This group is brimming with rivalries. Natural, neighborhood enmities that mean a lot to the respective programs. Couple those intense rivalries with the fact the district is wide open, and you’ll have a season full of competitive games and fun atmospheres.
2015 Record: 6-5 (District Champion)
Coach: Joe Morgan
2016 Outlook: American has always been a program that’s been on the cusp.
A couple more players here or there in certain years and the Patriots could’ve been one of those programs that truly made some statewide noise.
Now, American is a team in a bit of a transition.
Gone is former head coach Anthony White, who led the team to consecutive district championships while compiling a 15-7 record in his two seasons, and former assistant coach Joe Morgan takes over.
While Morgan is no coaching neophyte, 2016 will be the first time that he’s wearing the main headset and calling all the shots.
Unfortunately, the Patriots lost a handful of players that would’ve been key contributors this season to transfer.
Top receiver Anthony White Jr., the son of the former coach, went to Central along with defensive standouts linebacker Enos Lewis and cornerback Joshua Dinson. American’s leading rusher from 2015, Legend Moore, is now the starting quarterback for Hallandale and running back Lytii Borders went to Norland.
While those are substantial losses, the Patriots will still be able to put a tough and athletic team on the field this season.
The offensive onus will likely fall on the arm and legs of 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior Tyree Bibby. At the beginning of Bibby’s career, expectations were high considering the physical tools he brings to the table. As other quarterbacks have taken over the spotlight, the tools are still there for Bibby and this is a season where he could remind a lot of people why he was so highly touted in the first place.
Senior receiver Marquez Jackson and senior running back Jokwan Holmes will be Bibby’s go-to weapons. Holmes is a physical, downhill runner that shocks defenders with his power as he bowls them over and he could end up being one of the top rushers in the district.
The defensive side of the ball is where Morgan must find leadership and playmaking. Senior defensive linemen Alejandro Garcia and Khalil Lynes could be the players to fill those voids or it could be done by committee.
Dr. Krop Lightning
2015 Record: 4-6
Coach: Mike Farley
2016 Outlook: Like American, Krop is another program that has seen a fair amount of success over the past eight years and could have – under ideal situations – been a team that really bubbled up.
For the first time in a long time, the Lightning will enter a football season without David Hudson as their head football coach. Hudson stepped down at the end of the 2015 season, leaving as the program’s winningest coach.
Krop tabbed football-lifer Mike Farley as its new head coach. Farley, who played collegiately at Marshall University, has a resumed backed with coaching experience in both his native West Virginia and Florida. A defensive-minded coach, Farley will be looking to make his mark in South Florida.
Luckily for Farley, Hudson left a few talented athletes in the cupboards.
Senior wide receiver Randall St. Felix headlines for the Lightning. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound pass catcher recently earned a University of South Florida offer and is poised for a breakout year in 2016. St. Felix is a classic No. 1 receiver, equipped with a pair of strong hands and excellent body control – which make him a big threat in the red zone.
Shifty running back Lawrence Papillon, Krop’s leading rusher in 2015, returns for his junior season and will be counted on to increase his production to help buoy the offense as well as being a factor in the Lightning’s return game.
Quarterback Matthew Bethel looks more like a linebacker – with his 6-foot-2, 230-pound frame – but he’s a legitimate signal caller that is tough to bring down in the pocket and is a load to tackle when he takes off downfield.
Krop too is a team that’ll be looking for players to step up on defense.
Senior defensive tackle Jordany Bruny is one of the most experienced players in the program and can be a strong voice in the huddle while junior outside linebacker Francky Jean-Louis (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) has the potential to be one of the more disruptive defensive players in the district.
Farley’s biggest concern will be finding out why this team, which began the 2015 season 3-1, ended up losing five of its final six games – and fixing it.
2015 Record: 5-6 (District Runner-up)
Coach: Steve Smith
2016 Outlook: Hialeah surpassed the expectations of just about everyone not wearing red and blue when it earned a playoff spot in 2015.
The Thoroughbreds took down all but one of its district opponents – suffering a 33-0 lost to American – and made head coach Steve Smith’s first year back with the program a relatively successful one.
Smith, who previously had a two-year stint at Hialeah (2004 & 2005), is an “old school” coach that has seen almost everything that high school football in South Florida has to offer. His experience alone is worth the respect of his players, but he’s also shown that he knows how to power a program to meaningful wins.
Staying to true to the old school mentality of its coach, Hialeah was a run-heavy team in 2015. The T-Breds relied on the pair of Lynn Bryant and Bobby Clerisier and two delivered – combining to rush for nearly 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But both backs graduated, leaving big shoes to fill in the backfield.
Looking to fill the void will be the duo of senior Rommeo Brown and junior Bobby Nelson. Nelson played sparingly in 2015 but should see his role increase this season.
