As the footballs are put up or another season, the champions are crowned in all eight classes and fans are dreaming of next year, it is now time to start focusing on the all-star games. The reward for top-flight seniors from across the country.
While Florida is always in the spotlight when it comes to producing quality players, and teams - thanks to St. Thomas Aquinas, Northwestern and Lakeland, winning the past four national titles, it is now time to showcase the individual talent that we have the honor of watching for 17 weeks each fall.
Over the next week, players from the South Florida will “represent” from Texas to South Carolina and right here in Florida to match skills against the very best from across the country. Welcome to the all-star games, where stars are born and great players leave a mark for thousands to follow behind.
While it is certainly no mistake that South Florida is one of the best when it comes to producing football talent, we take a few knocks from those “experts” who continue to want to put our style of football down. Many believe that California, Texas, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania can stand toe-to-toe with the players from this region when it comes to football. That is something that will be debated yearly. But the one thing on our side is these all-star games, which feature the best from across the country.
Turn on your TV sets over the next week or so and you will have the opportunity to watch high school football seniors from every corner of the country on display. See if you can spot the South Florida kids - they are usually the ones running for a touchdown, making a game-saving tackle of picking a ball off and taking it to the house!
Here is a look at the 15 players headed to these nationally-televised showcase events:
This Friday, Jan. 2, the Offense-Defense game will take place with Myrtle Beach, S.C. being the site for this year’s event.
Last year, this was the final game played in the fabled Orange Bowl, and after low attendance, the game was moved on to South Carolina, and 4 South Floridians will be on display.
Among those from the region include Miramar quarterback Eugene Smith (West Virginia), receiver Stedmon Bailey (West Virginia) and lineman Morell Pierre, and Columbus defensive end Caesar Rodriguez.
On Saturday, Jan. 3, the annual Army All-American contest will take place in San Antonio, and while many of the nation’s elite players are no longer just headed to this game, there are 4 South Floridians who will have the opportunity to make a major statement.
Among those in the game include Palm Beach Central linebacker Jon Bostic, Pompano Beach Ely defensive back Michael Carter, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman kicker Brendan Gibbons (Michigan) and Plantation defensive back Brandon McGee, who will enroll at the University of Miami in the next few weeks.
On Sunday night, Jan. 4, Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, the football capitol of the state, will hold yet another event - when the Under Armor All-American Game will take place for the second straight year in Orlando. Last year, the game, which was born from the MSL Sports East Meets West game from two years ago, will showcase a number of South Floridians.
Among the 7 locals in the game are Palmetto running back Jamaal Berry (Ohio State), Hallandale quarterback Victor Marc (USF) and defensive back Ricardo Dixon (USF), St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Duron Carter (Ohio State), Pahokee’s Nu’keese Richardson (Florida), Gulliver Prep linebacker Frankie Telfort and Columbus defensive tackle Antwan Lowery (Rutgers).
ORLANDO – For the second straight week, the Miami Herald, elitescoutingservices.com and floridafb.com had the opportunity to check out all the state championship games at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
With a number of our recruiting analysts on hand, watching games from every angle, we once again broke down every game, play and team to come up with a number of quality athletes who were among the best at the two-day event.
We also had the opportunity to witness one of the best 6A title games since the start of that classification, when Sanford Seminole High School, came from 21 points down, to upset Miami Northwestern, who had won the past two state titles and posted an amazing 43-2 record over the past three years.
We also had the pleasure of watching at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas team that could be regarded as one of the best in Florida history, as the Raiders rolled over previously unbeaten Lakeland to win the 5A crown – and perhaps a national crown!
Last week, we were flooded with e-mails, thanking us for giving this rundown on the games. A special thanks to Charles Fishbein, Larry Blustein, Corey Long and Geof Vogt for adding to this breakdown.
1. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
2. Tampa Plant
3. Sanford Seminole
4. Miami Northwestern
7. Tallahassee Lincoln
8. Tallahassee Godby
QB – Aaron Murray, Tampa Plant, Sr. (Committed to Georgia): The future Bulldog showed us a ton of heart as he played a great game after injuring his leg earlier this year. Most felt Murray would not play again, but he truly surprised everyone by returning against Dwyer and then . He surprised leading the Panthers to their second state title in three years, finishing 18-30 for 344 yards-3tds and no interceptions.
QB – Ryan Becker, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, SR: The Raiders' quarterback has now led his team to back-to-back state titles and the school's first ever national championship, which is the fourth straight for the state of Florida. Headed toward an Ivy League school, Becker manages the game as well as any quarterback has in a long time at the high school level. He finished 8-11 for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns.
RB – Gio Bernard, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Jr: Has been on the radar screen for the past two full seasons, The brother of former Oregon State standout, Yvenson Bernard, this quality back established himself as one of the nation's elite runners, making big play after big play and finishing up the state title game with 8 carries for 104 yards!
