Considered the SEC of districts; this group has intense, ingrained rivalries and a whole lot of talent. Coming out of this district is no easy task and it is a shame that a couple of these very good teams won’t make the postseason. The number of top-level football players in this one district is scary.
Carol City Chiefs
2015 Record: 9-3 (District Champion)
Coach: Aubrey Hill
2016 Outlook: The Chiefs shook up the world in 2015, taking down mighty Central during the regular season.
That was the highlight in what was another program building season for Carol City. Since he came back to his alma mater three seasons ago, Aubrey Hill has done everything he can to increase “Chief Pride” and build a bridge between the community and the school.
Hill’s efforts continue to pay dividends as Carol City has put together another talent-laden roster that could very well shake things up again in 2016.
The first big move was bringing in former West Virginia University assistant coach and Miramar head coach Damon Cogdell to be the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator and associate head coach. Cogdell, the architect of the Patriots’ “Dark Side Defense”, has a great mind for defense and can be another steadying hand for the program as a whole.
Cogdell has some great pieces to work with on Carol City’s defense too. Senior linebacker Deandre “Eye Candy” Wilder (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) is the star. And while Wilder already has the attention of just about every college in the country, working under Cogdell will only increase Wilder’s production.
Carol City’s secondary is also very solid with seniors Naytron Culpepper and Donelle Thomas along with rising juniors Randy Russell and Irshaad Davis, who transferred in from Norland and is the younger brother of Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis.
The Chiefs’ offense is also loaded with big-time prospects. Senior receiver and University of Miami commit Kevaugh Dingle (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) is a playmaker – especially in the red zone.
Sophomore running back Nayquan “Monster” Wright (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) – who holds offers from LSU, Miami, Florida State, Notre Dame and Alabama – had a stellar freshman season and represents the present and the future of Carol City football.
The pressure is on sophomore quarterback Lorenzo Floyd to step up and live up to the hype that surrounded him coming from the youth level and prove that he can be the signal caller that the Chiefs need if they’re to go far in 2016.
2015 Record: 12-2 (District Runner-up; Class 6A Champion)
Coach: Roland Smith
2016 Outlook: The drive for five is alive.
The Rockets enter the 2016 season as four-time defending Class 6A champions and they have their sights set on No. 5. If Central does capture a state title this season, it’ll actually be their sixth ring in seven years and seventh straight appearance in a state championship game.
Sustained excellence like that is a direct reflection of the work of the Rockets’ coaching staff. Head coach Roland Smith, who took over for Telly Lockette in 2013, has quickly ingrained himself in the Rockets’ culture and has a staff thate gets every drop of potential out of their players.
Most people will start the conversation about Central by talking about running back James Cook. The younger brother of Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, “Jimmy” Cook reclassified to the 2018 class during the offseason and has done nothing but impress people since his breakout performance in the 2015 Class 6A state title game.
Leading the way for Jimmy Cook – and the rest of the stable of running backs that Central has – is a massive offensive line that’s anchored by seniors Mershawn Miller (6-foot-3, 320 pounds) and Navaughn Donaldson (6-foot-5, 320 pounds). Donaldson is a Miami commit and possesses a brute strength that overwhelms opposing linemen.
Central may have been a victim of its own success at the quarterback position. The Rockets have three players, all capable of being solid starters, that’ll be vying for snaps. Junior Tijuane Morten, who took a number of snaps at quarterback for the Rockets in 2015, has experience on his side. But junior Seth McGill has impressed coaches with his ability during the offseason and sophomore Maurice Underwood, who transferred in from Champagnat Catholic, is one of the better young quarterbacks in South Florida.
Whoever ends up being the quarterback will have a great trio of wide receivers to throw to in Jernard Phillips (the younger brother of Florida State receiver Da’Vante Phillips), Carmoni Green and Anthony White Jr.
Defensively, the Rockets have to replace a lot of great players from last year’s stingy squad, but they already plugged those holes with young players ready to breakout.
Senior linebacker and Miami commit Waynmon Steed returns the field after he missed the entire 2015 season with a shoulder injury. Also, look for Hialeah American transfer Enos Lewis to prove himself as a tackling machine this season.
6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive end Owen Carney came in from Miramar and will be counted upon to provide a pass rush while Allen Jones, Joshua Dinson, Christopher Williams and Chris Metayer patrol the defensive backfield.
2015 Record: 5-4
Coach: Daryle Heidelburg
2016 Outlook: Norland is another program – like Dillard in Broward County – that always seem to have talented kids walk through its doors.
What has hurt the Vikings in recent years is the number of players that elect to leave the school or never even come to it at all – despite still being in the Miami Gardens area.
Still, Norland has remained competitive and it will be again in 2016.
Head coach Daryle Heidelburg was gifted a very good quarterback prospect when junior Alec Carr transferred in from Dade Christian. Carr is a good decision-maker under center and has good enough arm talent to make throws around the field.
Carr will surely make a connection with 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior receiver Dave Richards – especially since speedsters Lio’Undre Gallimore and Travon Roberts both transferred to Mater Academy.
The Vikings defense is anchored by Rashad Colson. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound senior is a space eater that has freakish athleticism – clocking a 4.8 in the 40 – and should see a spike in his production this season.
Norland has the potential to be a bit of a “swing team” – a squad that could muddy up the district picture because it could bubble up and catch an opponent sleeping on a given night.
But things would have to go exactly right for the Vikings.
