In My Opinion

Rashad West building something special at Western

Growing up in the shadow of Southeast High in Bradenton, Rashad West always had role models. From Peter Warrick to Adrian McPherson, Ukee Dozier and Todd Williams, there were always athletes to follow and appreciate.

But of all the prospects that filtered through this pipeline, the person that West has always admired the most is veteran coach Paul Maechtle. For more than 30 years, this coach has been a father to some and a role model to others.

As a top-flight quarterback out of the program in the late 1990s, West took all the great things passed down by his coach and started to apply them. First as a collegiate player and for the past four years, as Western’s coach.

What West has done with the Wildcats is nothing short of amazing. With no solid feeder program, and always battling schools such as American Heritage, St. Thomas Aquinas and University School for athletes, he has gone against the grain and built this program into one that is now demanding respect.

Playing against Cypress Bay, Flanagan and Miramar has exposed Western to some of the top competition. That’s why over the past three years, West’s team rarely stays in South Florida during the summer, opting to compete in places such as Tampa, Orlando and New Smyrna Beach.

“What I have always been taught is that you run from nobody and embrace competition,” West said. “The only way you get better is playing teams who have already gotten to the level where you want to be. Where I grew up, that was the only way you improved.”

Through the past few years, the Wildcats have had some talent, but never enough to lineup with some of those powers, but that has all changed.

This year’s squad has the team concept that West grew up with. While you do have some stars — junior quarterback Wade Freebeck and junior defensive back Juwan Dowels — the roster has many athletes who are difference-makers.

As Freebeck found out last year, as a sophomore, things can happen fast in West’s system. Freebeck started the last five games of the season when the starter went down, and he was thrust into the statewide spotlight as a prospect to keep an eye on. The University of Florida offered the 6-3, 200-pounder in the offseason.

While Freebeck and the explosive Dowels are players who have started to make their impact, the Wildcats have others who are starting to follow.

Other players who have helped put Western on the map include: senior receivers Jimmy Gonzalez, Tarik Cummings and Ethan Lewis, defensive back Mark James, linebacker Billy Ellison and tight end Mario Elliott.

While there are a number of key juniors and seniors who have shown leadership and experience, there are a group of young players who have given this program a building block for the future.

Linebacker Robert Foy, receivers Johnathan Atwell, running backs Jerrel Rickets and Brayon Parrish, kicker Blake Horn and one of the top-flight future players in linebacker Adrienne Talon, who has already started getting noticed by colleges.

“It has always been about being a part of family, here,” West pointed out. From the entire football team to the coaches and those who support us. That is how you build a program and not just a one or two year team.”

Local stat leaders

Everyone across the country knows that when it comes to producing top-flight football talent, Miami-Dade and Broward counties are among the best.

The top two rated quarterbacks in the nation are from South Florida — Rakeem Cato (Central) from Marshall and Geno Smith (Miramar) of West Virginia.

And former Columbus receiver Erik Lora (Eastern Illinois) leads all FCS receivers with 83 receptions for 1,124 yards.

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 Follow Larry on Twitter at

Read more Larry Blustein stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    Flanagan football team a true contender

    Devin Bush remembers when it happened. The time and place where his Flanagan High football program had finally turned that corner and became a team that was no longer a pretender in the race to get to the state championship game.

Columbus High football coach Chris Merritt.

    In My Opinion

    Columbus High football has abundance of talent, experience

    When Miami Columbus head coach Chris Merritt and his assistants looked back on the 2013 football season, the lack of experience jumped out as the reason his team failed to win the district and posted an “average” 7-5 record.

  • In My Opinion

    Despite losing coach and senior talent, Miramar poised to reload

    Although this program has been one of the best in Florida over the past five years, some felt that Miramar might fall from the elite this upcoming season after losing coach Damon Cogdell and a quality class of seniors.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category