As I had the chance to sit back and reflect on this past weekend of football in Miami, I have to say that everything was well done and planned out. The Miami Sports Kickoff Classic sponsored by Nike at Traz Powell Stadium was a huge success for year No. 1.
At a time when Florida high school football fans have asked why their teams always have to travel out of state, the answer came last weekend when South Florida traditional powers Booker T. Washington (defending 4A state champs), Pahokee (defending 2B state champs) and defending 6A and national champion Northwestern welcomed three impressive programs from across the country.
The event was researched and the organizer knew exactly what they were doing when inviting Chandler Hamilton (Arizona), Olive Branch (Mississippi) and fabled California program, Long Beach Poly.
Those who matched these teams up realized that this was 2008 and not 2007, when all three South Florida teams were nationally rated and regarded by some who watch football around the nation as the three best in the country. Even in a rebuilding year for the two Miami-Dade teams, everyone realized that the talent would still be on display - just younger talent!
This year, it was a given that BTW would be down after losing 17 starters. The Tornadoes are a very good football team, but Hamilton is a tremendous program that never backed down against the “Florida speed” that has long given every program fits. They came to Florida, made no mistakes and won the game. They were the better team on this night.
Perhaps the game that this year’s event will be associated with forever will be the Pahokee matchup with Olive Branch. With former OB quarterback and current UM backup Cannon Smith on hand along with his father, Fred Smith, the founder, chairman, president, and CEO of Fed Ex, they were treated to a game that will long be remembered.
Pahokee had things so much in control, head coach Blaze Thompson emptied the bench and had starters such as Nu’keese Richardson (Florida commit) and running back Vincent Smith (Michigan commit) wearing just baseball hats and relaxing on the bench. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Blue Devils 31st straight win. Leading 47-20 with over 8 minutes left, Pahokee saw its lead and winning streak evaporate as Olive Branch rallied for an impressive 48-47 win.
It was truly a great game. One that Mike Sofia (Miami Sports Commission), Cheryl Golden (GMAC executive secretary) and a number of hard working people spent plenty of hours planning, so we could enjoy such a tremendous event.
The final game of the weekend saw the Bulls, with their 30 game winning streak, square off with Poly. As University of Miami freshman safety Vaughn Telemaque watched from his former school’s sideline with his brothers and father, this one would be close early, but Poly is a well coached team that has talent all over the field. They had been gearing up for this game since it was announced.
This is a Poly program that had more than its share of talent over the years, and like Northwestern, has put plenty of talent into the NFL such as Mark Carrier, Darnell Bing, Marcedes Lewis, Manuel Wright, Winston Justice, Willie McGinest, Gene Washington, Tony Hill, Stephone Paige, Leonard Russell, Earl McCullouch and DeSean Jackson to name a few.
They came armed with plenty of prospects as well, and in the end won the game 28-7.
After two games with this current team, coach Billy Rolle has to be concerned. Just 7 points in eight quarters, and the season ahead will only get tougher for the Bulls who have a quality quarterback in sophomore Teddy Bridgewater, and one of the best group of runners anywhere with Daquan Hargrett (West Virginia commit), Corvin Lamb and Tyresse Jones. The line is impressive, and with receivers such as junior Michaelee Harris, Cadale Blackmon and speedy Tyrell Lewis, they are in great hands. I cannot see why this team won’t score more points.
Defensively, Kenneth Dillard and Alvin Mike have stepped up to play linebacker and look great. Khalid Marshall, Jamal Walker, Corey Jackson and Carl St. Hubert are helping to make up for the loss of junior standout Todd Chandler (ACL).
This is a tough year in 6A as Deerfield also found out this past weekend when the Bucks, the favorite to win it all this year, was upset by Everglades.
As far as the event is concerned, it was great. The only suggestion for next year is to have all three games on Sunday, prior to Labor Day. Have one at 10 a.m., the other at 2 p.m. and the final game at 8 p.m., which opens up television to broadcast the games nationally and will give more fans around South Florida the chance to see these nationally-rated programs live.
This past weekend, 46 games were held on Friday and Saturday in the region, which kept more fans from watching this tremendous show.
The only other thing I would suggest is to have a game program so the fans know which players they are watching and which ones are the top recruits. Other than that, it was one of the best events we have attended. I am already looking forward to next year.
