This all-Broward group is big on rivalries and even bigger on talent. A state champion emerged from this district this past season, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a forgone conclusion on how this set will shake out – things are wide open.
Cypress Bay Lightning
2015 Record: 5-5
Coach: Mark Guandolo
2016 Outlook: Cypress Bay enters the 2016 season as a team looking for new leaders and new playmakers.
The Lightning lost a big chunk of their offensive production from this past season when Andrew Parchment walked across the graduation stage. In addition, all four of the team’s top rushers from 2015 all graduated as well as the top three receivers.
Head coach Mark Guandolo has a wealth of experience on the sideline – evident by his five trips to state championship games and two titles – and he’ll have to find creative ways to generate offensive production.
He does have senior offensive center Tyler Dix (6-foot-2, 265 pounds) to rely on and senior running back Daniel Montoya should see his role take a quantum leap forward this season as Guandolo will likely use a lot of his patented Wing-T sets.
The defensive side of the ball is where Cypress Bay’s strength will lie.
The Lightning has a gem in 6-foot-5, 245-pound defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein has a quick burst off the line and takes good angles across the opposing lineman’s body to knife his way into the backfield. He’s also strong enough to stand up blockers and bull rush them backward.
Defensive tackle Alain Calixte will see a bump in his stats as teams begin to slide their protection towards Lichtenstein. Senior linebacker Ryan Buffa will roam the middle of the defense while senior safety Will Malone will patrol the back end.
The emergence of new offensive playmakers will be the factor that determines if Cypress Bay can get out of the middle of the pack of this district and challenge for a playoff spot.
2015 Record: 2-8
Coach: Art Taylor
2016 Outlook: This is a program that too many people are too quick to dismiss.
Everglades sits in Miramar – fertile football ground in its own right – and the school is situated in such a position that it could draw from a lot of different directions.
Still, the Gators have had a tough time building momentum as a program and have seen their win totals decline each of the past three years.
Art Taylor is a well-respected coach in South Florida – mostly for his time at Deerfield Beach. He’s “old school” in his approach, he’s direct and he expects his team to give everything they have all the time.
What Everglades does have is one of South Florida’s true diamonds in the rough in junior running back Jakyus Johnson. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Johnson is a complete back – able to carry the ball, be a weapon in the passing game and be a willing blocker in pass protection.
He rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman but a knee injury derailed his sophomore campaign in 2015.
Fully healthy, Johnson is once again a player capable of leading Broward County in rushing.
Junior offensive lineman Lamont Harrison will anchor the Gators’ offensive and be counted on to open holes for Johnson.
The big question for the Gators is at quarterback. Teams are going to load up against the run and they’ll need a signal caller capable of withstanding the blitz and completing passes.
Senior Alton Richards, who was the teams’ second-leading pass catcher in 2015, could use his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame and show that he can be a No. 1 receiver but he’ll have to make sure his conditioning is top notch as he’s also one of the team’s top defensive backs.
2015 Record: 12-2 (District Champion; State Champion)
Coach: Stanford Samuels Jr.
2016 Outlook: The defending Class 8A champions, Flanagan completed the storybook turnaround of its program – going from being just another Broward County team to being “The Dirty Birdz”.
Credit to former NFL Pro and Florida State standout Devin Bush, who took over the program in 2013 and wouldn’t rest until he and the Falcons were hoisting a state championship trophy.
But Bush is gone. He, his son – star linebacker Devin Jr. – and defensive backs Josh Metellus and Devin Gil all took their talents to Ann Arbor, to join Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.
Now another former FSU standout takes over the reins of the program.
Enter Stanford Samuels Jr.
Samuels, who worked under Bush as defensive coordinator, played an integral role in building up Flanagan over Bush’s three-year tenure and was the natural choice for Flanagan’s administration to tab as the new head coach.
Make no mistake, graduation hit this team hard. More than a handful of the key contributors from both sides of the ball is now playing college ball.