2015 Record: 5-4
Coach: Max Edwards
2016 Outlook: Northwestern fans be encouraged; the Bulls are climbing their way back.
Granted, it’s not like the program suffered a winless season or anything like it and the Bulls did make the playoffs just two seasons ago – but Northwestern fans have become accustomed to a certain standard.
The program enters year two under head coach Max “Why The Defense Ain’t Working” Edwards and his fingerprints are all over the team now. Being an intensely defensive-minded coach, Edwards knows how to build schemes that fit his personnel and demands a level of play from his players that makes it very hard for opposing offenses to produce points.
Leading the charge is 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior linebacker Billy Joseph. The four-star prospect is a disruptive force coming off the line and is emerging as a leader that rallies players around him.
Sophomore defensive end Samuel Brooks (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) is a player to watch in 2016 while senior 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior Demetrius Taylor will give the Bulls both senior savvy and playmaking.
The Bulls’ offense belongs to junior quarterback Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell. Entering his third year of being the starter, Atwell is dual-threat signal caller that can make all the throws as well as being able to take off and scramble for a 50-yard touchdown.
Running back Kai Henry is an underrated ball carrier that could end up being one of the top touchdown producers in Miami-Dade County. Also, receiver Al-Malik Moore appears to have developed into a legitimate No. 1 receiver – having multiple dominant showings at offseason events.
Northwestern has a great collection of young talent and is built for success both now and later.
And coach Edwards put together a tough schedule – with a preseason classic against Palm Beach Dwyer and regular season games against both Plantation American Heritage and Delray American Heritage as well as South Dade – that will put his team through the ringer and only make it better for wear when it comes time to decide the district race.
Surprise, surprise – Central wins the district title, again.
The Rockets took a more scenic route to the district crown in 2015, but they are still the hands-down kings of this district.
Carol City should – and I need you to squint one eye, tilt your head side to side and rotate your hand in a half circle as you read the word “should” – take the runner-up spot.
For me, the second playoff berth will be given to the winner of the Carol City – Northwestern game. Ultimately, the Chiefs should – do the head and eye thing again – narrowly edge the Bulls in a very close game.
Remember, Carol City only won that matchup by a mere four points this past season. I totally expect a similar outcome again this season.
Norland finishes fourth– and they won’t be happy about it. But remember this a district with four teams that have all at least won one state title since 2000.
Predicted Champion: Central
Predicted Runner-Up: Carol City
There’s a plethora of players to choose from for this honor. But if you think about the true definition of “MVP” – most valuable player – I think the choice becomes clear.
Northwestern quarterback Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell may not be the absolute best player this district has to offer – he’s not out of the conversation, though – but I believe he holds the most value; on and off the field.
He came into high school a youth league legend, and in just two years “Tutu” Atwell is highly regarded amongst Northwestern diehards. One could say he’s the face of the program right now.
On the field, the Bulls’ offense is built around “Tutu”. Starting since his freshman year, Atwell has gained plenty of experience – still being only a junior – and he’s shown major strides during this past offseason that he’s ready to be a consistent chain-mover that makes smart decisions from inside the pocket.
You could take other players from the other teams in this district and they will probably still be alright. Take “Tutu” out of the Blue and Gold and Northwestern just won’t be the same team.
The bold prediction is also a bit of a challenge to the Carol City coaching staff.
Nayquan Wright is exactly what his nickname – “Monster” – says he is. He’s already one of the best running backs in South Florida and is built to touch the ball 15-plus times per game.
Wright has the talent to be a 1,500-yard back, the Chiefs coaches just have to give him the ball.
He ran for just a shade under 1,000 yards as a freshman while only getting 122 carries.
Imagine if they added another 30 or 40 touches to that.
Aaron Duncan – Norland
Alec Carr – Norland
Allen Jones – Central
Al-Malik Moore – Northwestern
Andre Adams – Northwestern
Anthony White Jr. – Central
Ben Garland – Northwestern
Billy Joseph – Northwestern
Caleb Thomas – Carol City
Camron Davis – Carol City
Carmoni Green – Central
Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell – Northwestern
Chris Metayer – Central
Christopher Williams – Central
Dave Richards – Norland
Deandre Wilder – Carol City
Demetrius Taylor – Northwestern
Donelle Thomas – Carol City
Enos Lewis – Central
Eric Smith – Norland
Harry Hanna – Northwestern
Irshaad Davis – Carol City
James Cook – Central
Jernard Phillips – Central
Joshua Dinson – Central
Kai Henry – Northwestern
Kevaughn Dingle – Carol City
Kh’lajuwon Murat – Central
Khamal Ellison – Central
Kywan Smith – Central
Lorenzo Floyd – Carol City
Lytii Borders – Norland
Mark Fox – Northwestern
Maurice Underwood – Central
Mershawn Miller – Central
Mitch Louis – Norland
Moris Lugo – Carol City
Navaughn Donaldson – Central
Nayquan Wright – Carol City
Naytron Culpepper – Carol City
Owen Carney – Central
Randy Russell – Carol City
Rashad Colson – Norland
Sammy Laster – Central
Samuel Brooks – Northwestern
Seth McGill – Central
Taurus Dotson – Northwestern
Taurrian Stafford – Central
Terrell Perriman – Central
Terry Straughter – Carol City
Tevin Jones – Norland
Tijuane Morten – Central
Travon Brooks – Northwestern
Trevon Gordon – Northwestern
Victor Tucker – Carol City
Waynmon Steed – Central