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When you look at all the football programs in South Florida – and there are a number at an elite level – it’s tough to deny the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas is one of – if not – the best.

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The Raiders have become the main attraction. Love them or hate them, you cannot get around the success, exposure and experiences this program has attained through for many years.

No matter if you live in Sunrise, Florida or Las Vegas, Nevada; Dallas, Texas or Cleveland, Ohio, you know all about the Aquinas Raiders and the mind-boggling amount of professional players alums competing each Sunday in the NFL.

You also understand how impressive this high school football team truly is.

What this football team has become over the past five decades is indeed a “STA-ndard” that many start to follow. With all the talk about the Raiders not playing the schools in Miami-Dade that the fans want to see, is something that is up to them. The end result, any way you look at it, is endless trophies and state titles.

George Smith built St. Thomas football from the ground up. Having watched his entire career in South Florida, what the legendary coach built was a family. That family is tough to achieve at other programs, and Smith knew it.

Those same superstars that we all know about who truly received their life education north of Davie Boulevard, still return and bring that same “big we, little me” attitude around the programs of today.

The three-time defending Class 7A state champions, under the direction of St. Thomas alum Roger Harriott, headed into the offseason as they always do at this time of year. They won’t play a traditional spring game and welcome a number of new faces (like everyone else), but will still attract in the excess of 100 college coaches during the month of May.

Indeed, this program brings fellow coaches, players, fans, colleges and recruiters out to see some of the elite talent.

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While every team has its headliners, the Raiders seem to have an abundance of major stars such as offensive leaders: Elijah Moore (2018, WR), Tavares Kelly, Jr. (2018, Slot), Daniel Carter (2019, RB), Jason Swann (2018, OL), Beau Fillichio (2018, QB), Vincent Murphy (2019, OL), Chad Kiernan (2018, OL) and 2018 kicker Alex McCourt.

On defense, there are prospects such as: Al Blades (2018, CB), Asante Samuel (2018, CB), Rocky Shelton (2018, LB), Anthony Solomon (2019, LB), Trenell Troutman (2018, S), Nik Bonitto (2018, DE) and 2018 linebacker Grayson Crozier.

Every team that is on top – or right near the top – has depth. Players that you watch mature and become athletes such as Michael Irvin, Joey Bosa, Gio Bernard, Phil Dorsett and Geno Atkins to name a few.

Prospects such as offensive standouts: Teriq Phillips (2018, WR), Antonio Serrano (2019, OL), a Miami Belen Jesuit transfer, Samuel Llewellyn (2018, RB), Curt Casteel (2019, QB), Nigel White (2019, RB), Samuel Oshodi (2018, WR), Guy McCarthy (2019, WR), Jaden Henry (2020, RB), Chris Dearwester (2018, RB), Darius Daniel (2020, WR), Dalin Thomas (2018, WR), Matthew Akuchie (2018, WR), Henok Germain (2018, RB), Jamal Cooney (2019, WR) and Marlin Martinez (2018, OL).

The defense is also very deep, with emerging athletes such as Mater Academy transfer Tyler Steen (2019, DL), Jaden Davis (2019, CB), Semar “Ace” Melvin (2019, CB), Jalen Mackie (2010, LB), Dejmi Dumervil Jean (2018, DT), Derek Wingo (2020, LB), Caden Blanchard (2018, DE), Max Zinn (2018, DE), Adept Daranjo (2018, S), Myles Bell (2019, CB), Coleman Crozier (2018, OLB), Jermaine Byrd (2018, CB), Marcus Dumervil (2020, DL), Troy Jones (2019, LB), Jordan Battle (2019, S) and talented Jason Munoz (2019, DE).

The defense also boasts Cameron Givens (2018, S), Kalen McCarty (2018, LB), D.J. Humes (2020, LB), Christopher Beedles (2018, DE), Tyler Lopez (2019, S), Justin Sher (2019, LB), Joseph Calzada (2018, DE), Evan Miller (2019, FS), Nicholas Almeida (2018, DE), Anthony Romaniello (2018, LB) and 2019 safety Theodore “LT” Lucas.

At the end of the day, all the programs in South Florida are helped when a team like St. Thomas does good. The exposure spills over to the other elite programs.

The Raiders, despite playing two nationally rated programs, should not be stopped on their quest for yet another title.

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NEXT UP: The Carol City Chiefs have a new head coach but the same desire to repeat in a very competitive Class 6A. Can it happen?