A little over eight years ago – on a frigid evening at Monsignor Pace High School in Miami, the Tru Foundation Public vs. Private All-Star Football Game was born.
While there have been many changes throughout the years, founder and game organizer Mario Smith stuck to his original game plan when putting this event together.
As the game heads towards its ninth year – this Saturday (4 p.m.) at Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar – giving the athletes another chance to compete and getting film for college coaches to see – is what it’s still all about.
“When we began this – there were a lot of things that we wanted to add to this game that other post season all-star events did not have,” Smith explained. “We had a combine the first year and then added to that. But the one thing that has not been eliminated is the solid GPA you need to participate in this event. If you are NOT eligible, you do not play!”
Changes through the years added players from other areas of Florida – as well as a few prospects from Connecticut. But what this game has come back to is public and private prospects from Miami-Dade and Broward, playing or attention, and of course plenty of pride.
Young men who have been competing against each other at the youth level, in high school and with the popular 7-on-7 events in the offseason.
PRIVATE HAS SOME FIREPOWER
With Coach Anthony Collins getting the opportunity to lead this Private squad this year, things really look impressive.
Starting on offense – at the quarterback position – where Quinn Dempsey (Hollywood Chaminade Madonna), Desjuan Kearse (Hialeah Champagnant Catholic), Justin Mendoza (Miami Christopher Columbus) and Michael Perez (Homestead Pinecrest Prep) will all get a look.
The running back position has plenty of talent – with Hialeah Champagnat Catholic teammates Terrence Crittenden, Jr. and Keyshon Gardner joining Kisean Bullard (Monsignor Pace), Jordan Johnson (American Heritage) and fullback Brian O’Steen (Archbishop McCarthy).
The Private squad also has some quality pass catchers, including Anthony Brown and Marcus Lodge (American Heritage), Justin Diaz (Immaculata La-Salle), Leon McClan (Champagnant Catholic), Dwayne Menders (Mater Academy), Jahani Wright (Champagnat Catholic) and tight ends Kevin Acosta (Champagnat Catholic), Daniel Burke (Miami Immaculata La-Salle) and Alex Davide (Miami Christopher Columbus).
Up front, the Private team will feature Grayson Guilford (Westminster Christian), Raphael Moise (Monsignor Pace) and Drew Robinson (Champagnat Catholic) to name a few.
Defensively, there are also some quality players scheduled to take part.
Linemen Zeke Alexander (Chaminade Madonna), Rodrigue Bichotte, Darius Edmonds and Amari Williams (Monsignor Pace), Henry Fernandez lll and Cameron Hidalgo(Christopher Columbus), Ariel Garcia (Doral Academy), Maxesien Michel and Kayode Oladele (Champagnat Catholic), Zamar Miller (Somerset Academy), Eric Scott (Chaminade Madonna) and Ahmed Velez (Westminster Christian).
The linebacker corps will be put to the test as well – with Kirby Burns (North Broward Prep), C.J. Calero and Axel Rizo (Gulliver Prep), Khalil Jordan (Champagnant Catholic), and Kyvon Randolph and Francisco Salomon (Monsignor Pace).
The secondary is also expected to be strong – with Eudens Antoine and Elvins Desarmes (Monsignor Pace), Brandon Dominguez (Doral Academy), four year varsity performer Andrew Hallman (Archbishop McCarthy) and gifted Noah Pierre (Champagnat Catholic).
Punter/kicker Daniel Espinosa (North Broward Prep) will handle the special team duties.
PUBLIC TEAM IS STACKED – ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL
As Miami Carol City head coach Benedict Hyppolite continues to mature as a football mind, he also has surrounded himself with quality people.
“We are excited about the opportunity to once again be a part of this great game that they work so hard to put on each year,” Hyppolite explained. “To me, being an academic oriented coach is why I got involved in this game. They stress academics – and that is huge in my life.”
This year’s Public team is stacked with talent – and it all starts on offense.
Miami Norland’s Alec Carr and Carol City’s Legend Moore lead a group of quarterbacks that also include South Dade’s John Gossman and versatile Fralon Warren Jr., who also plays receiver.
