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This is a district that’s steadily improving. All of the programs are trying to take the next leap forward into true title contention – but someone first must take control of this wide-open district.
Cooper City Cowboys
2015 Record: 4-6
Coach: Brandon Walker
2016 Outlook: It wasn’t that long ago that Cooper City was upsetting St. Thomas Aquinas during the regular season to capture a district title.
The landscape of the district has changed since then, but the Cowboys are still that plucky team that will stand toe-to-toe with any opponent and will come out on top if they are underestimated.
Head coach Brandon Walker is a bit of a football lifer – being the son of longtime coach Byron Walker, who’s at Archbishop McCarthy – and he’s perfectly suited to lead this program.
2015 was a season of up and downs for the Cowboys, still, they were in the thick of the district playoff race until the final weeks of the season.
Despite having lost a handful of big-time players to graduation, Cooper City will still enough difference-makers on the roster to once again be a major player in deciding who represents this district in the postseason.
Senior linebacker Max Quinones is set to take on a leadership role. What Quinones lacks in height, he makes up for in effort and energy. Also, Quinones’ strength shows as he can deliver solid hits on ball carriers and when he’s used on offense as a fullback.
Cooper City needs junior quarterback Michael DiLiello to have taken a step forward in his development so that its offense can show more potency this season. The same can be said for running backs Darrell Wise and Tyler Brown and receiver Mark Brent.
Hollywood Hills Spartans
2015 Record: 3-7
Coach: Al Lang
2016 Outlook: Since head coach Al Lang returned to the Spartans’ sideline back in 2012, Hollywood Hills has been rebuilding.
During Lang’s original tenure, he compiled a 35-17 record in five seasons and made Hollywood Hills very relevant in the South Florida football conversation.
To get back to that, Lang had his Spartans participate in multiple offseason events – looking to give his players exposure and cultivate the program’s football culture.
Hills does have a diamond in the rough patrolling the middle of its defense. Senior linebacker Khari Bellamy is one of Broward’s most under-the-radar prospects. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder is a downhill tackler that is also athletic enough to operate sideline-to-sideline.
Defensive end Mateo Watson and safety Marvin Estrada-Campbell are also solid players that have gone mostly unheralded but will want to show everyone what they can do in 2016.
The Spartans’ offense will be guided by junior Ronald Scriven. A former defensive back, Scriven will bring athleticism to the quarterback position. Yet, if he and Hills’ offense as a whole are to be successful, he’ll need to develop chemistry with emerging receivers Edwin Colon and Edwin Reed.
2015 Record: 7-3
Coach: Laron Culpepper
2016 Outlook: Head coach Laron Culpepper made it clear when he took over the program before the start of the 2015 season: he wanted McArthur to take control of this district.
In a lot of areas, Culpepper took strides towards that claim. Unfortunately, after starting the season by winning its first five games, McArthur went 2-3 in the second half of the year and finished just outside of the playoff race.
2016 should be different. The Mustangs were also one of the most active teams during the offseason. But not only were they participants, they were head turners – having strong showings in a handful of 7-on-7 tournaments.
Junior standout Dominick Watt is the headliner of the Mustangs’ roster. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound athlete can do a bit of everything – although he’s most dangerous as a wide receiver – and he’s gotten the attention of most of the top colleges around the country.
Young speedster Estmane Lucdor (2019) is the perfect complement on the opposite side of Watt, as he’s able to take the top off of the defense and stretch the field with his athleticism. Sophomore running back Craig Cooper could also emerge as a key weapon in the Mustangs’ offense.
McArthur’s defense is solid; the only question is whether or not it has enough size across the defensive line to hold up all season. Linebacker Nick Simpson (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) will be relied upon to be a defensive playmaker while defensive backs Zayvion Wallace and Romario Coley anchor the secondary.
2015 Record: 5-6 (District Champion)
Coach: Kevin Huntley
2016 Outlook: Nova surprised everyone – including alumnus, turned super-fan Zach Krantz – by capturing the district title in 2015.