Welcome to the official kickoff for the 2008 high school football season.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Florida's reigning and defending Class 5A champion, participates in the first offical game of the year as part of the Kirk Herbstreit Challenge.
Kickoff is at 11 am from Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium.
Update often to follow along.
The Burger King (yes, the one with the big head) is out witht he players for the coin flip. STA wins and defers. Can I get some onion rings, King?
Elder drives 35 yards in six plays and takes a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard field goal y Tony Miliano. Aquinas to receive the kick. 9:52 remains in the first.
STA did not pick up a first and will punt.
Elder drove down the field and reached the STA 12 before Dylan Drake forced a fumble. After trading several possessions, Elder took a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter on a 5-yard pass from Mark Miller to Josh Jones.
After three consecutive Becker passes for 65 yards, STA cut the deficit to three on an 8-yard run by Ronnie Kennedy. With 9:04 remaining in the first half, the Raiders trail 10-7.
Aquinas forces a three-and-out, but Elder recovers the punt after it struck an Aquinas player. Elder has a first-down at the STA 37. Cody Riggs intercepted for Aquinas, but the Raiders were soon forced to punt.
Elder just punted, and Aquinas takes over from its 39 with 2:42 to play in the first half.
Uh oh. Someone woke up the Raiders. Becker just hit Duron Carter for a 59-yard bomb. St. Thomas leads 14-10 with 1:53 to play. Carter blew by two players en route to the score.
Dylan Drake gets an interception for the Raiders, who take over at the Elder 26 with 1:01 to play.
STA touchdown! Becker finds Beau Bucci for an 18-yard gain. Duron Carter and Gabe Holmes each blocked their defender out of the way for the score. Raiders up 21-10 with 39 seconds to play. Halftime. Time to eat some lunch. Back in 20.
And we're back with the second half. STA receives.
That was quick. Becker found Dwayne Difton for a 90-yard touchdown to open the second half. STA up 28-10. I did not even get to recap lunch.
Elder went three-and-out, but got a first down when the Raiders were caught with 12 men on the field. Elder again failed to get a first and punted. Raiders have the ball at the Elder 15 with 9:06 to play in the third quarter.
Penalty after penalty moved the Raiders back to their own 4 before Benjamin Turk's punt to the 45. 7:15 to play in the third.
Home field advantage here. Pass interference is called against St. Thomas on a TIPPED pass to negate a Vincent Mauro interception. Maybe the rules are different in Ohio football. Not a banner day by those in black and white. Not only is Florida football better, the officials down south are better too.
Elder took advantage of several iffy calls (watch the replay on Monday at noon on ESPN to see) and cut the deficit to 28-17 on a 6-yard pass from backup QB Joe Hetzer to Tim O'Conner.
St. Thomas and Elder exchanged possessions, and the Raiders now have possession at their own 15. Becker is picked by Jake Fishburn, who returned it to the STA 9.
Ronnie Kennedy intercepted Hetzer but fumbled. Elder recovers at the STA 27. Nick Gramke fumbled, and STA DB Dezmin Southward.
End of three, St. Thomas leads 28-17.
Elder's Hetzer got drilled by John Marmarosa, and Matthew Gazzilo recovers at the Elder 5. Becker scored on a keeper up the middle, and the Raiders lead 35-17 with 7:42 to play.
Elder cut the deficit to 11 at 35-24 when Alex Welsh recovered a fumble by Josh Jones in the end zone. Elder will now try an onside kick with 5:46 remaining.
After an Aquinas punt, Cody Riggs intercepted Hetzer at the Elder 45. 4:10 to play.
Aquinas runs out the clock and wins 35-24. Becker finished with 283 yards passing and three touchdowns.He also scored on a 1-yard run.
Before Booker T. Washington fans hit the panic button and start talking about the what ifs for the 2008 season, I suggest that you sit back and watch this program do what they have been doing since the school re-opened. Work hard, add some of the top athletes in the nation and rebuild.
Friday night’s loss to Chandler Hamilton (Az.) was one of those things where the “young” Tornadoes were exposed for not being able to replace the 17 starters so quickly. They were matched against a very impressive football team that won state titles back in Arizona and were well coached and had great football talent.
The blame game? Nobody. This is a BTW team that lacks experience, and while there were many, many positives on Friday night at Traz Powell Stadium, mistakes and things associated with young and inexperienced players, went on from start to finish. That has to be corrected, or teams such as Hallandale, Dwyer, Tampa Plant and Armwood will pass this impressive program by!