RB – James White, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr: While Bernard gets much of the publicity, this is another BCS-type of back with speed, power and the athleticism to break off huge runs. His ability to catch balls out of the backfield also makes him one of the top prospects to watch for over the year. White broke the game open with a long touchdown run in the first quarter.
WR – Willie Downs, Tallahassee Godby, Sr. – (Committed to Florida State): When the 2008 season began, here is the player who many felt was the No. 1 prospect in the state. While much has not changed, Downs did get the chance to show those who had never watched him perform live just what he can do on the field. If the Godby coaches could go back in time they would have thrown Downs the ball a lot more in this game. He made the go ahead touchdown grab in overtime. He was constantly open all game long. Downs is a big play guy and we don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
WR – Andre Debose, Sanford Seminole, Sr.: He only had two catches for 51 yards, but his final catch will go down as one of the best ever in a state title game. He caught the game winning touchdown with less then a minute to go. Debose also chipped in with 76 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He is one of the top overall players in Florida for the class of 2009. 184 All-Purpose yards goes down as one of the best performances in a state finals game.
TE – Orson Charles, Tampa Plant, Sr.: After coming over to Plant from Riverview (Tampa) after his junior season, here is an athlete we had the chance to evaluate and watch 15 times during the summer. After a tremendous year, Charles turned it on in the finals as he finished with 132 yards and 2 touchdowns on offense. On defense, where many college coaches are predicted he ends up playing, he chipped in with 3 tackles, 1 sack and a tackle for loss.
TE – Gabe Holmes, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. – (Committed to Purdue): Having watched this quality football talent since the end of his sophomore year, we have closely evaluated a player that many college coaches believe could be the best overall tight end prospect in this class. Holmes made his presence felt on the first set of downs for Saint Thomas on offense. He ran a seam route, which Lakeland never saw coming. Less then a minute in the game of the 5A title game, the Raiders were up 7-0 and never looked back!
OL – Brandon Linder, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.: Yet another player our staff has been watching since his 10th grade year, there is little doubt that this is best overall lineman in the state – in any class. His strength, quick feet, knowledge and ability to control the line has put him in a class by himself. Will be one of the nation's best in 2009!
OL – Benjamin Young, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.: At 6-7, 225-pounds, no lineman has worked harder to put himself in a role of a starter for the best high school football team in the country. His hard work and dedication to the sport showed down the stretch. He happens to have a pretty good role model. His brother, Sam, a one-time St. Thomas standout, is a three year starter at Notre Dame.
OL – Josh Woods, Cocoa, Jr.: Yet another player we watched perform this past weekend, and by the time his team had won the 3A title, he showcased some abilities that will be on display next year as well. He is already on our state of Florida watch list for 2010.
OL – Andre Mondor, Tampa Plant, Jr.: After watching this impressive football player perform last summer, we followed him all the way to the state title game, where he did not disappoint. He gave Murray all day to throw and helped give them a decent running game as well.
OL – Donald Senat, Miami Northwestern, Jr.: While highly-regarded junior Torian Wilson had his hands full, this was the player that coaches were truly impressed with the most. Great hand control, quickness and explosion at the line of scrimmage. He did help to open holes early and provide pass blocking for super sophomore Teddy Bridgewater.
ATHLETE – Ray Ray Armstrong, Sanford Seminole, Sr.: Make no mistake, any way you viewed this talented football player, here is a kid that believes in his talents, which he has many. He made his presence felt on both sides of the football. There is no secret that Armstrong's stock soared after the state title game.
ATHLETE – Wayne Times, Miami Northwestern, Sr.: If Bull fans want to be honest, they would go back to the start of the playoffs and understand that this is the player who made it possible for them to reach their impressive third consecutive 6A state championship appearnace. This one-time quarterback prospect has played 5 different positions for a Bulls team that went 43-2 over the past three seasons.
PK – Michael Palardy, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.: Yet another Tim Conrad-trained kicker who has already been viewed by many as the No. 1 kicking prospect in the country for the Class of 2010. Tremendous accuracy and leg strength that provided 7 touchbacks in the state finals.
Michael Lee Harris, WR, Miami Northwestern, Jr.: Fans have watched him all season, and from the first series in the state championship game, when he put the Bulls up 7-0, those who watched him play were totally bowled over by his speed and ability to catch the ball. He will be another elite prospect for the impressive Class of 2010.
Steward Butler, RB, Lakeland, Jr.: Another quality football player the Dreadnaughts will roll out for the future. A hard running back who finished with 12 rushes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Miami Northwestern, So.: What else can be said about this future star that hasn't already been said? Throwing, running and leading, there may not be a talent in the nation like this by the time he reaches his senior season. Also a quality baseball prospect as well with a tremendous throwing arm, great power and speed.
