As a freshman on the junior varsity team in 2009, Chaminade-Madonna defensive back Adrian Baker watched the Lions’ season end in a 7-6 loss to Tampa Catholic in the state semifinals.
It marked the furthest advancement in the postseason the program had achieved since winning the Class 2A championship four years earlier.
With plenty of talent, the hope was to build off the performance. During the past two seasons, however, the injury bug has bit — and hard — hindering Chaminade-Madonna’s chances at reaching its full potential.
“We’re trying to get back to that and states this year,” said Baker, an FSU recruit who collected 21 tackles and five interceptions last year. “[I’ve] Just been hoping that one day I would get to that point.”
Last year, both the starting tailback and wide receiver broke a foot. Two seasons ago, an injury to quarterback Jerrard Randall, who is now at LSU, forced a freshman to start in a playoff game.
“Overall, I think we have a good chance of being very competitive, just the same thing every year at Chaminade,” fifth-year coach Tim Tyrrell said. “In ’09 we were very lucky we didn’t have any major injuries. The last two years we were just as talented, but we had some major injuries and made the playoffs, and we couldn’t make a good run at it. We have good enough athletes — we always have at Chaminade — it’s just a matter of staying healthy.”
Sixteen seniors make up the 2012 team, many of whom will be three-year starters on varsity.
Junior quarterback Sean White returns under center, hoping to improve on last season’s 9-2 record. He will benefit from a balanced attack with senior running back Miles Graham back from the broken foot he sustained against University School.
“It was valuable because playing time being young gives you experience better than sitting watching somebody else play,” White said. “So going out there playing, learning from experience was important for me.”
On defense, Baker said the unit plays fast and physical, “swarming to the ball,” something that will prove to be important in District 8-3A. The toughest competition for the title will be the Suns. Chaminade-Madonna will visit Oct. 4 in a matchup under the lights.
University School ended the Lions’ season in the first round of the playoffs in 2010 with a 28-19 win, eventually losing in the state final in triple overtime.
“They do a great job, and they’ve beaten us the past two years,” Tyrrell said. “It’s definitely something our kids are aware of, but we don’t take that game any different. It is what it is, and if we’re going to win our district, we have to beat University School.”
Waiting in the wings will more than likely be American Heritage School of Boca/Delray, which has reached the state title game four of the past five seasons, capturing the championship three times.
“We try to win our district and do that and whether you win your district or you’re second place in district, it just tells you when you’re going to be playing Delray,” Tyrrell said. “They have a powerhouse of a program,” Tyrrell said, “and if us and University are going to be able to compete with them, we have to have great seasons and stay healthy.”
White believes the Lions have a chance to be something special, indicating that things have “clicked” with a positive attitude at practice and in the weight room.
“We just learned that adversity is going to hit during the season and we just have to come closer together as a team,” White said. “Don’t let injuries thrown at us or opponents or anything like that stop us from being able to overcome it.”
Said Baker: “It’s just a matter of showing up and being ready to play.”