Through the first five weeks of the season, there have been some tremendous teams.
But of all those top-flight programs, none is getting more of a well-deserved pat on the back than Miami Christopher Columbus.
Though some contend success is measured by championships, this is a program that has not reached the state title game in 30 years — losing at Pensacola Woodham on a freezing December night in the Panhandle — but has managed to do quite well.
What the Explorers have meant to athletics in Miami-Dade County over the past five decades can’t be measured in trophies or ribbons.
What this program has done is turn out quality student/athletes who have gone on to have successful careers away from football.
Like football talent, your coach has to fit the school. There is no question that Chris Merritt is more than an ambassador for the school and his athletes.
He is active in international football, where he is a coach and a director, and always tries to tie local athletes in with games and other events.
Although Merritt had been at the school for a long time, the opening game of the season — a loss to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas — was one that opened the eyes of fans, fellow coaches, players and those who have supported him every step of the way.
“What Chris Merritt did, even in that loss, was to show that he and his staff have the ability to play and coach with anyone,” said Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services.
“There is no question that he is a top-three coach in South Florida, and top 10 statewide.”
In judging the success of the program over the past few years, it must be understood that Deon Bush (Miami), Anthony Rabasa (Notre Dame), Jakhari Gore (FIU) and Tommy Heffernan (North Carolina) came out of Columbus in just the past two years.
The backbone of this team is a senior class that has quality playmakers at every turn.
FSU-bound receiver Jesus “Bobo” Wilson and running backs Lorenzo Woodley and Daryl Chestnut make Columbus go, but they are certainly not alone. Linebacker Mikey Ferro is also a leader.
Other offensive standouts include: fullbacks Daniel Herraiz and Victor Amat; tight ends Antonio Gonzalez-Pola and Erick Trujillo; receivers Fabian Guerra, Gilbert Henric and Nick Mendelsberg; and linemen Jose Suarez, Nick Gonzalez, Steven Catanach, Ulises Marquez Jr., Nick Oyarzun, Hunter Ehlers, A.J. Cardoso and Joseph Osle.
In addition to Ferro, other defensive standouts include: linemen Patrick Stout, Javier Nin, Pete Mostafa, Ricky Martinez, Jose Alvarez and Jonathan Hayes; linebackers Joey Gonzalez, Jake Quigley, Marcus Davide, Jordan Guest, Alex Fernandez and Nick McBeath; secondary performers Keaon Roberts, Nick Fernandez, Michael Davide, Grant Nordlund, Charles Knight, Zach Bergollo and Adrian Campbell; and kicker Matt Frexia.
Among the top juniors are: running backs Oshton Armstrong and John John Ibarria; receivers Sasha Kelsey, Abraham Berch and Alec Medina; tight end Jose Alvarado; linemen David Rojo, Daniel Angulo, Victor Valdeon, Zach Marti and Brandon Darius; defensive linemen Otto Travieso, Nick Garcia, Brendan Grant and Raul Amarante; linebackers Manuel Gallo, Steffan Di Rocco and Andrew Pierce; and defensive backs Michael Amat and Joe Rodriguez.
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