DL – Jericho Lee, Tallahassee Godby, So.: If you had the chance to watch the 3A state finals, you saw some great defense, and at the center of that defense was this quality football talent who finished with 7 tackles and 2 for loss. If Lee is to become a major college prospect, he will need to grow, but the playmaking ability is already in place at the age of 16!
DL – Charles Thacker, Sanford Seminole, Sr.: At 6-4, 210, here is yet another player who stepped up for the Seminoles in the title game. After a rocky first quarter, here was one of the unsung heroes on a line that dictated play in the second half against the defending national champion Bulls. He was impressive!
DL – Dyron Dye, Sanford Seminole, Sr.: Here is a player who roamed the field, funneling plays into the middle for the linebackers and defensive secondary to come up and finish off. While his stats were not eye-catching, his overall play and ability to read plays was something that kept the Bulls out of the endzone for three quarters. He finished with a couple of tackles, a sack and tackle for loss. It seemed like he was in the backfield of Northwestern more then their running backs.
DL – Dalshawde Myers, Cocoa, Jr.: On a team oaded with underclassmen, here was one that caught the eye of everyone during this overtime win against Godby. He finished the state title game with 4 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He was in the backfield all game!
LB – Rodney Busch, Tallahassee Godby, Jr.: In a weekend that showcased so many top underclassmen, here was yet another who was a true playmaker, coming up with an impressive 11 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss. He was easily the MVP for the Cougars, which is great news since he is coming back.
LB – Beau Hume, Tampa Plant, Sr.: On a team that has more than its share of quality football talent for the future, here is a player who came to the 4A state title game with winning on his mind. His -8 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 interception and a forced fumble was good enough for MVP honors on a defense that swarmed Tallahassee Lincoln all day.
LB – John Bagilia, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.: can you say repeat? If this is the kind of football talent the Raiders have coming back for 2009, you better make room in the trophy case for yet another piece of hardware. How about 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss and a pass break up? Not a bad night at all!
LB – Conor O’Neill, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. – (Committed to Wisconsin): From the first snap until the game ended, this was a player who never let up, making play after play – much like he has since his junior season. O'Neill seems to turn it on in the big games, and with 11 tackles, an interception return for a touchdown and a fumble recovery, he ended his high school career in grand fashion.
DB – E.J. Johnson, Cocoa, Jr.: The very first star of the second weekend of the state playoffs, here was the athlete who was in the right spot at the right time – coming up with three interceptions and helping the Tigers win their first ever state title. Johnson put his name on the map in recruiting circles as colleges are now watching.
DB – Jawanza Starling, Tallahassee Lincoln, Sr.: Having been on the radar screen for three years now, here is an athlete who is not hard to spot or appreciate. Starling finished with 4 catches for 71 yards and touchdown. He also chipped in with 7 tackles on defense.
DB – Cody Riggs, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.: Many who follow recruiting believe that this could be one of the top cover-rcorners in the nation next year. Speed, quickness and the ability to read plays makes him one of the top junior prospects around. Nobody had success on him during the season or in the playoffs!
PUNTER – A.J. Graham, Tallahassee Godby, Sr.: Coming into the state title game, many wanted to see him throw the ball from his quarterback position, where he set many recoirds for the Cougars. Instead, he was tremendous as a punter, averaging 49.0 yards and a long of 65 yards. He turned the field in Godby favor many times this past weekend.
Vincent Mauro, LB, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr: Another one of those under the radar type of players who will emerge as one of the top linebackers in Florida in 2009. He is big, strong and very physical. He is certainly a point of attack kind of tackler and continues to get better!
Thomas Harp, DL, Tallahassee Lincoln, Sr.: A very active player who reads plays very well and has the physical and athletic ability to dictate the outcome of many plays. In the title game, he had 3 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
Dylan Drake, DL, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.: One of those kind of players who steps up in big games, and after a tremendous season, he did what was needed in the playoffs. In the state title game, he had 2 tackles, 1 sack and a tackle for loss.
Justin Jones, LB, Tallahassee Godby, Sr.: The impressive Cougar defense, which yielded just 7 points, used this impressive athlete to make a major contribution with 9 tackles, 3 which went for a loss. Jones was around the ball all game long.
Mike Mirabella, LB, Tampa Plant, Jr.: Although a smaller linebacker prospect, this Class of 2010 performer was in the middle of the action all day long. Finished with 3 tackles, 1 sack and 3 tackles for loss.
Jermaine Reve, SS, Miami Northwestern, So.: Think the Bulls are going away after this game? Not with Class of 2011 players like this who stepped up in the biggest game of his young life against Sanford Seminole. He finished with 6 tackles and 2 tackles for loss.
Tevin McCaskill, S, Miami Northwestern, Sr.: There is no getting around the fact that this has not been the best year for this talented athlete. Even in the state game, he had some problems with coverage, but did manage to come up with 12 tackles.
