For the first five months of this year, while most players and teams were putting themselves in the spotlight at combines, camps and 7-on-7 events, Miami Booker T. Washington was preparing for something much bigger.
What the defending 4A state champion Tornadoes and veteran coach Tim "Ice" Harris, Sr., have been doing is getting this impressive program ready for a national championship run. That step began officially last Friday night in a 62-14 thrashing of St. Petersburg Lakewood in the spring game.
While that lopsided win - which has become the norm for BTW of late - was heard across the state and the nation, this program will not be satisfied with being second best. Too much talent, too many hours of work, way too much speed and a coaching staff that tolerates very little.
Nobody will ever minimize how good Miami Central and others are, having the right to claim that top spot, but to sit back and try to comprehend how anyone who knows anything about this game wouldn't think that BTW is not one of the best, may not have a grasp on what talent is flowing in and out of Overtown.
The Tornadoes are as balanced as you will get - on both sides of the ball. I would personally put them against any team in the country - and with a chance to play the best in Georgia, Nevada and south Florida, they will have that opportunity to back it up.
To put into perspective what this program has accomplished, all you have to do is look what's happened since the 19-3 lead they gave up to Central last year at Sun Life Stadium and lost to the Rockets. Since that game this team hasn't been pushed at all. They rolled over every obstacle on the way to state title, including traditional powerhouses Jacksonville Bolles and Cocoa.
This is the perfect storm for this program, which has taken a group of inner city athletes who have been well coached and disciplined in a system that may be the best in the country, and have developed them into prospects who are achieving on the football field and in the classroom.
At BTW, there is a solid foundation. Not something that was constructed for a few years. What you have here are coaches who are looked up to as sound football men and pillars of the community. People such as Harris, his son, "Ice Jr.", former head coach Earl Tillman, Sheldon Hanks, Sr., Torian Bean, Ben Hanks, Nitron Stork, Michael Fields, Pierre Senatus, Benedick Hyppolite, Latharrio Wright, Brian Sloan, Paul Lasseur and Murray Harris, who has been around the game for over three decades.
Having traveled with them during the 7-on-7 season, this is a program that never leaves a doubt. There is no fooling around, and if you slip up, there are several prospects waiting for their chance.
There are very few public high schools in the country who funnel so much talent from the youth football fields – where national championships have been won and a solid foundation is put into place. Pensacola Pine Forest had it in the 1980s, so did Union County. Lakeland and Cocoa also had their youth programs on the same page.
There are very few weaknesses in the lineup, and that has already shown during a spring where three new top-flight prospects are making their way into a big time rotation.
Offensively, you will have to score 35-plus if you want to stay in the game with them. They have five receivers who run in the 4.4 range and two running backs who will run away from you - in a second. They are big up front, talented at quarterback with senior Treon Harris and have the ability to create nightmares for any defensive coordinator who has the task of slowing them down.
"You watch them on offense and see receivers like Lamar Parker, Terrawn McPhee, Deltron Hopkins and Vaquan Smalls being very tough to cover," said Dana Wiley of Prep Films. "Then, you see a fast back like Krondis Larry and a big, young back like (sophomore) Mark Walton add to what they already send at you."
Defensively, losing a Matthew Thomas and a Michael Johnson are never easy, but this is talent train that has reloaded. With standout defensive linemen Chad Thomas, Demetrius Jackson and Jordan Ingraham, linebackers Tevin Evans and Terry Jefferson, and quality defensive back Nigel Patten, the balance on both sides of the ball has the attention of everyone.
"We set ourselves up with a very challenging schedule," Ice Harris said. "But we built to the point where we have taken this from a state-rated team to a national championship program with plenty of hard work.”
Class of 2015 standout linebacker James King could be the biggest addition to a team that is already busting at the talent seams.
We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at [email protected] Check out our list of statewide prospects as well on the High School Blog.
Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.