumental this coming season.

“This is a really a quality underclass we have this season,” Merritt explained. “Add in 2017 defensive back Trajan Bandy, and it even gets better.”

With teams such as Killian, South Dade, Coral Gables, Southwest Miami and North Miami serving as major obstacles this season, the Explorers, coming off a productive spring where they knocked off Boward County programs Cardinal Gibbons and Boyd Anderson, have the right to believe they can be right in the mix.

“I have to believe that our schedule has a lot to do with the success of the program,” Merritt said. “We start with the defending 8A state champions, South Dade, play our rival Belen Jesuit, compete in what was the district title game last year with a very talented Coral Gables and then play the three-time 6A state champion Central.”

Instead of playing defending 5A state champion Plantation American Heritage again, the Explorers will fly to Kentucky on Oct. 11 to play Highlands High.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

June 14, 2014

Mark Walton's commitment to Miami 'as solid as they come' with reclassification to 2015 class

Mark Walton, Miami Booker T. Washington’s stud running back and University of Miami commitment, has reclassified to the Class of 2015.

Walton and his coach Tim Harris Jr. confirmed Walton’s move up from the Class of 2016 on Saturday while participating in the Miami Dolphins 7-on-7 tournament at Plantation Park.

With the news, UM’s 2015 recruiting class is now up to 15 members and ranked ninth overall in the country by 247Sports. Running backs Jordan Cronkrite from Westminster Christian and Dexter Williams from Winter Garden West Orange are also committed to the Canes, who could boast one of the most talented backfields in the country with former Miami Central back Joseph Yearby already enrolled.

"Man, that would be a great backfield," Walton said.

Harris said Walton’s process began at the end of last season, and included Walton taking a night-school class and online classes to meet requirements.

“He dedicated to wanting to reclassify and we’ve been all behind him,” Harris said. “Every kid’s situation is a little different, and we want to help Mark to be able to one day do all the things he wants to do for himself and his family.”

Walton, who visited UM on Tuesday with teammates including wide receiver Antonio Callaway and cornerback Devante Davis, said the Canes’ coaching staff was elated to hear the news.

“The coaching staff was excited, and I’m excited about it, too,” Walton said. “When I saw they’re reaction, my reaction went up.”

Walton -- who has seen his recruitment slow in recent months -- hopes to receive offers from Alabama, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Arkansas, but still relishes his close relationships with the Canes staff, including running back coach Hurlie Brown.

“I try to convince people to come to the University of Miami and get that swagger back down in Coral Gables, and try to get the tradition back going and try to win a National Championship,” Walton said.

Added Harris: “He’s still committed to Miami. He’s as solid as they come.”

June 07, 2014

Not Paying Attention To Miramar Would Be A Mistake!

After being upset by Palm Beach Gardens in the 8A state playoffs and then watching its most successful head coach in school history take a college job, there were those who were quick to write Miramar off as a contender for the 2014 season.

While this program has been one of the best in Florida over the past five years, there was feeling that losing Coach Damon Cogdell and a quality class of seniors would certainly stand in the way of the Patriots being among the elite for the upcoming season.

Fearing many of the remaining players may be swayed to leave and attend other schools, Miramar High administrators worked quickly to hire a replacement for Cogdell, who had taken his alma mater to levels the program had never been since opening in the early 1970s.

With Cogdell heading to West Virginia, his help in naming a successor, quickly was huge as this program welcomed assistant coach Matt Strout to lead the Patriots into the 2014 season. The decision to hire someone who had been on staff was easy. That way the staff that had so much success working under Cogdell would remain in place and the transition would be smooth and the players would be content to stay on

While several key players graduated on both sides of the ball, it was the offense that really took a hit as two quarterbacks, a number of quality running backs and receivers and linemen departed, leaving Strout and his staff with a huge spring assignment.

“This spring was so much easier because of the staff that remained,” Strout admitted. “We realized that our defense would be solid, but there were many questions to be answered on the offensive side of the ball, where a new quarterback, several new linemen and a coordinator all had to gel.”

Class of 2016 quarterback Demari Simpkins (5-11, 170) was the perfect place to start for a team that featured some impressive talent returning. Simpkins, who is still a work in progress, picked things up quickly, and with a 13-day trip planned this summer to several colleges, learning all facets of the spread offense will come easier.

“We are very excited about what Demari brings to this offense,” Strout explained. “We lost two senior leaders at the position from last year, so it was essential that he came in and picked things up almost immediately.”

While Simpkins will manage the offene, he will not be asked to do it all. The senior class is loaded with playmakers, starting with running back Alex Anderson (6-0, 205), who is regarded as one of the best in the state. There is also Sanjai Bruno (5-9, 180), who saw extensive playing time a year ago. Receivers Khalil Lewis (6-1, 195) and 6-4, 200-pound Kevin Purlett are quality players as well.

The offensive line, which lost some depth, features University of Miami commit Leeward Brown (6-4, 320), Stewart Boyd (6-3, 285) and versatile Jaquan Owens, who made the move from defense last season.

“This senior class has experience and leadership,” Strout pointed out. “That was huge in our spring game win at a very athletic Lake Wales squad.”

Class of 2016 prospects such as running back Greg McCrae (5-11, 165), receiver Kyle Anthony (6-4, 180) and Everglades line transfer Obinna Nwankwo (6-3, 280) give this program plenty to work with during the summer.

As many questions swirled around Strout’s first spring as head coach on the offensive side of the ball, defensively, the Patriots were in great hands.