But don’t take pity on The Dirty Birds, they still have a solid roster that will line up in 2016 with the same expectations it had the season before – to win every game.
Things begin with senior Stanford Samuels III. The son of the head coach, “B.J.” or “Lil’ Boosie” is undoubtedly one of the best football players in the country. He recently pledged to attend his dad’s alma mater of FSU and there may not be many better defensive backs than Samuels III.
While he is a lockdown defensive back, “B.J.” will also likely play quarterback for Flanagan this season. He played the position – quite well – at the youth level and filled in part-time this past season when the starter missed the first half of the season.
Flanagan’s defense will still be a fearsome unit. Aside from Samuels III, the secondary is bolstered by cornerback Clevan Thomas – who also plays receiver, underrated junior safety Hunter Goetz and up-and-comers, Lamont Brantley and Arthur Brathwaite.
The Falcons’ offense got two major gifts in transfers Shimoore Stern (Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy) and Caleb Thomas (Miami Carol City). Stern is a 6-foot-6, hoops star turned football standout while Thomas is a speedster that wanted a bigger role in an offense.
Still, the offense will need to mesh – a potentially daunting task since Flanagan is also replacing its offensive coordinator. Junior offensive linemen Terry Augustin and Troy Ingle will be counted on heavily to be pillars and enable the offense to run smoothly.
Flanagan will be tested right out of the gate with an opening week showdown against independent juggernaut Bradenton IMG and it ends the year with matchups against Chaminade-Madonna and national No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas consecutively.
2015 Record: 5-5
Coach: Pierre Senatus
2016 Outlook: After the tumultuous end to the 2014 season, Miramar needed to bring in a coach that could be a steadying hand over its program and be a model of consistency for the players.
They did just that in bringing in Pierre Senatus.
While the 2015 season on yielded five victories, Senatus spent the year and the subsequent offseason laying the foundation for where this program is headed.
Miramar is another one of those programs that benefit greatly from its geographical positioning. Sitting directly on the Miami-Dade/Broward County border, the Patriots can reel in kids from almost all directions.
Despite losing a good group to graduation and another handful to transfer, Miramar will still be a factor in this district and should have enough to grab a playoff spot.
The Patriots’ “Dark Side Defense” is still pretty stout. Miramar has a very good pair of boundary defenders in 6-foot-2 senior Kaheem Roach and 6-foot-3 senior Brian Edwards.
Edwards, a University of Miami commit, spent a couple of weeks at St. Thomas Aquinas during the offseason but doubled back and rejoined the Patriots – appearing to be the next in line of standout Miramar defensive backs.
Also, linebackers Xavier Laing and Brian Witter could end up being standout performers by the end of the season – especially if Miramar can get consistently strong play along its defensive line.
Miramar’s offense has pieces. Quarterback Ranny “Boogie” Williams is a pretty good athlete with a solid arm. Karon Brown led the team in receiving touchdowns last season and should put up bigger numbers in 2016 as the No. 1 wide receiver option.
But the strength is – without question – the offensive line. The trio of Deondre Chambers (6-foot-3, 280 pounds), Habujimah Derival (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) and Sebastian Dolcine (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) represent offensive freedom – allowing Miramar to operate effectively without worrying about protection.
2015 Record: 8-3 (District Runner-up)
Coach: Jesse Norris
2016 Outlook: Plantation looks like a team at the beginning stages of a rebuild.
It’s weird to think that considering how consistently good the Colonels have been for what seems like a decade.
But the architect behind those solid years – coach Steve Davis – is gone. Davis stepped down back in January after 11 seasons of guiding the team.
Plantation elected to tab Jesse Norris, a 27-year old Ohio native who spent time at Ohio Lima Shawnee High School as well as three years as the wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator at Culver-Stockton College (Mo.), as the new head coach.
Norris takes over a team that will have many holes to fill and questions to answer in 2016.
