It was nearly seven months ago, but for Deerfield Beach football coach Art Taylor and his team, the heart-breaking loss to Northwestern in the Orange Bowl is something that they think about as they prepare for this Friday's spring game at 5A Palm Bay.
Being less than two minutes from its second 6A state finals appearance in three years, the Bucks saw the dream fall apart as the Bulls went 99 yards and left the team with an empty feeling.
As the attention shifts to 2008, Taylor's talented team returns 15 players from a group that handed St. Thomas Aquinas its only loss during an 11-3 season.
Coming back for another shot is senior quarterback Denard Robinson (5-11, 180), who is as gifted a player as you get at this level. This speedy (4.38) athlete went over 2,000 total yards and has schools from UCF to West Virginia and Purdue watching his progress.
The Class of 2009 also includes safety Adrian Witty (5-11, 185), who also put up some fast (4.4) numbers at combines in the off season. There are also receiver Travis McDonald (6-2, 185), defensive tackle Johnny Seays (6-0, 220), offensive/defensive lineman Raymond Newton (6-1, 215) and cornerback Elliott Atkins (5-9, 165), who is considered one of the emerging cover-corners.
Class of 2010 running back Cassius McDowell surprised everyone last year by running for 966 yards and 13 touchdowns. Another rising junior to keep an eye on is defensive back/quarterback Donte Dotson, a 5-9, 165-pounder.
One of the players to watch for in the Class of 2011 is free safety Khambral Garland (5-10, 175), who is quick and athletic. He had four interceptions a year ago.