With a secondary that is perhaps as good as any in the country, there was a feeling that things would fall into place – especially at the linebacker position where Broward County Player of the Year, Ryan Samuels and David Lee, had graduated.

“We knew coming in with our secondary and what we had up front, we could be just as dominating as we have been in the past,” Strout explained. “It was a matter of using some of our rising seniors with a few juniors to set the tempo. When we left Lake Wales, I think we all felt very good about players such as senior Danzel King (6-1, 210), and juniors Deshondre Pitts (5-10, 185) and Mark Niles (5-9, 195) to start with.

The Patriots also believe that they have as active and athletic a defensive front as anyone. With seniors Bryton Diejuste (6-2, 225) and Darrel Swanson (6-3, 205), and junior playmaker Khalil Roan (5-10, 265), moving the ball would be very tough in 2014.

If you really want to make Strout and Patriot fans smile, mention the secondary and you will get nothing but glowing comments.

Led by highly-recruited Tyrek Cole (6-0, 170) and Jeff Hill (5-9, 175), the tradition continues. Add in versatile and athletic Herbert Miller (6-2, 195), Josmar Diaz (5-11, 180) and McArthur transfer Kendrell McFadden (6-3, 180) and catching a ball in this secondary will be nearly impossible.

The Patriots will also feature 2017 standout Brian Edwards, a 6-4, 185-pounder as well.

“I have not seen all the defensive secondaries in the country, but if there is a better one than this, you better not schedule them,” Strout said. This is a group that is being recruited by every college in the country. Having McFadden gives us additional freedom to move him around the field to make plays.”

The Patriots will make good use of the 13-day trip that includes Cincinnati, Ohio State, Louisville, Kentucky, Marshall, Ohio U, Pittsburgh, Akron and a visit to see Coach Cogdell and West Virginia. In addition, the Patriots will visit Auburn, UAB, Alabama, Samford and Florida.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.

May 24, 2014

South Florida leaves a mark in NFL Draft, again!

When Ryan Shazier walked across the stage two weeks ago in New York, put on the Pittsburgh Steelers' cap and embraced the Commissioner, it sent a message to every youth and high school football prospect in south Florida that dreams do come true.

What has become common place through the years, area athletes have not only made it happen in high school and college, but have shown so much skill and athleticism, this region of the country continues to be a pipeline that ushers quality football talent from local football fields and brings them to a professional level.

Whether it’s Shazier, a one-time Plantation standout who carved out a positive reputation at Ohio State before landing with the Steelers in the first round (15th selection), or a dozen other south Florida-bred athletes who found a home this year with NFL teams, the reality that the next great football prospect will be lining up at a school near you this coming fall.

There is no hiding that south Florida has become ground zero during spring football each and every year – as hundreds of colleges flock to programs from Deerfield Beach to Homestead. That’s why having a first round selection such as Shazier – or former Miami Northwestern standout Teddy Bridgewater being selected in the first round is no longer a major surprise.

For Bridgewater, who was chosen by Minnesota with the final pick of the first round, there was really never any doubt to when this Louisville standout would be chosen. Even though he was picked 32nd, there are those who still feel that he was by far the most NFL-ready quarterback coming out of college this year.

While Bridgewater didn’t wow many with his pro day workouts, there were teams – such as the Vikings who felt otherwise. Remember, during the season, many felt that if he was the No. 1 pick overall by Houston, it would not be a total surprise, but unfortunately, instead of focusing on what he did over three years – leading the Cardinals to over 30 wins – they opted to dwell on what he did in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

While Shazier and Bridgewater were south Floridians chosen in the first round, former St. Thomas Aquinas and Southwest Miami defensive back Lamarcus Joyner was impressive enough for the St. Louis Rams to select him in the second round.

The FSU product, who grew up in Miami-Dade’s inner city, just down the road from Bridgewater, was easily one of the most athletic football players in this year’s draft. He is a true south Florida product, having played youth football and high school in two counties and being viewed as one of the nation’s premier athletes.

The south Florida player rush didn’t end with those three talented performer. Nebraska’s Stanley Jean Baptiste – who attended tiny Westlake Prep – and was coached by current Champagnat Catholic head coach Mike Tunsil – was another area player who was selected in this year’s draft. The New Orleans Saints chose the safety in the second round.

The south Florida talent explosion continued into the third round with St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back product Dezmen Southward (Wisconsin), who was chosen by Atlanta, and lineman Brandon Linder (University of Miami) – selected by Jacksonville.

In the fourth round, Miami Central running back Devonta Freeman (FSU), was taken by Atlanta. Freeman, who began his career in high school at Edison before leading the Rockets to the state championship, was joined by St. Thomas Aquinas and Wisconsin running back James White (New England) and Piper and Utah State safety Nevin Lawson (Detroit).

The fifth round also highlighted south Florida talent with former Miami Central lineman Kevin Pamphile, who emerged at Purdue and was selected by Tampa Bay, and one-time South Dade standout defensive end Ed Stinson (Alabama), who will be headed to Arizona. FAU defensive back Keith Reaser (Killian) was selected by San Francisco.

This year’s south Florida talent extended to the seventh and final round with one-time Pompano Beach Blanche Ely defensive back Jabari Price (North Carolina) finding a home with Minnesota, and former Stranahan lineman Demetrius Rhaney (Tennessee State), who landed with the St. Louis Rams.

“When you look at all the south Florida talent that got drafted – and those who signed on as free agents, it is truly amazing,” said Central assistant coach Alexander Snipes. “We take great pride in the athletes we produce down here. It speaks volumes for all the programs in Miami-Dade and Broward.”

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.

Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.