When the 2013 high school football season came to an end last November, Monarch head coach Calvin Davis never had to give that season-ending speech. His players had already looked forward to 2014.
There was a feeling for this northwest Broward program that there would be enough talent returning to make a serious run in what already looks like a competitive 8A field that features Broward schools, Miramar, Flanagan, Cypress Bay and Deerfield Beach, a few programs in Palm Beach - and five Miami-Dade schools that have a reason to believe that Orlando is a realistic destination.
"When we finished that season with a loss to Miramar, there wasn't one of the 17 returning starters on this team that didn't believe that we should be in Orlando in December of 2014," Davis said. "I think while people were fixed on the tremendous skilled athletes we had coming back, they didn't pay attention to both sides of our line and our quality linebackers."
While having University of Alabama commits Calvin Ridley (6-1, 175) and Shawn Burgess Becker (6-2, 195) back on both sides of the ball was a given, this program did have enough underclassmen from last year to believe that there was more than just two players that would spark the Knights this coming season.
On offense, the senior class featured state-rated quarterback Michael Harris (6-1, 175), Ellex "Pooh" Davis (5-9, 160) and Brandon Pope, and returning running back Cavarri Morss, a 5-9 speedster, who had a huge spring.
What this program did in the off season was add depth at running back with bruising Brayon Parrish (5-11, 180) and two-way performer Deon Thompson (5-8, 205), who also plays linebacker. Offensive lineman Roberto Montanez (6-4, 270) was also a huge key.
"I think people underestimate the balance that we have on this offense," Davis said. "We showcase that in all our classes."
The senior class on defense is also a spot many took for granted. Led by quality secondary performers Ronnie Hoggins (5-10, 170) and Antone Hodge (5-9, 175), this is a strong and athletic unit. Add in defensive end Musa Abuzahrieh (6-2, 210) and linebacker Chauncey Edwards (5-10, 205) and things get interesting.
"Our defense is very underrated," said Hoggins, who is being looked at by schools such as Wisconsin, TCU and Louisville. "We are athletic, talented and have a reason to believe we can compete with anyone."
Where the Knights figure to make the biggest impact in 2014 will be with the depth that the underclassmen provide. The junior class features defensive lineman Matt Croyle (6-2, 250), secondary performers Isaiah McIntyre (5-9, 175), Buddy Lewis (5-9, 160), Javrick Taylor (6-0, 160) and Delmedris Berry, a 5-10, 155-pounder. Offensive linemen Phillip Douglass (6-2, 270) and Joshua Varona (6-4, 260), and speedy and versatile Cavin Ridley (6-2, 195).
"The true measure of a championship team is the ability to use all the players you have on the roster," Davis said. "We have to believe that there are very few programs that have the talent in all classes that we do."
Sophomore receiver Jerry Jeudy (6-2, 175) has already received numerous college offers - defensive lineman William Wallace (6-0, 265) is an up and coming standout.
Even incoming freshmen such as defensive end Keldrick Hooks (6-4, 270) and defensive lineman Karl Paul (6-0, 260), running back
Jalen Barther (5-10, 155) and linebacker K.J. Lewis (6-0, 180) figure to add to the mix of talent.
"There is really nothing that we are going to say to programs that are the favorites to get to Orlando," said Hoggins. "The only thing we will do is go out every week and show them that we are one of the teams to beat."
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