Dual-threat quarterback Archie Banton graduated and top running back Jordan Johnson transferred to Plantation American Heritage, which means the Colonels offense now belongs to Rodsky Selon and Jamari Sweet.
Selon (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) takes over the starting quarterback duties and while he’ll bring an athletic dynamic to the position, he must show that he can make accurate throws on a consistent basis and not just take off running at the first sign of trouble.
Sweet led Plantation in receiving this past season and he could prove himself to be quite the No. 1 option if Selon commits to using his arm to make plays.
Defensively, the Colonels have a pair of nice prospects in safety/linebacker Tylen Small and outside linebacker Jordan Barrett. Small has a nice collection of physical tools – size, speed, length – but he must put everything together so that he can make a splash this season.
Barrett is a solid player. He is good coming off the edge on a blitz and he makes it his business to always be around the ball. He’s someone that could end up getting the attention of a college because of his activity.
Still, Planation needs to develop overall depth and figure out who the leaders will be along its offensive and defensive lines.
South Plantation Paladins
2015 Record: 3-7
Coach: Dominic Anderson
2016 Outlook: South Plantation made a big splash in the Broward County pool this past season when it defeated a Flanagan team that ended up going on to win the Class 8A state title.
That week four victory improved the Paladins’ record to 3-1 and had people wondering if South Plantation was a playoff team.
Then, things went – excuse the pun – south.
South Plantation went on to lose its final six games of the season.
But that’s in the past. The Paladins have a new coach in Dominic Anderson, who took over for Nick Dellaria – who’s now an assistant at Oakland Park Northeast.
Anderson, a former defensive coordinator at Coral Springs, is an energetic leader that is looking to inject the program with a new sense of purpose and create a winning attitude.
Something has become par for the course is that the Paladins have one special player that becomes the centerpiece of the team’s success; from Alex “Buddha” Collins years ago to Rodrick Archer to Anthony Julmisse and Johnny Huntley this past season.
The player that appears to be stepping into that role this season is athlete Taylen Waller. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior – who also plays basketball and baseball – can line up at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. Although, his skills may be best served to line up at receiver.
The Paladins also have an under-the-radar stud in running back Dawson Hill. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound junior runs with good vision and is a tough runner that doesn’t like to go down on first contact.
Junior defensive tackle Stephen Greaves will look to be the anchor of the entire defense in 2016, allowing players like defensive end Myles Moultrie and linebacker Garry Dallas to flex their playmaking muscle.
2015 Record: 5-5
Coach: Adam Ratkevich
2016 Outlook: Western is a team that could be in for a big turnaround season in 2016.
Head coach Adam Ratkevich has done a good job of developing from within and now he has a roster that has a big offensive line, a couple of star defensive ends and a junior quarterback that can already lead the offense.
The depth of talent in South Florida is epitomized in a player like senior defensive end Kevin Oliver. Oliver is 6-foot-4, 255-pounds, has offers from Southern Miss and Texas A&M, and yet he’s still a player that not enough people know about.
Oliver is quick off the line and can close in quick on a quarterback. He also plays with a certain confidence that allows him to dominate an opposing lineman once he senses a weakness.
Playing on the opposite of Oliver is another gem in 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior defensive end Matt Hanson. Where Oliver is a disrupter, Hanson is a destroyer – meaning he plays with a natural functional strength and is always looking to punish ball carriers.
Whatever gets by Hanson and Oliver will get cleaned up by senior safety Hunter Stephens (6-foot-2, 190 pounds), a player that has enjoyed a recent growth spurt and could be a player that turns heads in 2016.
Western’s offensive line averages 260 pounds across and will be anchored by junior Jacob Kaplan (6-foot-2, 280 pounds) and senior Evan Rojas (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) – making life easier for quarterback Harrison Story.