Todd Chandler, NT, Miami Northwestern, Jr. – (Committed to Miami): Injured much of the season, his play in the first half of the state title game was impressive. A very passionate player who will have a lot of pressure to step it up for his senior year. Because he is not in good shape because of his injury, he wore down in the second half.
Colorado State's Gartrell (Shavers) Johnson was reluctant to talk about his career-high 285 yards rushing, so teammate Tommie Hill took over for him.
"I'm not going to give him credit because he got run down twice," Hill joked after Colorado State rallied for a 40-35 victory over Fresno State on Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque, N.M.
Johnson, a one-time standout at Miami Springs High, added 90 yards receiving for 375 total yards and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. All day long, he left defenders reaching for the dreadlocks tumbling out of his helmet.
His yards rushing were the second-most ever in a bowl, trailing only a 307-yard effort by P.J. Daniels of Georgia Tech in the 2004 Humanitarian Bowl. It was also the second-best rushing performance in school history.
Johnson sealed the victory on a 77-yard touchdown burst with 1:46 remaining, igniting a celebration by fans who made the seven-hour drive from Fort Collins, Colo. He was named the most valuable offensive player as Colorado State (7-6) won a bowl for the first time since 2001.
Johnson had a 57-yard run in the first quarter and a 57-yard reception on a shovel pass from Billy Farris in the second period.
The Rams took their first lead at 33-28 when Farris threw a 69-yard TD to Rashaun Greer with seven minutes left. Fresno State cornerback Sharrod Davis took a big chance but whiffed on his attempt to bat the ball. Greer made the catch at the 30 and went untouched into the end zone.
The loss capped a rough season for the injury-depleted Bulldogs (7-6), who talked in fall workouts about a possible Bowl Championship Series run.
It also spoiled big rushing efforts by Fresno State's Anthony Harding and Lonyae Miller, who each scored twice. Harding finished with 120 yards rushing, and Miller added 113.
ORLANDO -It may have been just one play, but that play with :33 seconds left in the 6A state championship game, when Ray Ray Armstrong found senior receiver Andre Debose from 40 yards out, was enough for Sanford Seminole to upset the two-time defending state champion Northwestern Bulls, 28-21 at the Citrus Bowl.
The loss was only the second in three years for a Northwestern team that was favored to become the first large school in the state to win three consecutive state titles.
The Northwestern Bulls wasted little time getting on the board. On the very first play from scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hot junior Michael Lee Harris with a 72-yard touchdown stirke and a 7-0 lead.
Northwestern moved out to a 13-0 lead with 5:53 left in the opening quarter when senior Wayne Times, running out of the quarterback position, kept it from the 1.
The Bulls closed out the first quarter scoring when Bridgewater hit the versatile Times with a 47-yard pass for a score. Bridgewater's two-point conversion made it 21-0.
Seminole got on the board with 11:04 left in the first half when Armstrong went 26 yards for the score.
The Seminoles cut the lead to 21-14 with 5:28 left in thr third quarter on a 6-yard run by Debose.
Seminole tied the game at 21-21 with :23 left in the third quarter on 1 yard run by Debose, and then the Seminoles took their final shot into the endzone and came up a winner.
Northwestern 21 0 0 0--21
Seminole 0 7 14 7--28
NW - Michael Lee Harris 72 pass from Teddy Bridgewater (Eli Rogers kick), 11:43 (1) 7-0
NW - Wayne Times 1 run (Kick blocked), 5:53 (1), 13-0
NW - Wayne Times 47 pass from Teddy Bridgewater (Bridgewater run), :31 (1), 21-0
S - Ray Ray Armstrong 26 run (Eric Farkas kick), 11:31 (2), 21-7
S - Andre Debose 6 run (Eric Farkas kick), 5:28 (3), 21-14
S - Andre Debose 1 run (Eric Farkas kick), :23 (3), 21-21
S - Andre Debose 40 pass from Ray Ray Armstrong (Eric Farkas kick), :33 (4), 28-21
ORLANDO -Tampa Plant began the season with a narrow loss to Seffner Armwood. On Saturday afternoon, the Panthers won for the 14th straight time, 34-14, to capture its second 4A state title in three years over the Tallahassee Lincoln Trojans.
Senior quarterback Aaron Murray ended his career with 84 career touchdowns, tossing three and throwing for 344 yards
The Plant Panthers (13-1) got on the board with 1:55 left in the opening on a 1-yard run by DeAndre Queen. The 7-0 lead was made possible by the arm of Murray, who is headed to the University of Georgia. The Panthers went 80 yards on 10 plays.
The Panthers extended the lead to 14-0 with 10:08 left in the first half when Murray found senior Orson Charles for a 71-yard scoring strike.
Plant made it 21-0 with 10:00 left in the first half when Beau Hume picked off Lincoln quarterback Ryan White and took it 24 yards for the score. Hume had dominated in the first half with 2 sacks and three tackles before picking the ball off and taking it in for the score.
