When the Jordan Cunningham, Maquedius “Quay” Bain and the rest of the University School Suns opened their 2012 season on the road Sunday, against a defending state champion from Ohio, it was part of a conscious effort to correct last year’s fatal flaw.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Suns coach Roger Harriott said, and his meaning was clear.
University went 11-0 in last year’s regular season, getting little resistance from opponents, outscoring them by an average of 49-14 in non-forfeit games.
But after a 37-15 first-round playoff win over West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman, University School was knocked off by eventual Class 3A state champion American Heritage-Delray 31-20.
“We played a lot of sorry teams last year, and [the starters] were [often] out of the game by the second quarter,” said Cunningham, a wide receiver. “But I’m excited about our schedule this year.”
The schedule started with that game against Trotwood-Madison at Kings High School, located 20 miles northeast of Cincinnati — a game that marked the first time in that a Suns game was televised by ESPN.
The Suns follow that with other tough tests such as Cocoa, Chaminade and Miami Westminster Christian, with the latter two games coming against district rivals.
According to ESPN’s rankings, Trotwood has two of the top 150 players in the nation, led by No. 19 Cameron Burrows, a 6-0, 205-pound cornerback committed to Ohio State. The other star is No.104 Mike McCray, a 6-4, 230-pound outside linebacker who has pledged to play for Michigan — just the kind of stout competition University wanted to face this year.
University itself boasts two standouts in Bain and Cunningham.
Bain, a 6-4, 285-pound senior defensive tackle, is the 40th-best prospect in the nation on ESPN’s list.
Cunningham, a 6-2, 175-pound senior, is ranked 45th in the nation.
Bain, who had committed to Florida State before deciding to reopen his college decision-making process, said Cunningham is a major threat on offense.
“He may be one of the quickest wide receivers around, especially his first three steps,” Bain said of Cunningham, who had 40 catches last season for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. “He catches everything thrown his way.”
Cunningham, who has a 3.85 grade-point average and wants to become an engineer, has offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, Miami and Florida State.
Bain, who has a 3.1 GPA, has an even longer list of national powers to sort through before he signs with a college in February. A basketball star first, Bain didn’t start playing varsity football until last spring.
“He got scholarship offers before he played his first football game just because of how big and athletic he is,” Cunningham said.
Bain made first-team All-Broward in basketball last season, averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, but he says his future is in football. Last year, as a novice in the game, he accumulated eight sacks and blocked five field-goal attempts — an impressive debut.
Besides football, the one thing that truly connects Cunningham and Bain is their love for children.
Harriott said the entire team visits underprivileged children as part of their community service.
Bain, who is the “man of the house” at his home and helps his mother and sister raise his first-grader brother, said mentoring kids is something he and Cunningham take seriously.
“Jordan is an open heart,” Bain said. “He loves little kids. We have camps, and he makes sure to tell them about high-school life. He is a role model.”
Cunningham credits Harriott for fostering that attitude among the team.
“Everybody looks at Coach Harriott as a father figure,” he said, “whether they have a father or not.”