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For those looking to get a closer look at the culture that is South Florida high school football, they needed to be at Mishcon Park in North Miami Beach last Saturday.

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As the inaugural Duke Johnson Foundation 7-on-7 tournament was held, featuring teams from as far away as Palm Beach Wellington and Miami Southridge, it was more about those who came out and supported the former Miami Norland, University of Miami and current Cleveland Browns standout running back.

This was indeed a community get-together where everyone has either played with or against each other sometime in their career. It was one of those street festival kinds of atmosphere that Johnson wanted to have, giving back to his communities and the many who helped to get him where he’s at today.

“This will be a yearly event that will get bigger and better,” Johnson said. “It is our chance to keep this bond going with our home. I will look forward to doing this every year.”

Johnson’s first event also saw the gifted South Florida product talk about life beyond football and also making sure that grades are a priority from the beginning.

“My mom was the one who helped me keep straight in the classroom,” Johnson said. “But I always had that kind of support right there at home. Getting an education is everything and something I will always preach, loud and clear.”

With the first tournament ending in a tie between Class 8A Southridge and Class 6A upstart Boyd Anderson, it was an event that really brought so many old friends and family members together to watch iconic inner city schools such as Northwestern, Carol City, Norland, Jackson, and four-time defending state champions Central and Booker T. Washington.

And, while there were so many familiar faces from the past, Johnson and the University of Miami family, which he is so proud to have attended, came out as well. Demarcus Van Dyke, Allen Hurns, Tracy Howard, Edgerrin James, fans from all over, and Minnesota Vikings’ starting quarterback and Louisville product Teddy Bridgewater, came out and showed support.

“This is family,” Bridgewater said. “Look around and to see how many schools were represented. This is Northwestern, Central, Booker T. Washington, Norland and Jackson. Schools we grew up playing against every week.”

SOUTHRIDGE AND BOYD ANDERSON TURN HEADS

In easily one of the year’s most competitive and talented 7-on-7 events, which brought schools in from Wellington, Miami Beach, Doral Academy, Hallandale, Coconut Creek, Piper, Pompano Beach and American, the athleticism was on display for everyone.

When the dust settled, head coach Eddie “Rabbit” Brown and his Cobras and had finished in a tie with a Southridge team that everyone is predicting huge things for – as lightning was in the area, and organizers opted to share $2,500 first prize.

THE TALENT WAS MIND BOGGLING

The one thing that you can always count on is that there will always be big time football players that are going to step up at an event like this.

AMERICAN PATRIOTS: First-year head coach Joe Morgan takes over a team that has won three consecutive district titles, but there are very few pieces that this program still has from the past. Among the athletes that will be counted on include JoKwan Holmes, Hansel Chacon, Tyree Bibby, Khalil Love, Raymond Moore and Marquez Jackson to name a few. The talent is still there.

AMERICAN HERITAGE (PLANTATION): Marquee players all over the place and the Patriots had plenty of them – as head coach Pat Surtain and his Patriots brought a loaded team to the event – minus rising senior quarterback Jason Brown, who was on a visit to Harvard. Class of 2018 standout Pat Surtain, Jr. was impressive, so were impact performers Marco Wilson, Will Allen, Laress Nelson, Dontavius Butler, Michael Hicks, James Houston, Andrew Chatfield and Tyson Campbell to name a few.

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BOOKER T. WASHINGTON TORNADOES: There is no getting around the fact that Tim “Ice” Harris and his football teams will always show up, play hard and make sure that they win and lose with class. Last Saturday, this four-time defending Class 4A state champion brought out the talent. Prospects such as 2019 quarterback Daniel Richardson and other difference makers such as Sharod Johnson, Tyquan Thornton, Detron Holloway, Richard Dames, Bryson Perry, Gregory Reddick, Nigel Bethel, Jr., Craig Nelson and many others who will help this program compete for No. 5.

BOYD ANDERSON COBRAS: Every place this football team has gone since losing to Miami Central in the first round of the state playoffs, head coach Eddie Brown and his staff has vowed that things would change in the landscape of South Florida football. Finishing in a tie with Southridge for the first-ever Duke Johnson Foundation title, everyone now knows the Cobras. With athletes such as quarterback Shabazz Telfort, Tahjon McKinney-Cole, Daniel Barker, Novrie Jackson, Reheme Fuller, Tarique Davis, Michael Nesbitt, Rennard Bozeman, Darrick Talton and the newest acquisition, nationally-rated safety Daniel Wright, this is a team that will be in the 6A state title hunt all season.

CAROL CITY CHIEFS: With head coach Aubrey Hill not with the team last Saturday because of a prior engagement, here is a team that certainly showed why they will be right there every step of the way. With big time players such as Randy Russell, Naytron Culpepper, Travs Bivins, Larenzo Floyd, Victor Tucker, Terrance Horne, Moris Lugo, Nayquan Wright, Cameron Davis, Caleb Thomas and standout receiver Kevaughn Dingle, there was plenty of elite athletes on that field.