With three seconds left in the first half, Murray once again found the endzone as he spotted Nathan Marvel and a 72-yard touchdown, ending the half 28-0.
The Trojans made it 28-6 when junior running back Javorius Allen went in from the 9 with 5:48 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers closed out the scoring with 1:52 left in the game when Murray once again hit Charles from 9-yards out.
Plant 7 21 0 6 - 34
Lincoln 0 0 14 0 - 14
P - DeAndre Queen 1 run (Tyler Rhodes kick), 1:55 (1), 7-0
P - Orson Charles 72 pass from Aaron Murray (Tyler Rhodes kick), 10:08 (2), 14-0
P - Beau Hume 24 interception (Tyler Rhodes kick), 9:33 (2), 21-0
P - Nathan Marvel 72 pass from Aaron Murray, :3 (2) (Tyler Rhodes kick), 28-0
L - Javorius Allen 9 run (kick failed), 5:48 (3), 28-6
L - Jawanza Starling 29 pass from Ryan White (Ryan White run), :32 (3), 28-14
P - Orson Charles 13 pass from Aaron Murray (Kick failed), 1:52 (4), 34-14
Marco Cobb (11-50)
Aaron Murray (18-30-1-344 yards)
Orson Charles (6-132)
Ryan Allen (12-50)
Ryan White (9-18-3-164 yards)
Jawanza Starling (4-71)
ORLANDO -Last year at this time, many felt that if St. Thomas Aquinas stayed healthy, the Raiders had a chance to be a good team this coming season. On Friday night, this football program that waltzed through the 2008 campaign, became a great team.
The Raiders finished a perfect season at 15-0 with an impressive 56-7 win over previously unbeaten Lakeland and a second consecutive 5A state title. More importantly, the Raiders captured the national championship, which is the fourth consecutive for the state of Florida and the first ever for a Broward County team.
"I felt coming in that if we played our kind of game, we would have a chance to accomplish some great things," said coach George Smith. "The key was jumping out in front and gaining the momentum."
It didn't take the Raiders long to establish a tempo in the 5A state title game. With 11:07 left in the opening quarter, senior Ryan Becker found a wide open Gabrisson Holmes, and the Purdue commitment took it 53 yards for a score and a 7-0 lead.
The Raiders extended the lead to 14-0 when junior running back James White took it 45 yards with 5:14 left in the opening quarter and a 15-0 advantage.
St. Thomas extended the lead to 21-0 with 3:29 left in the opening quarter when Ryan Becker took it in from the 1. The play was set up by a 47-yard run by junior Gio Bernard. Seconds later, senior Conor O'Neill picked a Jarrod Haggins ball out of the air and returned it for a 28-0 first quarter advantage.
The Raiders took a 35-0 lead at the half when Becker found senior Dwayne Difton from 12 yards out.
The Dreadnaughts broke out of the gate quickly, and when Javares McRoy caught an 86-yard touchdowndown pass from Jarred Haggins, it was 35-7 with 11:37 left in the third quarter.
St. Thomas came right back as White had a 48-yard run deep inside Lakeland territory, and then with 10:06 left, senior Beau Bucci took it in from the 8 and a commanding 42-7 lead.
The Raiders continued to pour it on when Becker once again found the endzone. This time to Duron Carter from 5 yards out and a 49-7 lead with 5:18 lead.
Senior Ronnie Kennedy ended the scoring on an 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Lakeland 0 0 7 0- 7
St. Thomas Aquinas 28 7 14 7-56
ST - Gabrisson Holmes 53 pass from Ryan Becker (Michael Palardy kick), 11:07 (1)
ST - James White 45 run (Michael Palardy kick), 5:14 (1), 14-0
ST - Ryan Becker 1 run (Michael Palardy kick), 3:29 (1), 21-0
ST - Conor O'Neill 20 int. return (Michael Palardy kick), 3:12 (1) 28-0
ST - Dwayne Difton 12 pass from Ryan Becker (Michael Palardy kick), 1:34 (2), 35-0
L - Javares McRoy 86 pass from Jarred Haggins (Aaron O'Brien kick), 11:37 (3), 35-7
ST - Beau Bucci 8 run (Michael Palardy kick), 10:06 (3), 42-7
ST - Duron Carter 5 pass from Ryan Becker (Michael Palardy kick), 5:18 (3), 49-7
ST - Ronnie Kennedy 8 run (Michael Palardy kick), 4:29 (4), 56-7
Steward Butler (12-8)
Jarred Haggins (3-13-1)
Javares McRoy (1-86)
Gio Bernard (8-104), James White (4-98)
Ryan Becker (8-11-0-100 yards)
Gabrison Holmes (2-67)
ORLANDO -- Check out the latest edition of The Countdown before you sit down to watch tonight's Class 5A state championship game between St. Thomas Aquinas and Lakeland. Host Manny Navarro welcomes a round table discussion featuring some of the best writers and scouts in the state including the Herald's own Larry Blustein, Andre Fernandez and Bill Daly, Florida Football Magazine's Corey Long and Elite Scouting Service's Charles Fishbein.
