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Blu's Blog: Scrimmages Bring Out The Best In Local Teams

Larry BlockSFHSSports: Twitter | Facebook

When you happen to have over 60 players on current NFL rosters, there is nothing average about a football scrimmage in South Florida.

The major reason that this area of the country is so far ahead the rest of the nation when it comes to churning out football talent may have been answered for over 13 hours on Friday and Saturday at Tamiami Park, adjacent to the FIU.

Once again this year, South Florida teams took part in the Austin 34 Officiating Event – where high school and college officials come and learn what it takes to get to that next level. In the middle of it all were 38 teams from Miami-Dade, Broward and Class 3A state power, Oxbridge Academy from West Palm Beach.

As the officials used the event to help their budding refs learn the game, the programs that came to take part in what was a 100-play scrimmage, took this as serious as you would expect from the level of talent that is on display annually.

"This is the first time I had the chance to see my team play against another opponent," said first-year Killian head coach Javi Valdes. "We are less than two weeks in, so anything positive that can come from this will be used. Believe me, we will use this two scrimmage session to our advantage."

As they do every year, head coach Richard Stuart and his Belen Jesuit Wolverines, used everything and anything to help this quality program continue to compete against the best.

This year, besides winning another 8A district title, this team will be headed to Ireland in the first week of September to take part in an international football and educational experience.

"We use every opportunity to get a look at the many kids we have on this team," Stuart explained. "Taking part for both days really got everyone work ahead of our annual spring game."

Keeping in mind that this event was not the spring game, it was tough to tell budding powers Deerfield Beach and Southridge that this was only a scrimmage.

Both programs, loaded with big time talent and top-flight recruits, battled in the final session on Saturday. With regional and national fan recruiting websites on hand to capture all the action, some of the biggest names in high school football stepped up.

"Our guys needed this kind of work, early this spring," Southridge second year head coach Billy Rolle explained. "A lot of competition for a lot of positions."

Competition has been the key word for Cardinal Gibbons as the Chiefs have a new head coach for the first time in 16 springs. Matt Dubuc took over his alma mater, and while they still have Killian coming up in a spring game, he liked what he saw from his program.

"Having a few kids not in the lineup may have hurt us from a leadership standpoint, but two weeks in, I like what I see," Dubuc explained. "We will continue to work hard and improve. That's what the spring has always been about for us."

Despite missing three key players for the scrimmage, head coach Aubrey Hill rolled out a very impressive Carol City team. The Chiefs, who beat Central for the district title a year ago, fell short of reaching the state championships, losing to the Rockets in the playoffs.

Many who have remained close to this program feel that this may be one of the most talented teams in the state, and with a challenging schedule in the fall, they will have their chance.

"We know a lot about the players coming back from last year," said Hill. "We just need this scrimmage and the rest of the spring to evaluate some of the newer players."

In addition to those programs, other teams accepted the invitation to compete because they need for their players to get better. Miami-Dade and Broward schools really had the chance to showcase their skills:

Archbishop McCarthy: Unbeaten this past season, veteran head coach Byron Walker once again has put together an impressive football program. Younger athletes will step up and so far this spring, things have fallen into place. The Mavericks will certainly be one of the best again in 2016.

Boyd Anderson: There was no way that you were going to keep head coach Eddie Brown and his Cobras away from the chance to knock heads with athletes that they will need to beat to get to that next level. This is a solid football team, that no matter how much success comes in the regular season, it's what happens in the playoffs that will define success.

Braddock: After losing several key prospects from 2015, the theme for this team is to rebuild and rely on plenty of younger players to help them back into the playoff hunt. The scrimmage and the spring and summer will be huge for the growth of this team.

Christopher Columbus: Head coach Chris Merritt now has this program moving in a direction where the Explorers will be in the mix every year. With a number of elite players out of the scrimmage because of the state track and field meet, they had a look at several younger athletes.

Coconut Creek: Gerald Cox will take over for Kareem Reid, who went back to Atlanta, and while the district will once again be competitive, you get the sense that this district will still be very tough – with Plantation American Heritage at the head of the class.

Coral Gables: The Cavaliers have a lot of holes to fill from a departing senior class, but they will still be strong on defense, and will continue to ease in some younger players. Coach Roger Pollard is always in control.

Coral Park: From right down the block from FIU came the Rams who used the scrimmage to give many of their athletes much-needed exposure. They have some talented Class of 2017 prospects who need to step up.

Coral Reef: After winning the district title last year at Sunset, Joe Petisco takes over a talented Barracuda squad that returns some very impressive football. The district is still competitive, but this is a program that has always been able to trot out some very good athletes.

Dillard: Everyone had heard how athletic and strong on the defensive end the Panthers were, but when watching them up close, it was evident that with a few things going their way in 2016, playoffs can return to a program that is used to the success. The young offense needs to step up quickly.

Doral Academy: From the moment Jase Stewart took the job after the 2016 season ended, he had the wheels in motion, and while this team had players in the past, the direction was not in place. It is now. Just ask Oxbridge, who the Firebirds gave a real fight in the scrimmage.

Dr. Krop: For the first time in nearly a decade, the Lightning have a new head coach, and while the objective has always been the same, Mike Farley comes in and finds a group of athletes that is extremely talented and has a chance to make a legitimate run at the district title.

Ferguson: The only head coach the school has ever had, Gene Chew, started another spring with plenty of optimism and a belief that there are some prospects who can help the Falcons stay in the playoff hunt.

