Last Dec. 7, Art Taylor rallied his Deerfield Beach football team in the Orange Bowl for a region final against nationally-rated Miami Northwestern. With a 14-12 lead in the final minutes, the Bucks were just one yard for blowing away the unbeaten Bulls. What happened in the final two minutes still has head coach Art Taylor and his team thinking about it some seven months later.
Being less than two minutes from its second 6A state finals appearance in three years, the Bucks saw the dream fall apart as the Bulls went 99 yards and left the team with an empty feeling.
As the attention shifts to the 2008 season, Taylor's talented team returns 15 players from a group that handed 5A state champions St. Thomas Aquinas its only loss during a year that ended 11-3.
“I think in some ways, we are still trying to get over what happened,” said Taylor. “But I believe we have the veteran leadership to win that game if we have the opportunity to play in it again.”
The region will get tougher this season with Northwestern returning some impressive players, and the fact that Norland, North Miami Beach, Miami Central, Cypress Bay and Miramar all getting stronger.
Coming back for another shot is senior quarterback Denard Robinson (5-11, 180), who is as gifted a player as you get at this level. This speedy (4.38) athlete went over 2,000 total yards and has schools from UCF to West Virginia and Purdue watching his progress.
The Class of 2009 also includes safety Adrian Witty (5-11, 185), who also put up some fast (4.4) numbers at combines in the off season. There are also receiver Travis McDonald (6-2, 185), defensive tackle Johnny Seays (6-0, 220), offensive/defensive lineman Raymond Newton (6-1, 215) and cornerback Elliott Atkins (5-9, 165), who is considered one of the emerging cover-corners.
Class of 2010 running back Cassius McDowell surprised everyone last year by running for 966 yards and 13 touchdowns. Another rising junior to keep an eye on is defensive back/quarterback Donte Dotson, a 5-9, 165-pounder.
One of the players to watch for in the Class of 2011 is free safety Khambral Garland (5-10, 175), who is quick and athletic. He had four interceptions a year ago.
HILLS LOOKING FOR THE MAGIC
Being in the same district as national powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas often leaves the Hollywood Hills Spartans searching for a second place finish, and while head coach Scott Barnwell understands that competing with the Raiders will be tough, he has loaded up over the past few years with athletes who can help this program compete and grab that coveted playoff spot.
While the Spartans have had their share of big names over the years, the team that will head into the 2008 season will be young and filled with athletes attempting to make a difference against some quality opponents.
The Class of 2009 begins with defensive end/linebacker Daniel "Bucky" Lewis (6-0, 230), fullback Dwayne Wilson (5-8, 205), receiver Dennis Booth (6-0, 165) and Hallandale High transfer running back Courtney Clark Jr. (5-9, 175), who could make a difference.
Speaking of running backs, the Class of 2010 uncovers running back prospect Luis Vasquez (5-8, 172). Quarterbacks Brandon Balom (5-11, 161) and Andrew Wadsworth (6-2, 161) will battle for the starting spot. Lineman Brandon Parris (5-11, 272) is the only holdover from a tremendous line.
On defense, highly-rated defensive tackle Clarence Murphy (6-3, 245), linebackers Gary Lewis (5-11, 189), Chris Henry (6-0, 200) and Caleb Vincent (6-2, 205), defensive end/nose tackle Moses Francois (6-1, 210), defensive end Nate King (6-0, 218) and speedy (4.4) cornerback Tony Grimes (5-11, 161).
Lineman Jared Maldonado (6-3, 272) and safety Jess Goins (5-10, 168) are two promising prospects for the Class of 2011.
NEXT WEEK: We continue to look at more BCAA teams, players and results from spring games and scrimmages.
You can reach Larry Blustein via e-mail at FloridaKids1@hotmail.com. He can also be heard every Thursday night (9-10) on the Miami Dolphins High School Gridiron Report on WQAM (560 AM).