The Titans caught lightning in a bottle and won its first district crown since 1965 and hosted a playoff game for the first time in 20 years. Nova was narrowly edged 35-34 by Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy in the opening round, but the buzz that should carry on into 2016.
Head coach Kevin Huntley, a former receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs, showed his coaching chops in 2015. But now he must continue to permeate the winning culture and create a pipeline for talented players to flow into the program.
Nova did lose some of its most productive players from this past season to graduation, but that’ll only open the door for a new crop of playmakers to emerge.
The Titans have a kick return maestro in Kamari Fleming. While his small stature (5-foot-5, 160 pounds) limits his impact as a cornerback, Fleming can change the complexion of a game in a huge way with a return for a score or at least giving the offense great starting position.
Junior linebacker Shaun Peterson (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and junior cornerback Rich Hall (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) have the physical tools to become standouts in the county.
Nova’s offense needs a new bell cow since running back Anthony Sims graduated, so the Titans’ defense will have to get off to a strong start early in the season until the offense can find its rhythm.
South Broward Bulldogs
2015 Record: 1-9
Coach: Devon Georgia
2016 Outlook: Talk about a team that appears to have done a complete 180-degree turn.
It appears that South Broward has gone from a team that struggled mightily to manufacture victories in 2015 to being a squad that not only is considered a threat to win this district but also challenge to make a run into the third round of the playoffs.
Head coach Devon Georgia and his staff hit the ground running at the start of the offseason and began pitching the idea of making the Bulldogs great again to prospects – and a lot of them bought in.
South Broward got a talent infusion – welcoming players like receiver/defensive back Destra Benoit from Coconut Creek, 6-foot-7, 265-pound senior offensive lineman Jordon Canty from Dillard and sophomore quarterback T.J. Smith from South Plantation.
The new crop of talent will mix in with the core of returning standouts, making the Bulldogs a formidable Class 7A team.
6-foot-4, 190-pound Dorian Hall has been one everyone’s radar for a while, holding offers from Florida State, Georgia and North Carolina State. Because he’s one of the best athletes that the Bulldogs have to offer, Hall spent this past season as the team’s quarterback. But with the addition of Smith, Hall can now move to his more natural position of safety as well as lining up at receiver.
South Broward does have a legitimate No. 1 receiver in 6-foot-5 senior and Northern Illinois commit, Dennis Robinson. Robinson is a matchup nightmare in the red zone because of the way he uses his body – walling off defenders and outreaching them for balls. 6-foot-2 junior receiver Tim Nelson will work opposite of Robinson and find himself in a lot of favorable matchups when opposing teams don’t have a strong secondary.
The Bulldogs have a trio of seniors that can serve as leaders for each level of the defense. Defensive tackle Joshua Hernandez is one of the strongest players on the team and is an underrated prospect; linebacker Demethry Neeley does a great job of shooting through gaps to stops plays in the backfield; and 6-foot-2 cornerback Jeffrey Lubin has physical tools to be a very good defender.
South Broward just has the pieces in place, it’s up to coach Georgia and his staff to put the puzzle together.
West Broward Bobcats
2015 Record: 7-4 (District Runner-up)
Coach: Monte Dilworth
2016 Outlook: West Broward had renaissance season in 2015.
The Bobcats finished as district runners-up and fought Miami Sunset down to the wire before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.
Many of the folks that were at the heart of the big year are no longer in place. Former NFL pro Reyna Thompson stepped down as head coach and graduated are the top two touchdown producers from 2015 in running back Ahman Bowen and receiver Seth Thompson.
So begins the Monte Dilworth era at West Broward. Previously an assistant coach at various programs in Miami-Dade and Broward County, Dilworth takes the reins at West Broward and he’s worked hard to leave his own mark on the Bobcats’ program.