Story has benefitted from how busy coach Ratkevich kept the Wildcats this offseason – attending a litany of camps, combines and 7-on-7 events. He possesses a solid arm but more importantly, he’s an accurate passer – even when throwing into tight windows.
The talent is there for Western. Building up and playing with confidence on a weekly basis is going to be the factor that determines how far this team goes.
I’m not ready to write off Flanagan just quite yet. This district will still run through the Dirty Birds. If they stay relatively healthy, the Falcons should come out of district play unscathed.
Despite their losses, I think Miramar still has enough to earn the district runner-up spot. Player for player, the Patriots will still be one of the more athletic teams and they should be able to hold off a surging Western team.
The Wildcats will be a much-improved team in 2016, but I could still see them falling just short of the playoffs and finishing third.
If Everglades commits to running the ball, I could see the Gators improving on their two-win total from 2015 and moving up to fourth place in the district race – overtaking a Cypress Bay team that is looking for playmakers.
Both South Plantation and Plantation are rebuilding, but I think the Paladins are a bit further along than the Colonels – so South Plantation should take fifth and Plantation will finish looking up at the rest of the district.
Predicted Champion: Flanagan
Predicted Runner-Up: Miramar
No-brainer choice here.
Flanagan’s Stanford Samuels III is this district most valuable player because he’s going to be the lynchpin to the Falcons’ defense and offense.
As great of a defensive back as Samuels is, people forget that he came into high school as a shorter, but very talented quarterback prospect. He can still play the position and would be Flanagan’s best option under center.
If he holds down both positions, he will have the outcome of a lot of games literally in his hands.
I called my shot on Jakyus Johnson last year and it didn’t end up going that way. But I’m going to the well once again in saying that I think Johnson will be a top-10 rusher in Broward County this season.
Everglades would be best suited if it tailored its offense around Johnson and allowed him to get at least 20 touches per game – 15-17 carries and a couple of screen passes to mix things up – and really let his skills show.
Alain Calixte – Cypress Bay
Aliante Haskins – Plantation
Alton Richards – Everglades
Anthony Johnson – Flanagan
Brian Edwards – Miramar
Brian Witter – Miramar
Caleb Thomas – Flanagan
Clevan Thomas – Flanagan
D’Andre Romero – Everglades
Daniel Montoya – Cypress Bay
Darius Maxwell – Western
Davonne Kendrick – Miramar
Dawson Hill – South Plantation
Deondre Chambers – Miramar
Dylan Merino – Western
Evan Rojas – Western
Faion Hicks – Flanagan
Garry Dallas – South Plantation
Habujimah Derival – Miramar
Harrison Story – Western
Hunter Goetz – Flanagan
Hunter Stephens – Western
Jacob Kaplan – Western
Jacob Lichtenstein – Cypress Bay
Jakyus Johnson – Everglades
Jamar Lambert – Flanagan
Jamari Sweet – Plantation
Jaylen Floyd – Miramar
Jordan Barrett – Plantation
Kaheem Roach – Miramar
Karon Brown – Miramar
Keshaun Clarke – Western
Kevin Oliver – Western
Ki-Jana Whyte – Western
Lamont Harrison – Everglades
Logan Green – South Plantation
Lonel Lovince – South Plantation
Marcus Etienne – Flanagan
Marquis Benjamin – Everglades
Matt Hanson – Western
Michael Rodriguez – Everglades
Ranny Williams – Miramar
Rodsky Selon – Plantation
Ryan Buffa – Cypress Bay
Sebastian Dolcine – Miramar
Shake Smith – Flanagan
Shimoore Stern – Flanagan
Stanford Samuels III – Flanagan
Stephen Greaves – South Plantation
Steve Williams – Miramar
Taylen Waller – South Plantation
Terry Augustin – Flanagan
Thaizjae Hepburn – Cypress Bay
Tylen Small – Plantation
Tyler Dix – Cypress Bay
Tyrese Lewis – Plantation
Will Malone – Cypress Bay