By Larry Blustein
Before the 2013 high school football season began, all the players and coaches at Southwest Miami heard about was that Belen Jesuit was now part of District 15-8A and that things would soon change.
The stronghold that head coach Tim Neal and his team had started to have on the district was sure to loosen as the Wolverines, who had gone to the state title game in the past and had beaten schools such as Booker T. Washington, Norland and Miami Jackson, had this thing figured out and would jump up two classes to make things tough on the Eagles.
As any good program that was being built upon a solid foundation, Southwest Miami would hear no part of all those "experts" who figured they had it all figured out. This was not a team built on folding to better competition. Too much hard work and many hours were spent to ensure this program would be competitive.
From the start of the season, this was a team that had something to prove - reeling off impressive wins against Coral Park and district favorite Hialeah before that first ever district meeting with Belen. It was that game against Coach Rich Stuart's program that the Eagles thrust themselves into an elite spotlight. One that paved the way for convincing district romps over Sunset, Braddock, Ferguson and Varela, This team roared out to non straight wins.
"We knew that if we played our brand of football and kept the mistakes at a minimum, we could compete with anyone," Neal explained. "When you have the talent and the work ethic for the game like our young men had, things have a way of working out."
What last year's 9-2 season illustrated was that this was a team that could play at a high level. Football, while never a powerhouse at the school, has always had a way of producing key prospects and making things exciting. Even when the Eagles lost to its longest rival Coral Gables, 31-24, it was one of those games that remained close down to the end. In a series that has been more than one-sided over the years, Southwest Miami had finally closed the gap and earned the respect of a Coral Gables squad that was as talented as any 8A team in south Florida.
As the 2014 season unfolds, this is a team that is once again the favorite to reach the playoffs and chalk up another district title. Yes, Belen is loaded again, and many of the programs are better and will be up for the task, but the Eagles have several key prospects returning and younger players ready to step in and make a difference.
The senior class this year will really be the place to start on this team. This was the heart and soul of this talented unit a year ago with highly recruited quarterback D’undre Pickett-White (6-1, 190) defensive back Quindale Corker (5-9, 160), improved receivers Sam Flowers (5-9, 178) and Daquantay Smith (6-1, 190), and versatile all-over-the-field performer Trevon Sands (6-0, 180) making a huge impact.
"The core of what we have coming back is reason to make most coaches smile," Neal said. "But you also look at some of the other pieces and you feel a lot better as well."
Other seniors expected to make a major impact for the Eagles include receivers Jacob Nodarse (6-1, 175) and Dustin Suzara (5-9, 150), athletic Andres Perez (5-10, 175), linebacker Andres Pineda (5-9, 180), running back Kamari Flintroy (5-9 180), defensive backs Dimetri Rodriguez (5-9, 160), Justin Thomson (5-9, 175) and Wilson Palacio (5-10, 180), defensive lineman Disney Macias (5-11, 250), and offensive linemen Humberto Padraza (5-10, 215), Mario Treto (6-0, 215), Jake Perez (5-11, 200) and Christian Haugen (6-6, 270).
Class of 2016 juniors such as Varela transfer C.J. McWilliams (5-11, 170), linebackers Andrew Blanco (5-10, 180) and Willie Brown (6-0, 215), athletic James Barnes (5-7, 170), defensive back Austin Hudson (5-9, 170) and offensive linemen Tyler McVay (6-3, 240) will certainly add to the strength of this program.
Even the Class of 2017 will show up in the rotation with promising linebacker/safety Edwin Sosa (5-10, 170), kicker Antonio Garcia, quarterback/receiver Justin Worley (6-0, 165), receivers Manny Pineda (5-8, 160) and Amir Riviera (5-7, 150), defensive back Nathan Perdomo (5-8, 155), defensive lineman Ilan Jorge (5-11, 225), and offensive linemen Keanu Sullivan (6-1, 215) and Jonathan Reynoso (5-11, 230) making a difference. So will freshman safety Emanuel De la Nova (5-10, 170).
"We feel great about the upcoming season," Neal said. "There are a lot of key pieces coming back with a coaching staff that has worked very hard to get these players better."
We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. All you have to do is send a You Tube or Hudl link and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein at Floridakids1@aol.com.
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