CENTRAL ROCKETS: Okay, everyone knows that the four-time state 6A champions are not a major player on the 7-on-7 tour, but that will not take away what this program, under head coach Roland Smith, represents nationally. This is a prospect factory, over 100 college football players produced in the past six years, so don’t think that the talented pool is drying up. The 7-on-7 team has three quarterbacks in Tijuane Morten, Seth McGill and Maurice Underwood – James Cook, Jermaine McMillian, Khamal Ellison, Joshua Dinson, Carmoni Green, Jernard Phillips, Antony White, Jr., Chai Bland, Terrell Perriman and standout linebacker Waynmon Steed.

COCONUT CREEK COUGARS: There is no South Florida program that has had the offseason success that this team has enjoyed over the past three years. While first-year head coach Gerald Cox would love to see that happen, he would also like to see that success continue into the fall. With big time prospects like Miguel Edwards, Victor Harvey, Jr., Stanley Garner, Marquise Williams, Devon Golding, Akai Rainford, Breon Jackson and Taiwan Mullen, things will get very interesting.

DORAL FIREBIRDS: Head Coach Jase Stewart and his fast-rising program made quite a splash with quarterback Angel Alvarez leading the way. Also, prospects like Murphy Theodore, Natavious Payne, Brandon Dominguez, Dextan Hodge, Jr., David Villalobos and Derrick Prater are athletes who have been stepping up their game.

HALLANDALE CHARGERS: One of the teams that have been a huge surprise this offseason has been first-year head coach Benedict Hyppolite and this team. Loaded with younger prospects, but potential playmakers, the Chargers have talent care of business. Among those prospects include versatile Legend Moore, Shermar Thornton, Jaylin Young, Henry Gray, Willie White III and Julian Holmes are athletes to keep an eye on.

JACKSON GENERALS: With head coach Lakatriona Brunson and her football program getting plenty of work this offseason, this was a team that battled hard in the event. With the help of assistant coaches Rodney Black, Ronard Whitehead and Luther Campbell, there has been an improvement as well. Athletes such as Derius Alexander, Brian Washington, Terrance Craig, Jr., Da’Von Washington, Israel Jackson, Javos Jackson, Tyrone McKnight and Jamarie Harrison got plenty of work.

MIAMI BEACH HI-TIDES: Here is a program that many didn’t know much about, going into the tournament, but after pushing some of the heavyweights around, head coach Aaron Harris and his team trotted out prospects such as Eddie Brill, Najat Morgan, Trevon Jackson, Andrew Bloodsaw, Jaquan Ham, Tyron Ford, Daveson Cadet and Javon Smith to name a few prospects who has this team playing at a different level.

NORLAND VIKINGS: Duke Johnson’s alma mater will never stray very far from the elite within the powers of South Florida. Veteran head coach Daryle Heidelburg has once again surrounded himself with quality prospects such as Lio’vondre Gallimore, Aaron Duncan, Travon Roberts, David Richards, Eric Smith, Tevin Jones, Larry Robbins and talented quarterback Alec Carr.

NORTHWESTERN BULLS: For those who have been sleeping on this tradition-rich program, you may want to pay more attention, because head coach Max Edwards and this team will not go away, and while they have looked sharp in 7-on-7 events, they also looked like a playoff kind of team in the spring – where college coaches put them back on the “must-see” list. With 2018 quarterback Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell getting it done on offense, along with star receivers Al Malik Moore and the running of Kai Henry, this is going to get interesting. Add in standout prospects such as Roy Livingston, Justin Hill, Taurus Dotson, Trevon Brooks, Ben Garland, Demetrius Taylor, Thomas Burns and Sharrod Oliver and you have something special.

PIPER BENGALS: It has been a busy summer for head coach David Coleman and his football team. This is a program that is loaded with quality football talent – up and down the roster. Prospects such as Bryand Rincher, Joshua Riles, JaQuan Geffrard, Raevon Clarke, Cameron Forsberg, Derohn King, Rashawn Fraser, William Calloway and Sydney Audiger will help this team continue to improve.

STRANAHAN DRAGONS: Coach Tally Adams has worked harder than anyone when it comes to laying down a foundation for the Dragons. Well respected across the state of Florida for his coaching, teaching and turning out quality athletes, Adams needs to continue to develop – and his appearance at the event was something that this program will learn from. Among prospects on hand included Jonathan Solomon, Dionte Henderson, Kenneth Payton, Freddie Sears, Matthew Keaton, Samuel Sterlin, Clayton Jones-Bryant among several others received exposure.

SOUTHRIDGE SPARTANS: As South Florida got its first look at this prospect-rich program during the offseason, plenty of eyes were focused on playmakers that could truly be among the best nationally. From University of Miami commit receiver Rodney Scott to University of Florida commit Kemore Gamble, this is a program that has so many athletes, it’s amazing. Prospects such as Mark Pope, Jr., Daquris Wiggins, Michael Cox, Jr., Dezmond Dillard, Shawn Davis, Coemba Jones, Nadarius Fagan, Herman Jackson, Donovan Garnett and Antwan Collier among other elite football players on this roster.

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WELLINGTON WOLVERINES: As head coach Tom Abel and his team found out, when you come to south Florida, there are no games off – and this is a program that knows how to win and compete. Prospects such as Jymetre Hester, Taylor Brandine, Patrick Mark, D.J. Dobkins, Ben Schmickle, Dillon Langley and Isaac Adonis are among the top players.

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