They give you their insight into tonight's big showdown and Saturday night's Northwestern-Seminole Class 6A state championship game. You don't want to miss out on what they have to say.
Here's the link: The Countdown, Dec. 19, 2008.
ORLANDO -Cody Bell missed four field goals on Friday afternoon, but his extra point in overtime was the only thing that mattered to the Cocoa Tigers.
Bell, a sophomore, booted the extra point in overtime to give the Tigers a 3A state title and a 7-6 win over Tallahassee Godby in a game that certainly did not live up to the pre-game hype that promised an offensive show.
When senior Anthony Bell took it in from the 5 in overtime, the game was tied at 6. Then, Bell, who had the opportunity to give Cocoa (14-1) a cushion earlier in the game, booted the extra point and the game winner.
In the first overtime, Godby got the ball first and scored on a 10-yard pass play from senior A.J. Graham to FSU-bound Willie Downs. Billy Mueller's point after was blocked by senior Anthony Session and the Cougars led, 6-0.
The game, which was dictated by turnovers and mistakes also showcased junior safety E.J. Johnson, who had three interceptions, tying a state record with Bobby Bennett of Tampa Blake in 1969 against Leesburg. He also had two pass breakups.
Only Frostproof's win over Jacksonville Trinity Christian in 1999, and Jacksonville Bolles win over Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna in 2002, 6-0 games, were lower scoring.
Godby 0 0 0 0 6 - 6
Cocoa 0 0 0 0 7 - 7
G - Willie Downs 10 pass from A.J. Graham (kick failed), 1st OT, 6-0
C - Anthony Wilson 5 run (Cody Bell kick), 1st OT, 7-6
Anthony Williams (9-45)
Matt Younger (3-14-0)
Willie Downs (6-72)
Kessey Graham (5-100)
Lavorrie Johnson (11-41)
A.J. Graham (20-34-4-218)
Divine Sports Inc. will host the 4th Annual Miami-Dade High School All-Star Football Game - “Gridiron Classic”, - on Monday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m. at Curtis Park Complex (1901 NW. 24th Ave, Miami 33125).
The All-Star Gridiron Classic will showcase 90 of the county’s most sought after student-athletes. The battle for county supremacy and bragging rights will come down to the North versus the South.
This year’s participants include such standouts as Quan-Anthony Fletcher (Dr. Krop), Darryl Williams (Palmetto) and Southridge running back Brandon Oliver. All three were listed among the top 25 players in the spring by the Miami Herald.
There are a number of other local talent, searching for the chance to earn a college scholarship.
All practices are being held through Dec. 19 from 5pm-8pm. The South team practices at Moore Park (765 NW 36th St) and the North team will practice at Williams Park (1717 NW 5th Ave).
The North team currently leads the battle (2-1) and will be coached by Marc Berman from Hialeah High and the South team will be lead by Patrick Burrows, who did such a tremendous job this past year at Southwest High.
Interested in attending? Call Erika Robinson at 786-258-1532.
Luis Alcala, Miami Beach
Maurice Anderson, North Miami Beach
Johnny Beautelus, Jackson
James Beasley, Norland
Rodrick Bloodsaw, Carol City
Brandon Brown, Norland
Antwan Carter, Hialeah
Jonathan Charles, Hialeah
Rico Corley, Hialeah
Rome Cotton, Hialeah Miami Lakes
Jonathan Cyprien, North Miami Beach
Calvin Darling, Hialeah Miami Lakes
Junior Delpe, North Miami
Nexon Dorvilus, North Miami
Christian Duarte, Hialeah Miami Lakes
Lazaro Diaz, Central
Quan Fletcher, Dr. Krop
Donnie Gaitor, Miami Beach
Demetris Guise, Central
Robert Harvey, American
Leon Hatcher, Edison
Corey Henry, Carol City
David Hinds, Edison
Peterson Jean-Pierre, Hialeah
Randell Johnson, North Miami
Travis Johnson, Central
Aaron Marsh, Hialeah Miami Lakes
Lyron McClenney, Norland
G’Alonzo Milton, Jackson
Njuguna Njorge, Hialeah
Markeith Russell, North Miami Beach
Preston Soloman, American
D’Angelo Sippio, Notrth Miami
Frederick Williams, Jackson
Jean Wilson, Norland
Jelani Berassa, Killian
Adrian Blue, Palmetto
Dontrell Brown, Southridge
Juan Caceras, Varela
Joey Casares, Ferguson
Osvaldo Castillo, Southwest Miami
David Cinalli, Archbishop Carroll
Emilious Davis, South Miami
Alec DeGrosa, Palmer Trinity
Fritz Fenelon, Miami High
Frank Garcia, Southwest Miami
Giovani Garzaon, Southwest Miami
Anthony Harris, Southridge
Paul Hazel, South Miami
Lazaro Herrera, Southwest Miami
Karl James, Sunset
Derrick Knithen, Coral Gables
Marcus Lamons, Sunset
Erik Lora, Columbus
Chantz Mack, Archbishop Carroll
