In My Opinion

Hialeah-Miami Lakes coach Kenan Lawhorne says independent status helped

Talk about some of the great football talent that has come out of Hialeah-Miami Lakes since the school opened its doors in the early 1970s, and it’s a list of head-turning athletes that made an impression — beyond high school.

From the Michael Timpsons and Rohan Daveys to talented prospects such as Devin Bush, Thaddeus Lewis and Armando Allen, the Trojans have always been able to compete with anyone. But times have changed, and this school which was one of Miami-Dade’s largest for years, has watched this football program dwindle in numbers.

While the program has had the talent to stand toe-to-toe with several schools, the numbers forced this once proud football team to break away as an independent. Faced with having to play in a district with Carol City, Homestead, Central, Northwestern and Belen, coach Kenan Lawhorne and the administration felt it would be better to develop.

“Not having the numbers to compete with programs that annually attract 60-70 athletes to the varsity squad was tough for this program,” Lawhorne said. “What we needed to do is build and get more of a pipeline going to our youth feeders. That was the only way you can survive a district schedule like the one we would have faced.”

Depending on next year’s enrollment, Lawhorne’s team faces moving to either 6A, 7A or even to 8A when the state realigns the classes. He believes that the two seasons as an independent will do nothing but help this team to grow and mature, and expose several players to all colleges.

While the Trojans do have some senior leadership and experience — a year after the graduation of record-setting running back Hakeem Lawrence (26 touchdowns) — this is a team that is loaded with young talent. Athletes who many on the team are looking to make an impression, right away.

“I am not afraid to use a number of freshmen and sophomores,” Lawhorne said. “When I played at Coral Park back in the day, it was all about developing and teaching, and that’s what I have done since I arrived here.”

At a time when every team cannot boast 10-0 records, and 6-7 major college prospects on the roster each year, what Lawhorne and many others throughout South Florida continue to do is teach and develop. That is something in this recruiting assembly line that is often lost.

The Class of 2016 — the group of freshmen that will attend HML for the first time in less than two weeks — will be the place that you will see quarterback Roger McCullough (6-0, 170), receivers Malik Burns (5-10, 170) and Kenneth Hayes (5-5, 145), defensive back Isaiah Small (5-10, 155) and athletic Kama Barnes, a 5-6, 170-pounder.

The sophomore class is also where athletes such as quarterback Elliott Taylor (6-0, 170) and defensive back Kenneth Donaldson (5-10, 165) will showcase their skills.

With no juniors expected to add experience and depth, the Trojans will look toward senior defensive backs Lazarus Waldon (5-9, 170) and Terrell Williams (5-11, 170) to lift the program. Both are difference makers and can lead by example.

“This is a huge season for many of our young players,” Lawhorne said. “Next year at this time, these will be the leaders of this program, and I am confident that they will be solid and dependable.”

Big offseason

The past seven months have watched a number of football prospects start to make a name for themselves across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.

Here is a look at some of the athletes we want you to keep an eye on during the 2012 season. These are prospects who continue to make this region of the country special. We will continue to add more throughout the season.

• 2013: Marquise Blanchard, DE, 6-1, 235, Northwestern, J.J. Burmeister, QB, 6-0, 205, Florida Christian, Holly Dolcine, OL, 6-1, 250, Blanche Ely, Christian Garcia, DL, 6-2, 265, Belen Jesuit, Joey Gonzalez, LB, 6-0, 200, Christopher Columbus, Kahlil Henderson, 6-1, 175, WR, South Broward, Marqez Hodge, LB, 6-1, 210, Central, Robert Jones, LB, 6-0, 200, Monsignor Pace, Rashad Land, WR, 6-3, 190, Coconut Creek, Dylan Malson, WR, 5-11, 170, Flanagan, Neil Morrison, RB, 6-0, 190, Pines Charter, Jeremy Nieves, OL, 6-4, 310, Everglades, Jordan Reyes, OL, 6-4, 285, Dr. Krop, Kareem Rutledge, S, 5-11, 160, Blanche Ely, Ray Sharp, QB, 6-5, 200 and Jason Smith, OLB, 6-1, 200, American

• 2014: Reyley Bonilla, OL, 6-4, 295, Miami High, Brice Brown, WR, 5-7, 144, Stranahan, Deion Cineus, OL, 6-5, 310, Miami Beach, Antwan Cordy, ATH, 5-9, 170, South Dade, Kendon Davis, WR, 6-4, 195, Northeast, Kaywon Davis, LB, 6-1, 215, Miramar, Ricky Gonzalez, LB/RB, 5-10, 185, Miami Country Day, Trayon Gray, QB/S/WR, 6-1, 190, Carol City, Devonte Jones, LB/DE, 6-0, 220, Coral Reef, Griffin Jossfolk, S, 5-10, 175, Cypress Bay, Scott Long, QB, 5-11, 171, Coral Springs, Pedro Pardon, DT, 6-2, 255, Jackson, Sasha Kelsey, WR, 5-11, 170, Christopher Columbus, Devonta Marshall, OL, 6-3, 300, Miami Springs, Jarrett Morgan, RB, 5-10, 175, Cooper City, Isaac Pryce, RB/LB, 5-10, 200, Hialeah Gardens, Tanares Robinson, WR, 5-9, 170, Miramar and Nathaniel Terry, WR/TE, 6-4, 190, South Dade.

• 2015: Jordan Cronkite, RB, 5-11, 180, Miami Westminster Christian, Fabian Curvieli, DB, 5-10, 170, Taravella, Samuel Echavarria, QB, 6-2, 220, Archbishop Curley, Andres Fernandez, QB, 5-9, 160, Christopher Columbus, Montel Jordan, DL, 6-3, 285, Blanche Ely, Edward Loveland, WR, 5-10, 170, Carol City, Richard McIntosh, 6-4, 220, Cardinal Gibbons, Devonaire Scott, WR, 6-6, 200, Southridge, Ryan Stanley, QB, 6-0, 180, Flanagan and Cedric Wiggins, QB/S, 5-11, 185, North Miami Beach.

• 2016: Kalen Carson, RB, 5-8, 155, Coral Springs Charter, Anthony Gaiter IV, WR/DB, 5-8, 155, Miami Westminster Christian, Steve Newbold, WR, 5-11, 160, McArthur and Ivan Smith, S, 5-11, 155, Christopher Columbus.

We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. All you have to do is send a DVD and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein, P.O. Box 3181, Hallandale Beach, Fl. 33009.

Have a comment? E-mail Follow Larry on Twitter at

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