If you ask any college coach about the high school football talent in South Florida, they will all give you the same answer.
That answer will be on display this weekend, as six Miami-Dade and Broward County teams will head to Orlando for a state championship weekend that will feature 16 teams and eight games in three days.
As all the programs who have qualified for the state championship weekend have their quality talent, it will be hard to match the major college athletes that the teams coming from south Florida will have.
Champagnat Catholic (Class 2A), Chaminade-Madonna (Class 3A), American Heritage (Class 5A), Carol City (Class 6A), St. Thomas Aquinas (Class 7A) and Southridge (Class 8A) are not only bringing great programs to Camping World Stadium, but they are all showcasing athletes that fans have been reading about for years – on the internet.
South Florida high school football has long been an area that college coaches flock to – in search of that impressive athlete that can help turn programs across the country around. Things have not changed, and the 60-plus football players that are currently on NFL rosters from those two counties, will certainly back that up.
What South Florida football talent has become is almost like being a rock star. No matter where they go across the country, if you are a football player from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, you get that instant credibility. Everyone wants to compete against you and people want to see you perform.
At camps, combines, 7-on-7 tryouts or any other event, when people find out that you play in south Florida, they want to call you out and see what they can do against some of the best.
With some tremendous teams on display Thursday through Saturday, there will not be a shortage of talent, but fans and coaches will want to get a look at what South Florida brings up this year. Here is a look at some head-turners:
HIALEAH CHAMPAGNAT CATHOLIC LIONS
Head Coach: Dennis Marroquin
There is no team in South Florida that completely turned things around in one year like this program.
After taking over in 2015, Marroquin and his team saw four key players transfer out, but the prospects that remained, especially the younger kids, made it a point to turn heads and rebuild along the way.
Losing only to previously unbeaten Melbourne Central Catholic, this team once again goes into a game as huge underdog – as Jacksonville’s University Christian looks to make a statement – but the Lions have been down this road before.
2017 PROSPECTS: Sean Bouie (CB), Jordan Coley (FS), Brian Gooze (S), Christian Javier (OL), DeVante Mitchell (FS), Voshon Ochoa (DE) and Isaiah Sharpe (RB).
2018 PROSPECTS: Donovan Georges (LB), Maxesien Michel (DE), Tyrik Robinson (LB), Gregory Rosseau (WR/S), Jawuan Wilson (OL) and Jahani Wright (WR).
2019 PROSPECTS: Kervin Dessources (QB), Donald Georges (LB), Jarule Harris (S) and Daryn Jones (RB).
2020 PROSPECTS: Mark Britt (WR), Johnquai Lewis (WR), Jesus Machado (DE) and Calvin Montgomery (RB).
HOLLYWOOD CHAMINADE-MADONNA LIONS
Head Coach: Dameon Jones
The dream began nearly two years ago when Jason Milgrom was hired to take over the Lions and build this program back to where it was when Mark Guandolo had put this program in the statewide and national spotlight. Everyone was optimistic.
Then, last July, while getting ready or the season to begin, Milgrom stepped down and the scramble began. Players began to explore leaving, even though the year was about to start. But then over the weekend, things started to get brighter.
After stepping down from Hallandale, where he established a school-best winning percentage, Dameon Jones was hired only days before the first practice.
As the Lions get set to play against perennial power Jacksonville Trinity Christian, the long odds of getting to this point will not be wasted – as this program brings a talented and skilled program into the game. Check these big time players out:
2017 PROSPECTS: Joshua Ali (WR), Stephen Jean-Baptiste (OL), Hunter Bucknam (LB), Henry Columbi (QB), Julius Ianella (OL), A.J. Jancosko (OL), Anthony Johnson (DB), Jason Merry (P), Ruben Ramirez (OL), Bradley Royas (DB), Anthony Valcarcel (DL) and Cody Watson, (LB).
2018 PROSPECTS: Brian Ellis (DB), Davoan Hawkins (OL), Tarique Livingstone (OL), Corey Prince (DL), Justin Richardson (DB), Shaun Shivers (RB), Jordan Williams (LB), Keyondre White (RB) and Xavier Williams (DB/WR).
2019 PROSPECTS: Tecory Couch (WR), Daelen Menard (QB) and Keontra Smith (S).
PLANTATION AMERICAN HERITAGE PATRIOTS
Head Coach: Patrick Surtain
When the pre-season began and the Patriots were beaten by Booker T. Washington, there were some who felt that this program, which had won two of the past three 5A state championships, had lost that edge.
But things really changed – in a hurry.
Over the next 14 weeks, this program sliced through every opponent and head into this week’s 5A state title game against Ponte Vedra unbeaten and ready to reclaim a title they never had the chance to defend in 2015.
With a suffocating defense and timely offense, this is a team that certainly has a huge advantage, with talent on both sides of the ball.
