By Larry Blustein

larry block6 FALL SPOTLIGHT: St. Thomas Aquinas Is Still The Show

Over the years, St. Thomas Aquinas has hosted some outstanding football games at home – perhaps none bigger than last Friday night’s 2017 season opener.

The 9-3 overtime win over the nation’s No. 1 program, St. John Bosco of California, may not have been text book, but it was a win. A win on national television that will fuel this program for years to come.

While many joke about St. Thomas being the “standard” for high school programs in the state of Florida, the nation had the chance to see the Raiders, get less than 100 total offensive yards, but rely on a defense – that along with Deerfield Beach and Miami Northwestern – that could be among the best in the country.

While they were holding the high powered California program out of the end zone, head coach Roger Harriott and his Raiders were writing yet another storied chapter in this program.

With the longtime architect of this football team, George Smith, on the sideline watching this huge meeting between national powers, the ESPNU cameras caught just why people send their kids to the Fort Lauderdale landmark.

As recent Hall of Fame inductee Jason Taylor coached, he was not the only face that the nation recognized. Sam Madison, Twan Russell and many former prospects roamed the sidelines and the national cameras picked them all up.

In the world of advertising and exposure, last Friday night may have shown an inexperienced offense – with first year junior quarterback Curt Casteel making his first start – and coordinator (former University of Miami standout) Ryan Collins calling his first game, but that defense.

What the unit did was force turnovers, make game-saving hits and showcase no less than 10 major college prospects who showed this country that the road to the NFL still goes through South Florida.

The defense really showed up – and with a secondary that features University of Miami commit Al Blades, FSU commit Asante Samuels and Louisville commitment Trenell Troutman, you can see why St. John Bosco had a tough time moving the ball.

In addition to Blades, Samuel and Troutman, other senior defensive backs include Adetutu Daranjo, Ryan Rhoden, Christopher Louima, Cameron Givens, Jermanie Byrd and Brandon Persaud.

Class of 2019 standouts Jaden Davis, Semar Melvin, Jordan Battle and Myles Bell are the future of this program. All four are huge playmakers – with Battle coming up with THE game-saving play late in the game. Solid football talent.

Other juniors feature Tyler Lopez, Theodore Lucas and Brandon Persaud – and talented sophomore Blake Purnell.

The linebacker play is also going to be special this season. With some key losses from 2016, look for seniors Rocky Shelton (Duke commitment), Grayson Crozier (Navy commitment), Oxbridge transfer Kaleb McCarty and playmakers Jalen Mackie and Anthony Romanello to make an impact.

There are juniors such as gifted Jahmar Brown, Kollin Stewart, Santiago Azpurua, Troy Jones, Porter Brown and Justin Sheir. There is also sophomore Denorio Humes.

Up front, this is going to be a unit that continues to mature and come together. Seniors Nik Bonitto, Coleman Crozier, Monsignor Pace highly-rated transfer D’Andre Ragin, Mater Academy transfer Tyler Steen, Christopher Beedles and Tyler Charles will get after you. Bonitto had a monster opening game!

Juniors Jason Munoz, Nicholas Marino, Frank Kostzer and Jaden Royal are all very talented. There is also sophomore Jamari Maybin, and freshmen Tyreak Sapp and Tyrique Owens.

OFFENSE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

As Casteel eases into the position, the Raiders will look to get more big plays and control the ball to keep the defense off the field. The time of possession was slanted away from St. Thomas in the big meeting.

The running game will center around junior Daniel Carter. A gifted back who will now assume the role as the “go-to” player.

In addition to Carter, seniors Samuel Llewellyn, Douglas transfer Riley Allison, Kyle Suarez, Chris Dearwester and Henok German will add depth.

Junior Nigel White is special and will be in the mix all year. Vance Verheggen is also talented.

The spot where the Raiders were hoping to get things going is at receiver. Even with the loss of three key playmakers, there are prospects – such as Georgia commit Elijah Moore and Virginia commitment Tavares Kelly – who need to be a huge part of the unit.

In addition, the three-time defending state champs have seniors Teriq Phillips, Cole Caterbone, Hunter Baron, Dalin Thomas and Aramus Pierre.

Juniors Matthew Akuchie, Donald McCarthy, Jamal Cooney, Walker Hill, Theandre Freeman and Maxwell Cusnier – along with tight end Benjamin Hernandez – have the potential to make positive things happen.

Sophomores Marcus Rosemy and Joseph Kirner represent a talented future as well.

With new coaches and plenty of new personnel, the line will be a main focus this season.

Seniors Jason Swann (Tulane commitment), Dejmi Jean, Chad Keirman and Max Zinn have the experience.

The junior class is real solid with standouts Vincent Murphy, Antonio Serrano, Marcus Dumervil, Kenneth Slack, John Pope, Michael Malone, Connor Roshinski and Theodore Arvantis.

There is also sophomore Michael Martinez.

Sophomore athlete Derek Wingo and kicker William McConnell will help this program as well.

OPPONENT PROSPECT WATCH: ST. JOHN BOSCO

2019 – Cole Aubrey, DE

2018 – Stephan Blaylock, DB

2018 – JoJo Bush, DE

2018 – Colby Bowman, LB

2019 – Cyrille Cama, LB

2018 – Kevin Coblentz, OL

2018 – Devon Cooley, WR/DB

2019 – Eli Deroon, WR

2019 – Alfred Edwards, DB

2018 – Jace Fuamatu, OL/DL

2018 – Demetrious Flowers, RB/LB

2019 – Jordan Holani, RB

2018 – Jalen Hooper, OL

2018 – Jacob Jornadal, LB

2019 – Alex Kulin, DL

2019 – Sivea Vito-Logoleo

2020 – Re-Al Mitchell, QB

2020 – Jake Newman, DB

2019 – Adam Nold, LB

2020 – Kobe Pepe, LB

2018 – Level Price, DB

2018 – Gilbert Spencer, LB

2019 – Christopher Steele, DB

2018 – Kedron Williams, LB

2019 – Jude Wolf, TE

2018 – Jaiden Woodbey, WR/DB

Catch the South Florida High Sports Radio Show each Monday night (9-10) on WQAM (560AM). For the past 10 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot!

south florida high school sports FALL SPOTLIGHT: St. Thomas Aquinas Is Still The Show

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