Brown will likely end up being the No. 1 ball carrier though. Transferring in from rival Hialeah-Miami Lakes, Brown is a very underrated yet very talented athlete.
He has good size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds) and is deceptively fast. Once he breaks through to the second level of the defense, he’ll rarely be caught. Brown has plenty of potential, he just needs to put all his tools together – something that’ll help him individually and the Thoroughbreds as a whole.
Receiver Marlin Davis, a senior, has the speed to get behind most defensive backs and could be a solid threat on the outside if Hialeah can get consistent play from the quarterback position. Hialeah’s offensive line has some size but the question will be if it has the skill and technique to hold up against a rush for 48 minutes.
The biggest questions may come from the T-Breds’ defense. In 2015, Hialeah gave up 20 or more points in seven of 11 games – giving up 35 or more four times – so leaders must emerge if the team is to stay in the district race.
Hialeah Gardens Gladiators
2015 Record: 3-7
Coach: Joseph Harrington
2016 Outlook: You have to give Hialeah Gardens, its players, coaches, administrators and fans a lot of credit.
Here’s a school that could’ve easily folded its proverbial tent and settled for having a football program that always struggled. Consider, from 2009 to 2013 that Gladiators won just two out of 50 total games. The team went through three straight winless seasons.
But the school continued to invest in its football program and the coaches and players continued striving to be better.
Things have gotten exponentially better over the past two years. Hialeah Gardens compiled a 7-13 record in that span and the players that are currently in the program walk into games with the confidence that they can not only compete – but win.
Hialeah Gardens even started 2015 undefeated – winning its first two games by a combined score of 83-12.
Head coach Joseph Harrington enters his fifth season leading the team. He endured two of those winless seasons, so seeing all his effort come to fruition and see the program begin to uptick surely means a lot to him.
Entering the 2016 season, Hialeah Gardens has to replace its top two leading rushers from the previous year. Andres Menahem and Maury Ramos both graduated, so the rushing onus now falls on senior Chris Lamas. During the spring Lamas showed that he’s a capable ball carrier that’ll scrap for yards between the tackles.
Seniors Danny Algaze and Sergio Fernandez will be counted this season to do a bit of everything for the Gladiators. They’ll both likely play on both lines – being among the biggest players on the roster – and Algaze could line up as a tight end in certain sets.
Linebackers Yoan Castellanos and Christian Delcorro will lead a Gladiators defense that is aggressive but undersized. Coaches will have to make sure that the players use sound technique to make up for any physical limitations.
North Miami Pioneers
2015 Record: 3-6
Coach: Ed Williams
2016 Outlook: Larry Blustein, a proud North Miami High School alum, won’t let anyone forget that in 2013 and 2014 the Pioneers were 19-4 and made consecutive postseason appearances.
Those two years were some of the school’s best, benefitting from a strong core of upperclassmen and a very good quarterback in Hilton Joseph.
But North Miami felt the effects of losing a special group of seniors this past season, losing its first four games before finishing the year 3-2 – all three victories being district wins.
2016 marks the fifth season for head coach Ed Williams, who has shown that when he has the requisite offensive weapons – he can command a fast-paced, high-scoring offense.
What North Miami has this season is a core of seniors that were the baby-faced freshmen on the 2014 team that went 9-2 and now will have to be the veteran leaders on an otherwise young team.
Lanky quarterback Tyberius Horne (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) is the incumbent starter. Horne has a solid arm and he’s a better athlete than a lot of people think – allowing him to either escape a pass rush or just take off downfield on a designed run.
Senior receivers Colson Jean and Larry Williams will be Horne’s go-to targets downfield. Williams (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) could prove himself to be one of Miami-Dade’s hidden gems if he has the kind of breakout season his physical tools would suggest he’s capable of.
The true star of this team that not enough people know about is middle linebacker Deandre Richard. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior is an excellent athlete – able to read the flow of a play and attack the ball carrier – and he’s a physical tackler that makes his presence known.
Richard is no doubt the centerpiece of the Pioneers’ defense; while defensive tackle Mitch Louis will anchor the front and the trio of Andieusone Cheri, Erick Joseph and Scottie Felix patrol the defensive backfield.
The only potential pitfall on North Miami’s road to a winning season and potential playoff berth is its offensive line. If the Pioneers can get reliable protection up front, there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t at least challenge for one of the two postseason spots.
North Miami Beach Chargers
2015 Record: 2-8
Coach: Jeff Bertani
2016 Outlook: The longest-tenured head football coach in a public school – Jeff Bertani continues to do things his way at North Miami Beach.
Say what you want, Bertani will continue to do it his way and will do so unapologetically. And the only thing that makes it better is that Bertani looks like WWE superstar “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – another person who did things their way and wasn’t too much concerned with how others felt about it.
Joking aside, Bertani is a very good football coach.