The running is schedule to be led by University of Miami signee Camron Davis and teammate Volaskis Walkins – as well as Terence Evans (Miami Norland) and Bryan Gonzalez (Miami Coral Park).
The quarterbacks will have an impressive group of receivers to throw to – which features Miami’s Central’s Kidron Moore-Shuler and Chaii Bland, Coconut Creek Monarch standouts Samuel Faugues, Javarri Harris and A.J. Mendoza Jr.
There are also Carol City standouts Phenol Williams and Treyunn Lane, Dr. Krop, Miramar’s Abdul Ibrahim and Kevin Woods – as well as Wendy Celestin (Miramar Everglades), Kailie Closson (Pembroke Pines West Broward), Jonathan Espinoza (Miami Edison), Jonathan Hurtado (Miami Coral Park) and West Broward tight end Jean-Edouard Rigaud.
The line play will be vital on Saturday – and the Public team has its share of athletes with Carol City’s Montrell Newton Jr. and Jawuan Wilson, Norland’s Artic Harris and Marc Starkey Jr. – as well as Alexis Alvarez (Pembroke Pines West Broward), Annis Abraha (Miramar Everglades), Llewellyn Coleman (Miramar), Wilbeni Jean-Baptiste (Homestead South Dade), Rainier Prendes (Hialeah Barbara Goleman), Herman Rodriguez (Southwest Miami) and Miami Central’s Jalen Thelmas.
If you want to make Coach Collins smile – all you have to do is mention the defensive that this team has.
Up front, there’s Miramar’s standouts Hakeem Moise, Abner Petit and Kingsley Pierre – as well as Sherron Chester (Miami Carol City), Quincy Cohen Jr. (Hialeah), Cristian Gonzalez (Hialeah Gardens), Andre Pinkston II (Miami Northwestern) and Ja’Corey Washington (West Broward).
The group of linebackers also turned some heads this season – with Miami Central’s Malik Poag and versatile Kristallion Valentin leading the way.
Also, the Public squad will showcase Christian Delcorro (Hialeah Gardens), Prosley Dorcely (North Miami Alonzo and Tracy Mourning), Michael Gardiner (Homestead South Dade), Tavares Ladler (Miramar) and Hialeah Barbara Goleman three-year standout Brayan Vergara.
The secondary – like all defensive backfields in South Florida is loaded with quality talent.
Among those to look for include Miami Coral Park’s Isaac Joseph and Jorge Olayon, Dr. Krop prospects Christopher Fuzeme and Timothy Williams, and Jonathan Galumette and Dadrick Vickers Barbara Goleman.
The secondary will also include Willie Bullock (South Broward), Mark Carter (Miami Carol City), Daniel Crenshaw (Miramar), Justin Days (North Miami), Donnie Harrison Jr. (South Dade) and Delon Smith (Hallandale).
Keep an eye on versatile South Dade performers Devaughn Crawley and Edward Moreno as well.
A LOOK BACK
Last year’s game turned out to be a thrilling contest at McArthur High School – as the Public team, which featured some of the best from Miami-Dade and Broward, evened the series at 4-4 – with a 27-23 win, this game has always been about exposure and that one last chance to impress.
In what many called one of the most exciting postseason all-star games in years, the game featured nearly 100 prospects that still do not have that college scholarship – as National Signing Day approached.
This year will be more important – with many schools having a better idea what athletes they need to sign – with the early National Signing Day taking place in late December this year.
“What this game has always been about, from an athletic standpoint, is giving these young men another opportunity to be seen,” said Smith. “From the beginning, it was always about giving these athletes that one final chance to impress. This year may be much important – because the smaller schools have a better idea of what prospects could fall to them, much earlier than ever before.”
A game such as this is not only just another postseason all-star event – it attracts elite football talent.
That is why an Eddie Brill (Miami Beach) and Nick Gonzalez (Christopher Columbus) used the game as a springboard to show what they could do a year ago.
Mater Academy defensive back Nez Dacosta also found out how fast your name can get out. After being the first player in the history of the game to come up with two interceptions, that extra push would never have been possible without a game like this.
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