There are many things to be impressed by on a team that rolled through the 2007 season, winning a 4A state title. But believe that this is a program, under first year coach Earl Tillman, that will be back. But you need to be patient. If you have to be reminded how much talent this team lost, all you had to do was watch the University of Miami opener on Thursday, and tune in to FIU’s game at Kansas on Saturday!
Players that made an impact on Friday night in the senior class included: Torrance Moise (QB), Andre Edwards (WR), Emmanuel Noel (WR), Jamal Forest (DB), Natturner Harris (DB), Keenan Frazier (LB), Monsignor Pace transfer David Van Dyke (DB), O’Bryan Ferguson (LB) and Jarius Levy (LB).
Juniors to watch includes top-flight running back Eduardo Clements, who was the target of Hamilton’s defense all night. They bottled up the standout back most of the night and were not intimidated by the “Florida” speed.
OTHER TOP JUNIORS: Quinton Dunbar (WR), Willie Williams (RB), Oscar Diaz (PK), Lynden Trail (DE), Jelanie Rouland (WR) and Jose Jose (OL).
TOP SOPHOMORES: Jeremiah Hay (QB), Derek Moise (WR), Kedarius Evans (DB).
FRESHMAN: Kevon Caffey (LB).
Here is hoping that Pahokee and Northwestrn have more success with their impressive opponents on Saturday, but if it doesn’t happen, you just learn from this terrific experience and move on.
The games are a great and needs to happen yearly as we will soon have those marquee teams back for the nation to see…..
Just wanted to give you the heads-up to check out, TiVo or even tape (don't be embarrassed I still VHS record, too) the Miami Herald's High School Football Show, which is produced by Recruitflix, when it debuts this Saturday at 10:30 p.m. on CBS-4.
As part of the show, Manny Navarro and I will be on and talking about the big games for week 1 of the regular season of high school football in Dade and Broward.
The show will also feature high school football profiles and will air weekly at that time.
For those of you that have been anxiously awaiting, and those that haven't heard, a reminder that Thursday, Aug. 28, The Herald will release its High school football preview sections.
The 10-page sections bring you in-depth coverage of all the teams in Dade and Broward Counties and insights from our staff writers as to who will be the best teams and top players. It will be packaged with the Herald's pro and college sections.
And remember, you can check out our district-by-district breakdown series of podcasts at www.miamiherald.com/hssports.
Look for the 4 goofy guys in the football outfits. Great, now I'm going to get an angry email from Larry because I called him goofy.
After spending two weeks breaking down every district in Dade and Broward in football, host Manny Navarro and high school writers Andre C. Fernandez and Bob Emanuel return to The Countdown Tuesday and release The Preseason Top 20 football poll in our newest episode.
Got a problem with the rankings? Let us know.
Also on tap: Volleyball talk and a look at the top preseason games this week and St. Thomas Aquinas' trip to Cincinnati for the Kirk Herbstreit Classic.
South Plantation athletic director Matt Schroeder announced the hiring of Kenneth Simmonds as the school’s new boys’ track coach.
Simmonds, a math teach who graduated from Tallahassee Lincoln, served as an assistant coach the past four seasons with the Paladins.
Andre Henry, who coached the boys’ team last year, resigned following the 2007 season.
In football news: St.Thomas Aquinas opened the season ranked No. 6 in the USA Today Super 25 rankings.
- BOB EMANUEL JR.
Adrian Witty was to be one of the top-rated safety prospects in South Florida this year. He was also regarded one of the fastest players on a very athletic Deerfield Beach team, but last year, in the south region final against Northwestern, the 5-11, 180-pounder went down with a knee injury.
“Total ACL repair,” he said, thinking back to the tough (19-14) loss in the Orange Bowl.
In the early moments of the game, Witty, who ran a 4.35 (40) and sparked the Bucks as a receiver and return specialist, injured his knee. The injury was painful, and having been forced out of that big game, a dream matchup, is something he still thinks about today.
The doctors, while being as optimistic as they could, told Whitty that it would be out at least a year. One season. One year that would signal the end of a career that ended after one, tremendous season.
“I first thought to myself, you have come too far for this to be the end of a high school career,” Witty said. “I wasn’t going to accept it. Not at all.”
For months after he struggled with the pain and the loss of strength and motion in his knee.
