By Larry Blustein
Jeff Bertani has been around the sport of football all of hits life. You can say he was born into the game.
The son and grandson of head football coaches in Miami-Dade County, he has approached this sport in a manner of teaching, developing and winning. He learned - early on - as a player at North Miami Beach High - that you do not settle.
That approach has followed Miami-Dade's second longest tenured head coach through district titles and turning out perhaps more players to the next level and beyond than any other coach in south Florida.
Bertani's recipe for success is to give everything possible to the sport. He has demanded that from his players, coaches and of himself. That is the reason that every year, his North Miami Beach Chargers are in the mix.
When his team lost out on a playoff spot last year, it was something that didn't sit well with Bertani or his team. They all made a commitment to work harder than ever before - and the results - as approach the 2014 season - is that his team will be right in the mix.
With North Miami returning 16 starters from last year, the Pioneers head into this year as the favorite, but that tag has never meant much in a district that the Chargers have dominated through the years.
Even last year when North Miami finished unbeaten in the district and losing just once in the regular season, it was NMB that took them down to the wire. Look for the same thing to happen once again this year.
"The only thing that I have ever asked of my players is to give 100 percent and represent themselves in a first class manner on and off the playing field," Bertaini said. "I want the players on this team to be admired just as much for what they do in the classroom and in the community as what they accomplish on the football field."
With players like Louis Delmas now playing with the Miami Dolphins and others scattered around professional and collegiate football, Bertani is satisfied with what his players have learned throughout the years.
This year's edition of NMB football will once again be loaded with quality prospects that will play on both sides of the ball as well as participate on special teams. That is a trademark of this team that goes back to the beginning when he first started. He learned from the best - and has applied that during his time.
While there are a number of younger players who figure to keep the Chargers in the spotlight for years to come, it's all about this senior class that will assume the leadership role, which is very important to the success of this program.
"I have always looked to my seniors to help guide the way," Bertani said. "It is important to have people like Cedric Wiggins (QB/DB, 6-0, 190) to be a leader on this team.
Wiggins, the younger brother of former Charger standout Doug Wiggins, is a four year player who has already received offers from schools such as Alcorn State, UMass and UConn.
In addition to Wiggins, talented Emmanuel Lubin, a 6-1, 180-pound defensive back/receiver, is also a quality player with outstanding bloodlines. His brother E.J. Biggers, another NFL player, was tremendous for Bertani and there Chargers. Lubin currently holds offers from Arkansas, Illinois, Syracuse, Bowling Green and FIU.
Bertani coached teams have always had football players who give everything of themselves to help the program win. Seniors Bryan Soto (LB/TE, 6-0, 190), Duanne Jones (RB/LB, 5-11, 180) and Eric Fleurima (LB/FB,5-9, 180) are perfect examples.
Every year, NMB boasts some young players who will provide depth and leadership for the future. This year is certainly no exception - with a quality junior class - and a sophomore group that may be the best the school has had.
Class of 2016 prospects Voshon Reid (DL/ OL, 6-2, 250) and Kassy Desir (DL/OL, 6-2, 270) are already considered among the best in south Florida.
Sophomores Alvin Floyd (DB/WR, 5-11, 180), Tyrek Hepburn (DB/QB, 5-10, 175), Woodlyson Alcius (DL/OL, 6-4, 290) and talented Jordan Atkins, a 6-0, 190-pound linebacker/running back are as good as you will find. Atkins is the younger brother of one-time Charger standout Markeith Russell.
NMB is also starting a solid foundation with incoming freshmen Nickolia St.Fort (DB/WR, 6-0, 170) and linebacker/fullback Mitchler Morany (5-9, 190).
Have something to add to this Blog? Drop Larry Blustein a note at Floridakids1@aol.com.