Maurice McGahee, Southridge
Thomas McGuire, Columbus
Alvaro Molina, Southwest Miami
Carlos Murcia, Coral Park
Brandon Oliver, Southridge
Hugo Oliveres, Ferguson
Giovani Oveato, Braddock
Keenan Paicely, Palmetto
Rick Perez, South Dade
Yandy Plasencia, Ferguson
Fabrice Pratt, Sunset
Ramses Principe, Killian
Herman Reaves, Killian
Ricky Rowe, Killian
David Ribero, Archbishop Carroll
Leandro Ricardo, Southwest Miami
Jamal Robinson, Killian
Lee Saeed, Southridge
Wandy Santillen, Miami High
Khambrel Sanders, South Dade
Germaine Singletary, Coral Gables
Rcihard Stennett, Varela
Mario Ureta, Braddock
Darryl Williams, Palmetto
David Valdez, Varela
After watching eight teams in the first week of the 2008 Florida high school state playoffs at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, the Miami Herald, www.elitescoutingservices.com and Floridafb.com have come up with the top 8 teams and the players who made an impact in this impressive event.
Having the ability to promote athletes across the state and follow teams throughout the year has given us the opportunity to judge and evaluate players to better help the fans and college coaches.
1. Jacksonville Bolles
3. Ocala Trinity Catholic
4. Tallahasssee North Florida Christian
5. Jupiter Christian
6. Fort Meade
7. Miami Gulliver Prep
8. South Daytona Beach Warner Christian
QB – Clint Trickett, Tallahassee North Florida Christian: A year ago Trickett came up short in NFC's quest to win a state title. He saw Delray American Heritage kick a winning field goal in the closing seconds to win the game. Trickett finished the 1A title game 10-20 for 104 yards. He also rushed for 70 yards on 12 carries. Late in the game we overheard Clint say to his teammate this is a state championship drive. He showed his leadership by taking the team down the field and putting the ball in the end-zone.
QB – Marshyl Rothman, Jupiter Christian: Rothman helped lead Jupiter Christian to their second straight 1B state championship. He had 138 yards rushing and another 71 yards through the air. He accounted for three of the Jupiter Christian touchdowns. Tremendous leadership skills for this gifted junior.
RB – Stephen Barnett, Jacksonville Bolles: Barnett rushed for over 134 yards on 17 carries. He also scored two touchdowns. The Tulane University-bound senior was very difficult for the Gulliver Prep defense to stop.
RB – Vincent Smith, Pahokee: On his way to the University of Michigan, Smith finished the game with 128 yards rushing. He also contributed another 39 yards in kick off returns. He was one of the main reasons why Pahokee pulled out the win over Trinity Catholic, winning a fifth 2B title in six years.
WR – Kadron Boone, Ocala Trinity Catholic: Injured as a sophomore, this gifted athlete had a tremendous junior year, and in the 2B title game, he had a 100-yard, 1-touchdown performance and established himself as one of the elite players for the Class of 2010.
WR – Jay Herndon- Jacksonville Bolles: Yet another top prospect for the Class of 2010, which may be Florida's best ever, Herndon had three touchdowns in the state finals and showed just why many in the region have been talking him up all year!
TE – Rafael Ciafardini, Ocala Trinity Catholic: This gifted sophomore, who had a key touchdown reception from Purdue-bound quarterback Rob Henry in the title game, will be a prospect to follow over the next few years for the Celtics.
OL – Brent Benedict, Jacksonville Bolles: One of the main reasons why the Bulldogs had so much success on offense was the success and talent up front. Another Class of 2010 prospect, watch this quality football talent rise nationally!
OL – Donald Hester, Pahokee: Having watched this quality football talent over the past two years, there 's a reason why the Blue Devils control the line of scrimmage against nearly every opponent.
OL – Antonio Ford, Pahokee: As he has done all season, Ford played both ways in the state title game and never came off the field. He is one of the top athletes on a Pahokee football team that should make a solid run at title No. 6 in 2009.
OL – Mason Johnston, Jacksonville Bolles: While this impressive athlete lined up mostly at tight end, he was one of the best blockers for a program that established itself as one of the best in the state.
OL – Doral Willis, Pahokee: Yet another football talent we have had on the radar for two years, he joins his quality teammates as a standout from the first weekend of the 2009 Florida high school state championships.