“The first couple of weeks, I turned it up as much as I could take,” Witty said. “After that, I fought through the pain and tried to make it more mental, which I knew I could handle and control better.”
While the doctors are slated to release Whitty in early September, head coach Art Taylor will take his time bringing this talented athlete back, which means that this youngster will come back in less than a year after the surgery.
“I am about 70-75% right now, and we are in August,” Witty said. “I’ll be back. Right in time for everything to start moving quickly!“
BY BOB EMANUEL JR.
St. Thomas Aquinas received mixed news on Tuesday.
The school, which opens the season in the nationally televised Kirk Herbstreit Challenge in Ohio, was informed its Aug. 30 contest vs. Cincinnati Elder will indeed count in its regular season records.
While the news gives added importance to the game, it also means the Raiders have to cancel its game versus Everglades on Sept. 18. The game no longer appears on the schedule for either school on the Broward Football Official’s Association website.
St. Thomas was ranked in the top five nationally by two polls released last week.
Can't wait for the high school football preview to come out on Aug. 27? Neither could we. With the help of High School writers Andre C. Fernandez, Bob Emanuel, recruiting writer Larry Blustein and freelancer J.T. Wilcox, we will take a look at every team in every district in Dade and Broward and get you ready for what should be an exciting football season in two weeks.
Each day at 3 p.m., we will release a new podcast of The Countdown where you'll get to hear us discuss all the big storylines, all the big-time players and all the big-time teams. So, go ahead, sit back, download it to your IPOD or download to it on your computer and listen to us talk about your favorite team. And when you are done, come back and let us what you think right here.
THE PODCAST SCHEDULE
Tuesday, Aug. 12: District 9-6A preview - Deerfield Beach was less than a yard and just a few seconds away last year from ending Northwestern's dreams of a national championship. Instead, they suffered a heart-wrenching defeat and watched the Bulls win the state title a week later. Host Manny Navarro, Broward High Schools writer Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us why the Bucks won't fall short this year and who if anyone might be able to stop them.
Wednesday, Aug. 13: District 16-6A: The southern end of Miami-Dade County has been home to many a great running back over the years. But this year, Killian's Lamar Miller, Palmetto's Jamaal Berry and Southridge's Branden Oliver could be the best trio District 16-6A has ever seen. Will one of them win the rushing title? Or will Columbus junior Jakhari Gore top them? Host Manny Navarro, High School writer Andre C. Fernandez and recruiting writer Larry Blustein break down the big three and tell us if Homestead and South Dade will still be the top two teams in the district by the end of the season.
Thursday, Aug. 14: District 10-6A preview - Plantation used to be the most dominant Broward team in Class 6A. But it's been three years since they've made the playoffs. Talented quarterback Brandon McGee, considered one of the nation's top cornerbacks at the next level (and now a UM commitment), believes he can take the Colonels back to greatness. Host Manny Navarro, Broward High School writer Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us if McGee is right or if Broward's '07 leading rusher DeShaun Sands and Piper have enough talent to end Boyd Anderson's two-year run at the top.
Friday, Aug. 15: District 15-6A preview - Southwest High's 51-year football history hasn't included many winning seasons or trips to the postseason. Then again, the Eagles have probably never had a player like LeMarcus Joyner. Host Manny Navarro, Dade High School Writer Andre C. Fernandez and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us why the Eagles could be the team to beat in Southwest Dade. Or if defending district champion Braddock, now playoff regular Sunset, Ferguson, Coral Park or Varela can catch them.
Saturday, Aug. 16: District 11-6A preview - Miramar has the county's top quarterback in Eugene Smith, the top receiver in Steadman Bailey and loads more talent. But will it be enough to propel the Patriots past the great team coach Mark Guandolo has built up at Cypress Bay? Host Manny Navarro, Broward High School writer Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein breakdown what's in store in District 11-6A this season including who should emerge as the player of the year and coach of the year in this tight district race.
Sunday, Aug. 17: District 14-6A preview - Columbus has long been the kings of the district and with stars like Antwan Lowery and Jakhari Gore -- they should be once again. But are the Explorers a shoe-in? Or could talented 2010 receiver Willis Wright of Miami Springs or even 2011 linebacker Denzel Perryman of Coral Gables slip into the district's top spot. Host Manny Navarro, Dade High School writer Andre C. Fernandez and recruiting writer Larry Blustein fill us in on what's in store.
