BY BUDDY COLLINGS
PHOTOS BY GLOSSY FINISH PHOTOGRAPHY
1WILL CENTRAL CRASH WITHOUT ITS OLD COACH? Keep dreaming. Telly Lockette, now on staff as an assistant at the University of South Florida, was masterful in transforming Miami Central into a powerhouse with three consecutive state
final appearances and two championships in the past three years. But
with 16 starters back, the Rockets are again ready for liftoff.
This team could be national championship good and plays a schedule
that will allow it to prove that point. The new head coach, Roland Smith,
won a state title in 2006 at nearby Northwestern, where he had a 69-13
record when the Bulls were the big dogs in Miami-Dade.
Smith, 43, knows his stuff and knows the neighborhood, and he’ll do just
fine calling plays for elite running backs Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook.
Veteran Naples coach Bill Kramer, who lost a 48-33 state 6A semifinal
to the Rockets in 2012, says he’s never seen a team as talented as Central is this year.
“If we do what we set out to do on a weekly basis, stay humble and work
hard, the sky’s the limit,” Coach Smith said. “These kids have been to
the state championship three years in a row and they’re working like they
haven’t won anything. They’re still hungry. That’s what you like to see.”
2WHERE ARE THE RECLASSIFICATION RIPPLES? Realignment always throws new twists into the state cham- pionship races and we’re in year one of another new two-year cycle. This year’s major development moves last season’s undefeated 3A state champ, University School of Fort Lauderdale, up a class
to a region with reigning 4A state champ Miami Booker T. Washington.
The Tornadoes, who are 74-8 ( 24-5 in playoff games) under coach Tim
“Ice” Harris, are likely to see University in either the first or second round
of the playoffs. University’s new district includes tradition-soaked Glades
Central, which dropped from 5A.
Madison County, last year’s 3A runner-up, also moves up to 4A to further
strengthen a class that still includes Bolles, which has a record 10 state
titles, and Cocoa, which won three in a row (2008-10).
Manatee, which was No. 1 nationally before losing 35-18 to St. Thomas
Aquinas in a 7A semifinal last season, climbs back to the big class. The
Hurricanes share an 8A region with Plant, which owns three state titles and
two runner-up finishes in the past six seasons, and Dr. Phillips, which has
had its season ended by state championship teams the past three years.
8A also inherits First Coast, which lost to Manatee in a 2011 state final,
and Fort Pierce Central, which met Manatee in a 7A region final last season.
Miami Central was originally pegged to climb to 7A, but was granted permission to stay in a rugged 6A district that includes arch-rival Northwestern
and now Norland, which won 5A in 2010.
3ARE SUNS READY FOR AN ENCORE? University School is atypical in that it is a department of Nova Southeastern University and shares a campus with the college and the Miami Dolphins training facility. The Suns are also way
ahead of the game in building their program.
Only seven years into its football existence, University went 12-0 last
season and was rated the top small-school team in America by MaxPreps.
Coach Roger Harriott beefed up the schedule after suffering close
playoff losses in 2010 and 2011, and has taken it up another notch this
year as his program moves up to 4A. The Suns’ non-district slate includes
games against Miami Central, Manatee, Cypress Bay, Norland and Boyd
Anderson – all larger-class power programs.
“If you have some talent, you can inspire kids to do some extraordinary things,” Harriott said. “We’ve been able to grasp some national
attention and capture a state title. Schools are interested in competing
with us now. We’re exactly at the point we aspired to when we started
this program in 2006.”
4 WHY WAIT FOR A BIG GAME? Four Florida teams are lined up as the visitors for a season- opening football series at the University of Maryland’s Byrd Sta- dium on Labor Day weekend. Reigning 5A state champ Godby
faces DeMatha Catholic, Manatee meets Baltimore Gilman, Trinity Catholic of Ocala faces Calvert Hall, and Cocoa hits the road again for a Sunday
afternoon game against Gonzaga of Washington, D.C.
It will be the fifth state Cocoa has ventured to in four seasons. Since
2010, the Tigers have played in Texas twice and in Ohio, Pennsylvania and
Louisiana. They also met Olive Branch, Miss., in a game at Daytona Beach
“I don’t know whose idea it was, but it’s a great one,” Godby coach Ronnie Cottrell said of the growing business of interstate games. “It’s not easy
for the top 100 teams in the country to get games and I think that’s one of
the reasons you are seeing classics like this. This is our first venture into
it and we’re excited about it.”
5 IS THE GRASS GREEN ENOUGH FOR GUANDOLO? Apparently it is. Mark Guandolo, who has a 240-74 career re- cord as a head coach in South Florida, opted to stay at Cypress Bay after being strongly pursued by Edgewater of Orlando.
“I’ve been a South Florida guy my whole career. I have a lot of ties down
here,” Guandolo said. “I probably have 10 or 12 seasons left in me. We
have the community support, a great booster club and a great coaching
staff already in the building. All of those things factored in to me staying.”