Whether it’s the Florida Fire, Strong Arm, Hard Knocks, Nghtmr or the South Florida Express, success has come down to what high school/youth coaches you have on your off season travel program.

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Associations with schools and youth programs have long been the way that many programs were kicked off – and have been able to maintain a stable and winning team.

While the South Florida Express (SFE) began by using athletes from all over Miami-Dade and Broward, it was only in the past five years when high school coaches really started to get involved.

“If you are coaching for a 7-on-7 teams and happen to be a coach at a local high school, sure you want to have your kids with you,” said Florida Fire founder Dennis Marroquin explained. “Every team has quality high school assistant coaches and coordinators who benefit from having their kids around them.”

Brett Goetz, founder of SFE, has long used local coaches to help fill rosters out. This year was no exception as several quality coaches have been added to a group that has been in place for many years.

Among the coaches that the Express feature include Dominic Johnson (Southridge), Henry Columbi, David Blackwell and Garrett Lederman (Delray American Heritage), Cory Smith (Doral Academy), Jaquan Nunally (Norland), Blue Tanis (Plantation American Heritage), Jerry Scalzo (Cardinal Gibbons), Odell Jolly (Southridge) and Dorrean James (Booker T. Washington). The Express also feature former NFL standouts Samari Rolle, a Miami Beach and FSU product, and Arturo Freeman – as well as Kenyon Fussell, who has coordinated the teams.

For Derrick Lester’s Hard Knocks squad, Desmond Hollin (Miami High), Naquan Phillips (Homestead), Carlton Callendar (Southridge) and Lester (South Dade) have been able to attract a number of prospects. Players who have helped this team win plenty.

Team Nghtmr boast some impressive coaches – with Javi Valdes and Jorie Alston (Somerset), Davante Davis and David Bowens (Doral Academy) – as well as Nicholas Norris and Eduardo Clements, Booker T. Washington star players who are still looking for a spot to land this coming season.

Strong Arm has also been a pipeline from high school to 7-on-7 fields – with Coach Flowers (Stranahan), Coach Bennie (Deerfield Beach), Coach Dre Stafford (Carol City), Coach Central McClellion (Delray American Heritage), and youth football connections such as Coach Crummie (Overtown) and Coach Fred (Gwen Cherry).

The Fire has certainly used many of the high school and youth coaches through the years – and this season is certainly no exceptions.

In addition to Marroquin, who recently stepped aside after winning a 2A state title at Hialeah Champagnat Catholic, the Fire boasts David Coleman and Delaine Powell (Piper), Joe Brown (Southridge), Jason Kilpatrick (Cham-agnat Catholic), Mike Sheehan (Edison), Robert Ortega (Western) – as well as Xavier Carter and Dino Johnson.

J.R. Bryant and Tampa Bucs’ standout David Rivers are also lending a helping hand.

Chris McGonigal (Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes), Zak Rehman (Tuff Training) and You Garcia (All Hands) have also made a major impact.


Nobody will offer any excuses in losing to the Florida Fire in overtime at the Pylon event to kick the season off two weeks ago near Orlando, so the South Florida Express was back to work last weekend.

Coach Cory Smith was looking for a spark from some players he has on a very talented roster.

The Express will be back at it – and figure to showcase some more of those elite players.

Among the talent on the rosters include:

Matthew Akuchie, WR, St. Thomas Aquinas

Jordan Battle, DB, St. Thomas Aquinas

Chris Benestad, WR, Cardinal Gibbons

Rayquan Berry, RB/Slot, Coral Gables

Jacorey Brooks, WR, Booker T. Washington

Curt Casteel, QB, St. Thomas Aquinas

Tyrus Clinch, DB, Northwestern

Adrian Cole, DB, Plantation

Jamal Cooney, WR, St. Thomas Aquinas

Tecory Couch, DB, Chaminade-Madonna

Jaden Davis, DB, St. Thomas Aquinas

John Dunmore, WR, Chaminade-Madonna

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Doug Emilien, WR, Plantation American Heritage

Marcus Fleming, WR, Northwestern

Andy Garcia, LB, Plantation American Heritage

Baron Grant, WR, Doral Academy

Henry Gray, DB, Plantation American Heritage

Jermaine Hart, WR, South Broward

Aydin Henningham, WR, Deerfield Beach

Connor Hindsley, WR, Delray American Heritage

Jordan Irizarry, WR/CB, NSU University School

Ahmaud Jordan, DB, Chaminade-Madonna

Tyrese Lamour, DB, Hialeah

Benjamin Onwuzo, CB, Chaminade-Madonna

Shemar Paul, RB/Slot, Doral Academy

Wendol Philord, DB, Doral Academy

Ed Rhodes, QB, Plantation American Heritage

Nikolas Ognenovic, TE, Cardinal Gibbons

Christian Opalsky, WR/RB, St. Thomas Aquinas

Grantis Poole, WR/RB, Cardinal Gibbons

Daryl Porter, Jr., DB, Plantation American Heritage

Larry Robbins, Jr., DB, Northwestern

Louis Rolle, DB, Deerfield Beach

Josh Sanguinetti, DB/WR, University School

Tyler Scott, DB, University School

Keontra Smith, DB, Chaminade-Madonna

Deidrick Stanley II, DB, Chaminade-Madonna

Christian Wells, WR, NSU University School

Derek Wingo, Athlete, St. Thomas Aquinas

Jaylin Young, WR, Hallandale

Majon Wright, WR, Cardinal Gibbons

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