By now, we already know how talented South Florida is when it comes to high school football. But sometimes success can be an obstacle.
With as many as 150 Division-I type of athletes in the two counties, it is not unusual for big-time athletes not to receive the spotlight they deserve.
Last Saturday, while the nationally rated Florida Fire was winning the Pylon 7-on-7 South Florida title at Flamingo Park on Miami Beach – beating out local powers South Florida Express, Chris Chambers’ Elite, Strong Arm and Hard Knocks – two major athletes were taking center stage.
Justin Hill, Jr. from Miami Northwestern and Tyquan Thornton out of Miami Booker T. Washington have been among the best football players in one of the elite areas for talent.
Hill, a one-time youth quarterback prospect, has been the heart and soul of the Bulls the past two years. While he can fill in at the quarterback position, Hill is so versatile that his position on the roster is listed at: receiver, quarterback, running back, slot, safety, and kick and punt returner.
“If they asked me to play on the line,” I would,” Hill said during the tournament. “I just love the game – and when you happen to have the best quarterback in Florida in front of you, the only thing to do is to be that team player.”
Indeed, he has done it all and never complained. Talk to Bulls head coach Max Edwards and he will go on and on about Hill. Speak with any of his teammates – and everyone will heap mounds of praise.
What Hill gives the Bulls is a football player who will go above and beyond. As Miami Central has in Seth McGill, who was a much talked about quarterback, who has done it all for the Rockets.
In the nation’s most prospect rich district, Hill will be vital for the Bulls as they look to unseat Miami Carol City from the top spot and attempt to keep the recent success against Central going.
“I love playing this game and will do what it takes to give our team a chance to compete for a state title.”
For Thornton, it may be a different story. While he may not be a household name in South Florida – college coaches know him. This two-sport (track) star is committed to Baylor University and many believe the Bears got a steal.
Thornton is not a loud and bragging type of player. But he has paid his dues behind some very talented pass catchers. That’s why, when he did get his chance the past two seasons, it was important for him to turn heads – and he did.
At 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, there is a lot of room for growth for Thornton. This track sprinter has turned out to be the ultimate weapon. And when he puts on weight and more muscle, he will be among the best.
What Thornton has benefitted from at Booker T., is solid coaching, tremendous competition and a winning attitude. The Tornadoes missed out on a state finals appearance last season, and the pressure is on this team to get back in 2017.
“There is a level of success that our program has achieved,” Thornton said. “It gets everyone ready to play this game at the next level – and beyond. I learned a lot, but now I believe I am ready to make a major contribution to this team.”
His commitment to Baylor, which has been kept relatively quiet, is one that Thornton is excited about.
Either way, when you watch either of these young men perform, you will be seeing two of the best that Miami-Dade and Broward produce.
FIRE IS – STILL HOT
Almost every week that coach Dennis Marroquin and his Florida Fire 7-on-7 football team goes to a tournament, they are viewed as underdogs – instead of favorites.
Last Saturday, it was much the same as two Louisiana teams and a Tampa area squad joined the pool with the South Florida powers.
By the end of the Pylon event, it was the Florida Fire holding the trophy – again.
“The funny thing about all these tournaments – whether it’s here or IMG or Las Vegas – we are always the underdog. But we’re rated second in the country,” Marroquin said. “Look around you and you will see some of the best players and coaches in Florida – and they are wearing our jerseys.”
The Florida Fire stood on top of a very talented field. One that brought in Louisiana’s Bootleggers I & II, Struggle Nation, Palm Beach Fire, Team Florida (Tampa) and Team Nightmare.
Among the Florida Fire performers that stepped up during the day included: Shane Ellis (TE, Olympic Heights, 2018), Marlon Brunson (WR, West Boca, 2018), Mike Diliello (QB, Cooper City, 2018), Mark Pope (WR, Miami Southridge), Keemy Hayes (WR, Pompano Beach Ely, 2018) and Elijah Moore (WR, St. Thomas Aquinas, 2018).
The runner-up Strong Arm squad brought a number of standouts to Miami Beach as well. In addition to elite 2019 running back/defense back Nayquan Wright, there was also: Miami Central 2018 running back James Cook and receiver Damon Johnson; Miami Edison 2019 running back Marcus Barthel.
Carol City players such as quarterback Marlon Smith, Greg Grate, Kewan Parker, Daequan Nelson, Phenol Williams and Mark Carter.
While there were many athletes on the field, we did our best to get as many as possible.
The Nightmare boasted: Kalani Norris, Joshua Jobe and Dee Ford (Columbus); Breion Fuller (Doral Academy); D.J. Ivey (South Dade) and Trenell Troutman (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Struggle Nation featured: Demetrius Burns and receiver Tevin Charles and defensive back George Roberts (Everglades Prep); receiver Rahmod Smith (Homestead); athlete Willie Carter (Southwest Miami) and safety Marcus Spivey (Palm Glades Academy).
Dr. Lester’s Hard Knocks team included: Tyquan Thornton, Gregory Reddick and Jaquan Beaver (Booker T. Washington); Joseph Taylor, Andrew Reese and William Francis (Miami Edison); Justin Hill, Jr. and Darrius Cook, Jr. (Northwestern); Travis Lathan (Miami Palmetto); Wayne Brooks (Coral Gables) and David Seralta (Miami Killian).
A Final 4 team, Chris Chambers’ Elite featured MVP running back Dandre Jones (Fort Lauderdale Dillard). Also, Boyd Anderson two-way standout Avery Thornton, Dillard defensive back/receiver Stanley Garner, who is also a tremendous basketball player, and under the radar Dillard quarterback Moses Francois.
Boyd Anderson standouts Novric Jackson and Dante Banton both made an impact. So did Jordan Smith, who recently transferred to Western from Plantation. He is a player to keep an eye on this coming season.
The South Florida Express not only used many of their older prospects, but also infused some younger football players into the action.
Among those who made an impact were: Marcus Fleming (Miami High), Ed Rhodes (Plantation American Heritage), Elijah Goree (Miami Carol City), Malik Rutherford (Mater Academy), Josh Acrum (Miami Norland), Andrius Freeman (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Jovan Ferguson (Booker T. Washington).
The Palm Beach Fire were also competitive during the day. Among those who came included: Altorian Perry and Corey Cola (Park Vista), Shane Ellis (Boca Raton Olympic Heights), Vincent Redman and Nick Hollis (Palm Beach Lakes), Zachary Bohannon (Boca Raton St. John Paul II) and William Perez (Wellington).
The Bootleggers came all the way from Louisiana to take part – and they were indeed loaded with talent. Among those that everyone was watching included standout quarterback Justin Rogers (2018 Parkway High School), receiver Terrace Marshall (2018 Parkway High School), cornerback Jordan Clark (2019 University High School), receiver Devonta Lee (2019 Amite High School) and Class of 2019 cornerback Derek Stingley (Dunham High School)