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.