They came to see American Heritage’s Sony Michel run the ball. They had heard about the nation’s best Class of 2014 running back. But what the football fans in Sebring would see over the next three hours was the rebirth of a program that is building — at a high level — for the long haul.
Under the direction of former NFL standout lineman Jeff Dellenbach, the Plantation American Heritage Patriots have more than laid down a solid foundation. Although Byron Walker had always put together a quality program through the many years at the school, it’s tough to match the prospects this program has on the field this season.
No matter what happens in the playoffs — and strange things can take place — this is a team that is indeed putting together a professional style program, which includes a head coach who played in the NFL for 16 years.
Dellenbach learned plenty from his pro coaches Mike Holmgren, Bill Parcells and the legendary Don Shula, so he and his staff have taken the same approach, and the results were positive all season.
With all eyes on the talented Michel (and for good reason), this year was also about a number of big-time prospects who elevated their game. Michel had 94 yards and two touchdowns rushing and 55 yards receiving in the Patriots’ 55-7 victory over Sebring in September.
Other players to look for are linebacker Michael Deeb (Notre Dame commit), quarterback Tyler Cogswell (Arkansas) and Tyler Carmona, who at 6-5, 200 pounds is a mismatch for any secondary.
Other seniors such as speedy Walter Tucker (linebacker/running back), safety Bryant Gross-Armiento, Khari Herbert (WR/DB), fullback Victor Ferrera, defensive end Mark Aguillar and defensive lineman Darius Holiday have been huge, and each has attracted college attention.
But this is also about an underclass that has not only been able to pick up the system that Dellenbach and his staff spend year-round improving, but they have grasped it like major prospects do, and have been recognized for it.
Junior receiver/defensive back and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie is a 5-8, 165-pound game-changer — at any level. His more than 1,000 all purpose yards backs that up. So is sophomore Torrance Gibson, a 6-3, 195-pounder who could be as good as any player in the state. Receiver, safety, quarterback; he can play them all, and play them all well.
Another marquee prospect is junior safety Carter Jacobs. At 6-1, 185 pounds, this playmaker is one of the fastest-rising players around. He is fast and always around the ball..
Other underclassmen that will keep this program rolling include junior kicker Scott Wade; sophomore running back Travis Jackson, sophomore linebacker Anthony Flory and sophomore tight end Mark Kazdan; and freshman Brandon Johnson, a 6-2, 180-pounder who is the son of former UM and Florida Marlins catcher Charles Johnson.
“You look at the coaching and talent this program has, and they will be around for a long time,” said Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services. “Coach Dellenbach has surrounded himself with former players like Tony Nathan and Mike Rumph and coaches who have been doing this for a long time.”
At the start of the season, players such as Joseph Yearby, Alex Collins, Sony Michel, Fred Coppet and other top-flight rushers were mentioned as having the best chance to be the “best” running back in South Florida.
After winning the title last year as a sophomore, Yearby seemed like a shoe-in to repeat this season. Never happened.
Instead, Keenan Springer, a running back for surprising Miami Reagan, jumped over all the top backs to put his name where some of the best have graced football fields across Miami-Dade and Broward counties
If you are wondering, Springer had 1,328 yards and 19 touchdowns. Collins (1,263) from South Plantation, Michel (1,170), Northwestern’s Darius Tice (1,136) and Darius Hoggins (1,134) from Monarch round out this year’s top five runners. Keep an eye on all these players.
We are always looking to help promote 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? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com /larryblustein.