ATHLETE – Will Powers, Jupiter Christian: After 136 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns – plus 8 tackles and 1 for loss, this is a junior who finally received the recognition as one of the top all-around players in the state. Could be the 1B Player of the Year!
ATHLETE – De’Joshua Johnson, Pahokee: At the start of the year, he was viewed as one of the best prospects on the team as a receiver. By the time the Blue Devils captured a record fifth 2B state title in six years, many felt this versatile athlete ran the offense quite well from his quarterback position.
KICKER – Freddie Cortez, Ft. Meade: Has emerged into one of the top, young kickers with great range and solid kickoffs.
Chandler Carr, Jacksonville Bolles: Carr was only 3-6 passing the football but he made those completions count with all three going for touchdowns.
Dexter Holmes, WR, Pahokee: Quality athlete who stepped up in the 2B title game and came up with several key plays for the Blue Devils.
Kedric Rhodes, RB, Ocala Trinity Catholic: 83 yards rushing another 54 yards on returns made Rhodes one of the better players from this past weekend.
Aaron Powell, PK, Tallahassee North Florida Christian: Was equally as impressive with a strong leg and the knack of coming up with the huge kick to eventually win the 1A title.
DL – David Leopard, Ocala Trinity Catholic: Ten tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and 1 forced fumble. Those type of stats are quite impressive in any game. This could easily have been the defensive MVP of the 2B state title game.
DL – Brandon Hawthorne, Pahokee: Another University of Michigan commitment, he is often overlooked, but continues to come up huge in big games. He finished with 7.5 tackles and four of them were behind the line of scrimmage.
DL – Jimmy Office, Ft Meade: Coach Mike Hayde has been talking this quality junior up since the start of the season, and in the 1A title game, he certainly didn't disappoint. Whether it was on the line or as a fullback, he was in control throughout the game.
DL – Aaron Riley, Jacksonville Bolles: While the offense put the heat on Gulliver all night long, the defense, with this quality talent making plays, finished with 5 tackles, 3 for loss and 2 sacks. Riley was easily one of the best players on Bolles defense.
LB – Cody Ledford, Tallahassee North Florida Christian: Also headed to Tulane next fall, Ledford was one of the MVPs for the Eagles on both sides of the ball. He had 2 tackles and 1 for loss. On offense, he rushed ten times for 56 yards. He also chipped in with a touchdown.
LB – Chase Griffiths, Tallahssee North Florida Christian: Yet another playmaker who helped to shut down a very impressive Fort Meade squad. Was all over the field!
LB – Eddie General, Ocala Trinity Catholic: Keeping to the playmaker theme of the first weekend, this gifted athlete came up with 8 tackles and one behind the line of scrimmage. He was very active all game long.
DB – Artice Kellum, Miami Gulliver Prep: Was there a more dominating defensive football player in the first weekend? Ten tackles 1 interception return for a touchdown, multiple crushing hits. Kellum was all over the field. He also chipped in with a tackle for loss and a quarterback sack. He has committed to Mississippi, but after such an impressive game, he will hear from more schools!
DB – Dionte Ponder, Ocala Trinity Catholic: After a 9-tackle performance, which included one behind the line of scrimmage, here was one of the better defensive backs in the first weekend.
DB – Breon Allen, South Daytona Beach Warner Christian: While Warner did not have a lot to cheer about in the 1B state finals, Allen played a tremendous game on both sides of the ball. He had 8 tackles and over 128 all-purpose yards.
DB – Desmond Cooper, Jacksonville Bolles: Finishing with 4 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception and two pass break ups, he began to set himself apart from the pack in the 2A title game.
PUNTER – Conner Vernon, Miami Gulliver Prep: While he did have 6 receptions in the loss, this Duke University commitment made his biggest contribution as a punter, averaging 37.8 on 6 punts – 2 punts dropped inside the 20 yard line.
Brandon Fulse, DE/OL, Ft Meade: Two-way standout, who had 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a sack.
Keith Carter, NT/FB, Tallahassee North Florida Christian: Big time football player who has proven that he can get it done on both sides of the ball.
Lance Mason, DL, Ft Meade: Eight tackles, 1 sack and 3 tackles for loss.
Tamorris Grace, DE/RB, Ft Meade: Had 9 tackles, 1 sack and 4 tackles for loss.
Carlos Lammons, LB, Pahokee: This three-year starter finished with 4 tackles, 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss.
Matt Dobson, DB, North Florida Christian: This former Aucilla Christian quarterback established himself as a player to watch for in the Classs of 2012. He finished with 3 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Jorge Sanz, LB, Miami Gulliver Prep: Came up with some impressive plays, including 10 tackles for the night.
Taylor Betros, LB, Jacksonville Bolles: Already following in his older brother's (Scott at Wake Forest) footsteps with a huge game, including 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss.
NEXT WEEK: It's the big boys, and we'll have all the action from the 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A state title games.