And doing things his way has produced a great line of future professional football players. From Louis Delmas (Miami Dolphins), Max Jean-Gilles (retired) and E.J. Biggers (New England Patriots); to Kemal Ishmael (Atlanta Falcons) and Jonathan Cyprien (Jacksonville Jaguars), Bertani has coached them all.
North Miami Beach will still have a roster of no more than 35 players and most – if not all – of the frontline players will play on both sides of the ball – Bertani staples.
While the Chargers haven’t finished with more than five regular season victories since 2010, this seems to be a season where they can get over the .500 mark and surprise a lot of people with their talent.
There are two big reasons why the Chargers will be an improved team this season – 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior Woodlyson Alcius and 6-foot-6, 300-pound junior Kahric Belle. Having bookend tackles like Alcius and Belle will allow for NMB’s offense to operate more effectively – being able to run to either side and not being afraid of edge rushers blowing up passing plays.
Both are skilled and agile enough to win most one-on-one matchups and their conditioning will be better than most other offensive linemen because they’ll also be lining up as interior defensive linemen for the Chargers.
Senior running back Vinshaun Cobham will be the biggest benefactor of running behind Belle and Alcius. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound back led the team in rushing and was the top point producer – totaling 12 touchdowns in 2015. While he doesn’t have the flash of some of the other notable ball carriers in Dade, Cobham runs with good balance and can squeeze through holes quickly with his initial burst out of the handoff.
Better yet, Cobham is quite the physical hitter as the team’s middle linebacker.
Sans Belle and Alcius, North Miami Beach’s defense will be a bit undersized. Senior Shaide Ramirez is an underrated defensive back that can be physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage and do a good job of shadowing, but the Chargers will have to be technically sound in order to put the kibosh on opposing offenses.
It looks like 2016 is the year that North Miami Beach is able to climb back to the mountaintop of this district. The Chargers have the key building block for any potentially successful team – a strong offensive line. Couple that with a good running back, and a lot of good things can happen for NMB this season.
There are two teams that will legitimately jockey for the district runner-up spot: Dr. Krop and North Miami. Both have some really good pieces to carry the team, but both also have areas where they need new players to step up and make an impact.
I think the Pioneers get the early nod over the Lightning.
While Randall St. Felix is a special player and he could end up being the difference for Krop in a lot of games, it is plausible that North Miami’s defense ends up being the reason the Pioneers are back in the playoffs.
American’s rebuild is in the beginning stages. Because they have a handful of talented athletes, the Patriots won’t go down without a fight, but they will likely fall to the other senior-heavy teams ahead of them.
I think Hialeah takes a step backward this season and finishes fifth. Having question marks along the offensive line will sink a team.
Barring an injury-riddled season for one of the other five teams, Hialeah Gardens ends up in the final spot. But, I could see the Gladiators continuing to earn victories and take steps forward as a program.
Predicted Champion: North Miami Beach
Predicted Runner-Up: North Miami
It has to be North Miami Beach’s Vinshaun Cobham.
Here’s a player that could end up being a top 15 total rusher in Miami-Dade County; ultimately making a name for himself and getting the attention of colleges as he helps his team to a predicted district title and playoff berth.
Tack on the fact that Cobham will also play a big role in the Chargers’ defensive success and you’re looking at a player that could end up being an all-County performer.
Defensive stats are always up for debate – you can talk to five different coaches and get five different definitions of what constitutes a solo tackle and an assisted tackle.
But I’m willing to say that no matter how you slice it this season, North Miami’s Deandre Richard will be a top 20 tackler in Miami-Dade County.
With his size and athleticism, he should be able to flow sideline to sideline and be in on just about every play.
Alvin Floyd – North Miami Beach
Andieusone Cheri – North Miami
Brian Brown – North Miami Beach
Chris Brown – Dr. Krop
Chris Lamas – Hialeah Gardens
Danny Algaze – Hialeah Gardens
DeAndre Miles – Hialeah
Deandre Richard – North Miami
Derrick Jackson – North Miami
Erick Joseph – North Miami
Francky Jean-Louis – Dr. Krop
Hansel Chacon – American
Jeremy Polidor – Dr. Krop
Jokwan Holmes – American
Jordan Atkins – North Miami Beach
Jordany Bruny – Dr. Krop
Kahric Belle – North Miami Beach
Larry Williams – North Miami
Lawrence Papillon – Dr. Krop
Marlin Davis – Hialeah
Marquez Jackson – American
Matt Bethel – Dr. Krop
Patrick Gilles – North Miami Beach
Randall St. Felix – Dr. Krop
Rommeo Brown – Hialeah
Sergio Fernandez – Hialeah Gardens
Tyberius Horne – North Miami
Tyree Bibby – American
Vinshaun Cobham – North Miami Beach
Wendel Morrison – North Miami Beach
Woodlyson Alcius – North Miami Beach
Xavier Oliver – Hialeah
Yoan Catellanos – Hialeah Gardens
Zario Dorismond – Hialeah