Monday, Aug. 18: Small Schools Preview - Hollywood Chaminade was the last Dade or Broward school to win a small school title. But could someone else in South Florida finally emerge this year? Host Manny Navarro, High School writers Andre C. Fernandez and Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us why American Heritage, Archbishop Carroll, Gulliver, Doral Academy and Dade Christian could all be the next small school power to claim a title. And we take a look at all the stars in Class 2A, 2B, 1A and 1B.
Tuesday, Aug. 19: District 15-5A preview - Dillard's Trabis Ward is one of the nation's top running backs and the Panthers once again have a team to reckon with. But six other teams will likely be fighting toe-to-toe to join the Panthers in the playoffs. Will it be Ely and star cornerback Michael Carter? Or could Coconut Creek, regional finalists in 2006, get back to the top with new coach Allen Jackson? Or could this finally be the year for Northeast? Host Manny Navarro, Broward High School writer Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein discuss all that and more in this episode.
Wednesday, Aug. 20: District 13-6A preview - Northwestern's 30 consecutive wins and run of back-to-back state titles took a serious blow with an embarrassing loss to North Miami Beach in the spring. But is the Bulls' run really done? Or will Billy Rolle reload? Central and quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey might have something to say about it. Maybe even young and up-and-coming Hialeah, too. Host Manny Navarro, Dade High School Writer Andre C. Fernandez and freelancer J.T. Wilcox explore what should be an interesting season in District 13-6A.
Thursday, Aug. 21: District 16-5A preview - St. Thomas Aquinas finally got over the hump in 2007 and now bring back one of the nation's top five teams with stars like receiver Duron Carter and linebacker Conner O'Neill. But who comes after the Raiders? Hollywood Hills and South Broward have two talented young teams who would like to be in the mix. Host Manny Navarro, Broward High School writer Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein break it all down for us.
Friday, Aug. 22: District 12-6A preview - North Miami Beach used to be the team years ago everybody laughed at. But the Chargers and coach Jeff Bertani's '30 Strong' led by quarterback Nico Flores and receiver Kemal Ishmael have become a force to be reckoned with. And now, NMB believes it can make a run at the state title. Meanwhile, Carol City and new coach Harold Barnwell, Norland and star receiver Xavier Rhodes, and North Miami and quarterback Junior Delpe all believe they can make the playoffs. Host Manny Navarro, Dade High School writer Andre C. Fernandez and freelancer J.T. Wilcox explore all of it in this district preview.
Saturday, Aug. 23: District 16-4A preview - Booker T. Washington made an amazing run to the state title last season. But this year, coach Tim "Ice" Harris, his son Brandon Harris and several other stars are gone, down the road at the University of Miami. Running back Eduardo Clements, the MVP of the state championship game, says the Tornadoes can repeat. A loaded Hallandale team thinks it will have something to say about that. Host Manny Navarro, High School writers Bob Emanuel and Andre C. Fernandez and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us who will win the war of words and the game on the field this year.
Sunday, Aug. 24: District 15-3A preview - Cardinal Gibbons thought it might have the team to contend with powerful Glades Central last year. But the Chiefs fell short of their goal. This year, a younger Gibbons team probably has a wider gap to climb to catch the Raiders. Pembroke Pines Charter and even Archbishop McCarthy is hoping it can slip into the mix. Host Manny Navarro, Broward High School writer Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us why Glades Central is a team nobody in Class 3A might be able to catch.
Monday, Aug. 25: District 16-3A preview - Instead of rising to the top, Edison fell on its face last year when it made the drop in the district. It could just be a momentary lapse. The Red Raiders, who won the Miami Dolphins 7-on-7 passing camp in July and were led by receiver Larry McCoy, believe they're ready to challenge Monsignor Pace and Belen for the top two spots in the district. Host Manny Navarro, Dade High School Writer Andre C. Fernandez and recruiting writer Larry Blustein tell us what we should expect this year.
Tuesday, Aug. 26: Preseason special - With a week left before the start of the season and the football section set to be released in just a few days, host Manny Navarro, high school writers Andre C. Fernandez and Bob Emanuel and recruiting writer Larry Blustein will give us one last peek at what to expect this season including what could happen when Northwestern, Pahokee and Booker T. Washington compete against national powers in kickoff classics. (And yes, that really is us on that photo to the left).