Dilworth will be counting on senior receivers Daniel Richardson and Derrick Wright to be the chief offensive playmakers. Both contributed this past season, but now their production week in and week out will be indicative of how well the Bobcats do this season.
Richardson is a true hidden gem. Able to also line up in the secondary, Richardson’s speed allows him to shadow receivers and his ball skills make him a magnet for interceptions.
6-foot-3, 195-pound senior quarterback Kevin Matthews is the incumbent starter. He showed flashes of being a signal caller capable of carrying West Broward’s offense during the offseason, but his true test will be operating under pressure and dealing with some of the pass rushers that he’ll see during district play.
Where West Broward must improve is the offensive and defensive lines. Ryan Plugge, Jaquri Washington and Austin Plugge represent the core of the O-Line, but they must translate their offseason work into in-season results.
I’m not going to buy into the hype that’s surrounding South Broward, just yet.
I am going to take an early season sip of the McArthur Kool-Aid.
The Mustangs should be in that eight-to-nine victory range this season and I think they will win all the necessary district games to at least secure a playoff spot and then edge South Broward for the district title.
South Broward has a lot of new pieces to fit into its puzzle. Granted, many of those pieces are very talented players, they still have to gel and build continuity – but that’s a good problem to have.
The Bulldogs’ overall talent level will be sufficient enough to knock off everyone else in the district and lock down a playoff spot.
After the first two, the rest of the district almost turns into a “pick ‘em”.
Cooper City, Hollywood Hills, Nova and West Broward are all in similar situations. It’ll be those unpredictable things: injuries, weather on game day and momentum, that end up being the deciding factor.
Still, I think West Broward takes the third spot. Nova will slide in at four with Cooper City finishing fifth and Hollywood Hills looking up at the rest of the district.
Predicted Champion: McArthur
Predicted Runner-Up: South Broward
Going back to the true definition of most “valuable” player – I think Dominick Watt best fits this category.
Watt has shown himself to be a leader for this Mustangs team. Other players gravitate towards him and he’s someone that leads by example as he’s one of the top players in South Florida in the 2018 class.
If you take Watt away from the Mustangs they’d still be a competitive team – mostly because of their coaching staff – but they wouldn’t have that extra swagger that propels them.
What Watt must do is become one of those players that can carry a team; develop that “won’t let us lose” mentality and emerge as not on a top-flight receiver but as one of the best overall football players in South Florida.
As hard as the NFL is trying to remove kickoffs from the game, special teams returns – kickoffs and punts – still are some of the most exciting and game-altering plays in the game.
Kick return specialists still have a place on the roster and I think Nova’s Kamari Fleming will return three kicks for touchdowns in 2016.
Akeem Hayes – South Broward
Craig Cooper – McArthur
Dane Ferguson – Nova
Daniel Richardson – West Broward
Darrell Wise – Cooper City
Demethry Neeley – South Broward
Dennis Robinson – South Broward
Derrick Wright – West Broward
Destra Benoit – South Broward
Dominick Watt – McArthur
Dorian Hall – South Broward
Edwin Colon – Hollywood Hills
Edwin Reed – Hollywood Hills
Estmane Lucdor – McArthur
Jeffrey Lubin – South Broward
Jordon Canty – South Broward
Joshua Hernandez – South Broward
Justin Croye – Cooper City
Kamari Fleming – Nova
Kevin Matthews – West Broward
Khari Bellamy – Hollywood Hills
Lamont Meikle – South Broward
Luis Rodriguez – West Broward
Mark Brent – Cooper City
Marvin Estrada-Campbell – Hollywood Hills
Mateo Watson – Hollywood Hills
Max Quinones – Cooper City
Nick Simpson – McArthur
Rich Hall – Nova
Reginald Colson – South Broward
Romario Coley – McArthur
Shaun Peterson – Nova
T.J. Smith – South Broward
Timothy Nelson – South Broward
Tyler Brown – Cooper City
Tylique McGowan – Hallandale
Zayvion Wallace – McArthur