There are many programs in South Florida who have missed the playoffs over the past few years, but none received the attention Northwestern did, when the Bulls failed to make the state playoffs for the first time in 19 years last season.
Not making the playoffs is a huge slap in the face to a program that has produced as many outstanding athletes as any school in Florida over the past two decades. This is a program that has always been in the national championship picture, so not making one of two playoff spots last year was tough for many to take —especially the longtime fans.
If you know football in this part of the city, you understand that it is in every sense of the word, a community-based program —with Liberty City athletes completely filling the roster. The same athletes who have grown up with each other —competing at one of many area youth programs that have long made the Bulls strong.
What happened last year, during an eight-win season, was this program lost that edge, dropping a tough game to Belen Jesuit and wiping away the aura that has followed this team through many quality coaches and superb football players.
After the season was over and a change was made in the head coaching position, the objective remained the same. The addition of Stephen Field as the head coach was a move in a direction to get the Bulls back in the mix. After all, Field not only knew the area, the players and the objective at the school, but he also brought in some that college experience. The same that Ice Harris has done at Booker T. Washington.
Look up and down the roster and the talent hasn’t changed at Northwestern. You still have the marquee kids such as senior defensive back Artie Burns, who is headed to the University of Miami, and early FSU commit Joseph “JoJo” Robinson, a talented junior receiver, running back, kick returner.
While everyone was doubting this team after last year, the players and coaches within the walls of the school looked at 2011 as more of a one year thing than something the Bulls will need to get used to. All the teams in the district are very good, and Belen Jesuit, Carol City, Central and Homestead all have talent, but none has the local name recognition and drawing power Northwestern does.
As Central has enjoyed recent state playoff and championship success, this is a Northwestern team that has been in the center of every Miami-Dade County conversation. Don’t look for that to stop anytime soon.
You have to remember, while many teams in South Florida are looking at Class of 2015 and 2016 players to be the spark, this is a program that has too much senior and junior talent to even worry about using too many young players. Receiver Leon Brown and defensive back Khalid Megee are the only sophomores on the varsity team.
That senior class, which is led by Burns is indeed a veteran group, which has offensive players such as quarterbacks Randy Jones, Jr., Anthony Clay and Alex Badiet; running backs Darius Tice, Fabian Johnson, James Presley, Ronald Joseph and James Grant; receivers Derrod Jones, Nathaniel Gedues, Gladimar Obas, Jeremiah Barfield, Darius Humes, Randy Russell, Chaviss Murphy, Keenan Melton and Mathrin Mathurin; and very talented linemen Joe Jenkins, Gerald Wright and Jerry Holmes.
On defense, the seniors are also very impressive with linemen D’Angelo Reynolds, Marquise Blanchard, Larmond Braxton, Lessie Spiller, Juan Cruz, Shane Bayne and Yonel Henri; linebackers Tim Salter, Jaquatin Victrum and Darius Redmond; defensive backs Nathaniel Taylor, Arron Brown and Laverick Johnson, Deandre Coley.
The Class of 2014 is very much evident in the maturity of this team as well. In addition to Robinson, other offensive standouts are running back Keyto Lee; receivers Brandon Times, Terel Gissendanner, Johnny Rembert, Lawrence Mims, Myquan Melton and Jabari Dowling; and promising linemen Raymond Gibson, Kevin Pinkney, Jestin Snow, Frank Williams.
Defensively, linemen Michael Smith, Clifford Taylor, William Rollack and Jabar Bates; linebackers Tyrone Glanton, Jaquan Lenard and James McMillan; and defensive backs Sharmarke Spence, Keon Richardson, Jamarron Samuel, Milo Williams and Antwan Clark.
When the University of Louisville tapped into the state of Florida, in particular, the South Florida area, the Cardinals and coach Charlie Strong have made great use of the local athletes so far this season.
In the two games played so far, Northwestern products Teddy Bridgewater and Eli Rogers have been doing their thing on offense with Central product Charles Gaines. So far, Bridgewater has completed 49 of 60 passes for 576 yards. Rogers has snagged 8 balls for 54 yards and Gaines has added 3 catches for 73 yards.
On defense, Andrew Johnson (Southridge) and Jermaine Reve (Northwestern) have done well.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.