When Gary Sampson arrived at Dade Christian as a freshman, he had his heart set on being the Crusaders’ starting quarterback.
He soon found out, however, that the job belonged to Bilal Marshall, who went on to become a three-year starter and is currently a freshman on the Purdue University team.
“I wanted to battle,” Sampson said.
But, when it became apparent he wasn’t going to beat out Marshall, Sampson settled in at safety, where the 6-0, 195-pound senior is a fourth-year starter.
This season, Sampson added starting quarterback to his duties, and, at 1 p.m. Friday, he hopes to deliver the first state title in any boys’ sport in the 51-year history of Dade Christian.
The Crusaders (12-0) will compete for the Class 2A title against Jacksonville University Christian (12-1) at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
“Gary has exceeded expectations,” Crusaders coach Mike Sonneborn said. “From Game 1 to Game 12, his decision-making has improved so much. He threw six interceptions in the first three games and just four in the past nine.”
Sampson was flawless in his most recent game, completing all six of his passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in a 27-13 win over Naples First Baptist. He also ran for 137 yards and a touchdown.
For the season, Sampson needs 83 yards passing to get 1,000, a milestone he has already eclipsed as a runner.
Sampson has committed to play safety at Liberty University, a Christian school in Lynchburg, Va. The Flames, coached by former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill, have petitioned to become a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) program.
It seems like a good fit, but Sampson’s destination and position might have been different if not for Marshall.
“If he has this film as a junior, he is probably a three-star recruit and getting ACC and Big 12 [scholarship offers] as a quarterback,” Sonneborn said.
Sampson said he and Marshall, who is redshirting this season, are good friends and text message each other often.
Their styles are different, Sonneborn said. Marshall is faster and likes to run on the perimeter. He is also more of a finesse passer.
Sampson’s favorite target is senior Terrence Alls, a Duke recruit who leads the team in receptions (28), yards (491) and touchdown catches (3).
It was Alls who caught a 60-yard TD pass to start the second half against First Baptist, breaking open a close game. The sequence started when Sampson saw First Baptist had dropped one of its two safeties into the box to protect against the run.
“Terrence is one of the fastest guys I’ve ever seen,” Sampson said. “I was excited because I knew right away where I was going with the ball.”
Sampson is even more excited about the chance to make school history Friday.
The Crusaders had never before reached a state final, and, even with Marshall excelling at quarterback the past three years, the team failed to get past the regional quarterfinals.
“The whole school has supported our team this year,” Sampson said of Dade Christian.
Behind Joseph Lopez’s double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds, the South Miami boys’ basketball team pulled off a convincing 62-42 victory over Ransom Everglades in the quarterfinal of the A-Rod Basketball Classic Thursday at Columbus.
The Cobras (6-2) have now won four straight since arriving home after going 2-2 in a tournament in Chicago.