After a 12-0 season that culminated in a Class 3A state championship, the University School football team was honored with a small school national championship in the eighth annual MaxPreps Tour of Champions on Monday.
MaxPreps, which nationally ranks the Suns 10th in its Xcellent rankings and 24th in its Freeman rankings, only honors 50 schools throughout the country in its Tour of Champions, which is sponsored by the Army National Guard.
Students were dismissed from their final period early to attend the ceremony. MaxPreps representatives presented athletic director Paul Herfurth, football coach Roger Harriott and all the Suns players and coaches with a trophy and banner.
“We’re extremely proud of our kids and the effort that they’ve imparted on this season,” said Harriott, who was a finalist for FHSAA Coach of the Year. “On behalf of University School and Nova Southeastern University, we’re grateful to the [Army] National Guard and MaxPreps for the honor.
“The kids worked extremely hard, and we focused on the task at hand, and our motto was to take every game as a state-championship effort. They did a great job of exemplifying that work ethic, not only on the field but off the field.”
“It’s just great to know you left a mark on your school before you graduated,” added senior lineman Maquedius Bain, an LSU commit who played on both sides of the ball during University’s championship run.
The Suns, a team accustomed to blowing opponents out with an average margin of victory of four touchdowns, had to come from behind in the state championship game for a 24-17 victory against Madison County to win the school’s first state football title.
“It took an extraordinary amount of resiliency and fortitude,” Harriott said. “Those type of things are only produced through effort, working hard.”
Another highlight on the Suns’ season came when they ousted Delray American Heritage, the team that eliminated them in 2011, in the Region 8-3A final, a game many expected to produce the 3A state champion.
But of all the highlights, Harriott went a different route when choosing his favorite moment of the memorable season.
“The proudest moment I think was the character development that our kids presented throughout the year, getting themselves mentally and emotionally prepared throughout for each game and as a result coming out with a win,” he said.
Leadership on this University team transcended the coaching staff and was also exemplified by the players, specifically the senior class.
At least 12 seniors are expected to sign national letters of intent to play major college football. How does Harriott see his team replenishing all that talent next season?
“Only God knows,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of young guys coming up. We’re going to coach those young guys that are ready to fill those shoes, and I’m sure they’ll do an exceptional job.”
• Bain says he couldn’t be more excited to join LSU in Baton Rouge.
“I just can’t wait,” he said. “Death Valley is probably the best place to play at — crazy fans, and I just can’t wait to play for Les Miles.”
Bain, primarily recruited as a defensive lineman, said he was interested in Miami, but the Hurricanes began to back off as Bain started playing on the offensive line this season.
• Jordan Cunningham, a four-star wide receiver from University School according to Rivals.com, lists a top four of Florida State, Miami, Vanderbilt and Stanford. He is set to announce his decision the morning of National Signing Day on Feb. 6 on ESPN.
He has one of his five official visits still available to him, and he said he will “probably” use it on UM this weekend.
He said the move of offensive coordinator James Coley from the Seminoles to the Canes makes a “small impact” and added that the decision of another Coley, uncommitted Northeast receiver Stacy Coley, also rated four stars by Rivals, will not factor into where he decides to play college football.
“It doesn’t really matter where Stacy Coley goes,” Cunningham says. “I’m just going to go where it’s best for me.”
• University linebacker Skai Moore has a top three of South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Rutgers and said they are “all pretty equal.”
He has visited all three campuses and will continue to communicate with his family before he makes a decision. He wants to decide before signing day.
UM was active in recruiting Moore until late summer.
“I went to their camp and won the Linebacker MVP there, and they said they were going to stay in contact with me and let me know what was going on,” Moore says. “I just never heard back from them or anything.”
If Miami, the school he grew up rooting for, jumped back into the picture, Moore said, “It’s way too late.”
The following University School Suns have committed: quarterback Mike White, USF; receiver Dionte Taylor, Illinois; linebacker Nick Interniocla, Rutgers; offensive lineman Jordan Budwig, FIU; defensive back Wesley Smith, Villanova; receiver D.J. Woods, Massachusetts; and linebacker Aubrey Duty-Tyson, Air Force.