Fort Lauderdale: Can't say enough about the job that head coach Richard Dunbar has done with his alma mater over the past few years. The Flying L's are at the point where they have the talent to stand toe-to-toe with the best. As many watched on Saturday, you can expect this program to continue getting better.

Goleman: One of the programs that really started to turn the corner. This could be as talented a team as the school has had in a long time. Goleman has solid offensive and defensive playmakers with some new faces coming aboard this summer.

Hialeah: As most expected, in year two, that head coach Steve Smith and the T-Breds would be very competitive, and going into the spring and summer, this will be a team to keep an eye on.

Hialeah Gardens: With the exception of American, the entire district played in the event, and while the Gladiators have much to work on, they have some prospects that are making major strides – and the work they got in on Friday was huge.

Hialeah-Miami Lakes: New coach and plenty of young football players will have the Trojans still rebuilding to keep up with the rest of powers in the district. There are always tremendous athletes to keep an eye on.

Homestead: Coral Reef graduate Dorian Munroe takes over a team that most consider one of the top athlete-producing programs anywhere in the state. While the Broncos attempt to get things going once again, a lot of teaching and learning will be done.

International School of Broward: One of the programs that made a splash last year is a team that has talent and solid coaching. Getting the more players out for the team will also be important as the fall will feature some quality opponents.

Jackson: All eyes were on first-year head coach Lakatriona Brunson and the Generals on Saturday in the scrimmage. The first female head football coach in Florida had some quality athletes who played hard and continues to put things together this spring. The Generals will be competitive as more athletes come out for the team.

Keys Gate Charter: Chevas Clements is back coaching and he is building something very positive in Class 4A. This is a program that is loaded with quality talent and has a chance to make the playoffs this coming season.

McArthur: Year two for head coach Laron Culpepper began at the scrimmage – and if you watched the talent the Mustangs have on board – you can see why they believe this team will be in the mix once again for a district title. The Mustangs have big-time athletes up and down the roster.

Miami High: Coach Frank Rosales will once again have his work cut out as the Stingarees attempt to start life after Pie Young, who is headed to USC. There are some outstanding rising seniors coming back, but it's the 2018 and 2019 athletes that this team needs to rely on.

Miami Springs: As veteran head coach Darryel Bethune says goodbye to a very strong senior class, including his son, the rebuilding process has begun. This is a spring where the Golden Hawks have a chance to get a look at a number of quality candidates.

Miramar: To say that head coach Pierre Senatus and the Patriots are back would not be fair. But you can say that very few teams have worked harder to get back in the mix than this quality program. The entire offseason has been devoted developing and giving the players plenty of exposure.

Monarch: After three years of high-level success, the Knights had to adjust this past season, and while getting back to the top of the district will be tough, the scrimmage did give this young and inexperienced team a chance to get a look at emerging athletes. The spring and summer are still vital to the success in 2016.

A&T Mourning: Another of the programs who headed to the scrimmage was the Sharks who continue to develop some young prospects that looked good a year ago. Playing in a very competitive district will put this program in a learn and mature fast mode in 2016.

North Miami: The good news is that the district is even and will be competitive. The bad news is head coach Ed Williams and the Pioneers are a very young team once again this season. After 18 wins in 2013 and 2014 with two district titles, things have changed.

North Miami Beach: Veteran head coach Jeff Bertani once again has some solid football players, including an offensive line, receiver, quarterback and running game on offense. The Chargers certainly have the talent to compete for a district title this coming season. Never sleep on a team like this – they have way too much talent and great coaching.

Palmetto: This is a program that always has athletes, and while keeping them around has been a problem, things appear to be turning the corner as several quality football prospects will help elevate the Panthers in a very tough district.

Piper: After a 9-2 record in 2015, head coach David Coleman and the Bengals aren't backing away from anybody. This is indeed a team that will be among the best in South Florida this coming season. Look for the rest of the spring and summer to uncover how good this team has a chance to be.

Plantation: After more than a decade, Steve Davis steps down as head coach and Jesse Norris brings his years of experience in from Ohio to keep the Colonels relevant in a district that is always competitive. This is a program that lost a number of players from last year, but the athletes are competitive and talented. The spring and summer will be huge.

Ronald Reagan: While there is plenty of talent on board, it's young, and veteran head coach John Lopez and his outstanding staff will spend the spring and the rest of the summer getting these young men ready for another competitive season.

Somerset Academy Pines: The process continues for a program that has the athletes, but needs more of the younger players to step up and make a year-round commitment. Still. Coming out and taking the time to get better is a positive.

South Dade: One team that has a lot of positions to fill this spring and into the summer is a program that still has the talent and athletes to compete and make a major impact. Coach Nathaniel Hudson still has key prospects, transfers and newcomers that will be special.

South Miami: The departure of longtime head coach David Gray has put the Cobras in a situation this spring where many positions are up for grabs. Taking full advantage of the scrimmage, several rising seniors made the most of the opportunity. This has always been a program that has the talent.

Stranahan: Coach Tally Adams has added a few more pieces to the Dragons this spring, and as the numbers are still lower, this is a program that really benefitted from the scrimmage experience – playing against some very impressive competition. The players are indeed excited about the rest of the spring and summer.

Western: If you followed the coaching career of Adam Ratkevich over the years, you fully understand why his teams are as competitive as you will find. The Wildcats, while being part of a very tough district, have the talent – on both sides of the ball – to compete. There are big-time prospects on this team.

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