2017 PROSPECTS: Will Allen (DB), Jason Brown (QB), Dontavius Butler (WR), George Ellis III (DL), Darnell Fleury (WR), Javier Garcia (OL), Willie Hampton (LB), Robert Hawkins (OL), Kai-Leon Herbert (OL), Mike Hicks (DB), Brandon Mincey (LB), Laress Nelson (WR), T.J. Slaton, Jr. (OL), Matt Solomon (WR), Marco Wilson (DB) and Blake Wooden (DB).
2018 PROSPECTS: Abraham Alce (RB), Josh Alexander (WR), Tyson Campbell (DB), Andrew Chatfield (DE), Calvin Hart (LB), Jordan Johnson (RB), Miles Jones (RB/Slot), Anthony Schwartz (WR), Jade Silvera (DL), Patrick Surtain (DB) and Zachary Zambrano (OL).
MIAMI CAROL CITY CHIEFS
Head Coach: Aubrey Hill
There is simply no getting around the fact that when the 2015 season ended, this program quickly turned the attention to this year – believing they had the chance to win it all.
With one game remaining, this defensive squad has turned up the volume on offense several times this season – especially on the road where they went over 30 points three times (Lakeland, Daytona Beach Mainland and last week against Punta Gorda Charlotte).
Their defense needs to get some of that love – as the Chiefs get ready for Lake Gibson.
2017 PROSPECTS: Naytron Culpepper (DB), Kevaughn Dingle (WR), Jason Dunios (OL), Jamare Edwards (DL), Moris Lugo (LB), Harvey Martin (OL), Angelo Powell (DB), Terry Straughter (LB), Donelle Thomas (DB), Victor Tucker (WR) and Christner Valembrum (OL).
2018 PROSPECTS: Yasir Abdullah (LB), Mark Carter, Jr. (DB), Camron Davis (RB), Irshaad Davis (DB), Leonard Lucas (OL/DL), Daequan Nelson (LB/RB), Montrell Newton Jr. (OL), Kewon Parker (LB), Randy Russell (DB), Marlon Smith (QB) and Phenol Williams (WR/DB).
2019 PROSPECTS: Lorenzo Floyd (QB) and Nayquan Wright (RB).
FORT LAUDERDALE ST. THOMAS AQUINAS RAIDERS
Head Coach: Roger Harriott
It happens every year. When the playoffs begin, the Raiders rise to the top.
As they head for their third straight state title against Tampa Plant, there is no team of the 16 headed to Orlando that come in as such an overwhelming favorite to win it all.
No disrespect to head coach Robert Weiner and Plant, but if St. Thomas plays the way they have the past 10 weeks, this one will be over by the half – and that’s what fans and football analysts have come to expect from this machine.
2017 PROSPECTS: Jake Allen (QB), Nicholas Antonacci (OL), Kivon Bennett (DL), Kyshaun Bryan (RB), Jason Dooling (DL), Tyler Dunning (DL), Mike Epstein (RB), Michael Harley (WR), Kedonis Haslem (OL), Zaire Jacobs (DB), Jordan Merrell (WR), Grant Miller (OL), Joshua Palmer (WR), Lashawn Paulino (DL), Zachary Sweeney (OL), Albert Tucker (LB), Andrew White (LB), Myles Wright (DB),
2018 PROSPECTS: Alphonso Blades (DB), Nikolas Bonitto (DE), Coleman Crozier (LB), Tavares Kelly (Athlete), Jalen Mackie (LB), Sebastian Sainterling (OL), Asante Samuel (DB), Rocky Shelton (LB), Jason Swann (OL), Trenell Troutman (S),
2019 PROSPECTS: Daniel Carter (RB) and Vincent Murphy (OL).
MIAMI SOUTHRIDE SPARTANS
Head Coach: Billy Rolle
For the first time since 1999, the Spartans are headed back to the state championships, and this time around, it’s the defense that has made it all possible.
As Coach Rolle brings his third (Killian and Northwestern) team to the state championship, the Spartans are on a roll – as the defense is among the best in Florida, shutting down just about every opponent since early October.
2017 PROSPECTS: Cody Bowes (OL), Antwan Collier (DB/QB), Shawn Davis (DB), Nadarius Fagan (LB), Kemore Gamble (TE), Billy Gibson (LB), Keith Harris (OL), Juwan Horn (DB), Brandon James (LB), Melchisedek Jeudy (OL), Deandre Johnson (DE), Coemba Jones (DB), Travis Murray (LB), Rashad Pittman (OL), Dimitri Prophette (DL), Rodney Scott (WR) and Bentavious Thompson (RB),
2018 PROSPECTS: Randy Charlton (DE), Michael Cox (QB), Tisdale Dawson (OL), James Head, Jr. (DE) and Daquris Wiggins (WR).
2019 PROSPECTS: Mark Pope (WR), Christopher McDonald (DB) and Courtney Reese (RB).