There are many programs in South Florida that have missed the playoffs during the past few years, but none received the attention Northwestern did when the Bulls failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time in 19 years.
Not making the playoffs is a huge slap in the face to a program that has produced as many outstanding athletes as any other high school in Florida during the past two decades.
This is a program that always has been in the national championship picture, so not making one of two playoff spots 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 together, competing at one of the many area youth programs that have long made the Bulls strong.
What happened last year during an eight-win season was that the Bulls lost their edge, dropping a tough game to Belen that wiped away the aura that has followed the Bulls through many quality coaches and superb players.
After the season was over and a change was made at head coach, the objective remained the same. The hiring of Stephen Field as coach was a move in a direction to get the Bulls (3-0) back in the mix. After all, Field not only knew the area, the players and the objective at the school, but also he brought in some college experience; the same that Ice Harris brought to Booker T. Washington.
Look up and down the roster and the talent hasnt 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 and kick returner.
Although everyone was doubting this team after last season, the players and coaches looked at 2011 as more of a one-year anomaly rather than a regular occurrence.
All the teams in the district are good, and Belen, Miami Carol City, Miami Central and Homestead all have talent.
But none has the local name recognition and drawing power of Northwestern.
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.
Dont look for that to stop anytime soon.
Although many teams in South Florida are looking at the classes of 2015 and 2016 players to be the spark for their teams this season, Northwestern 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.
Top offensive players include 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 DAngelo 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. Laverick Johnson and Deandre Coley.