PRESEASON PREP FOOTBALL TOUR | DISTRICT 12-8A

Inspirational alumni fuel Miramar’s quest for another state title

 

sdeen@MiamiHerald.com

Photos of former West Virginia standouts Geno Smith and Steadman Bailey, and current University of Miami players Ryan Williams, Tracy Howard and Malcolm Lewis hang on the walls of coach Damon Cogdell’s room at Miramar High School.

The pictures of the Miramar alums serve as a reminder for his current crop of Patriots looking to make an impact and potentially play in college and the NFL.

But before they can make a jump to the next level, Cogdell, a former West Virginia linebacker, has a simple message for his team, which won the Class 6A title in 2009.

“I keep telling them I’m tired of wearing this ring,” Cogdell said at his desk after the first of two practices on Thursday. “I’m ready for a new one.”

The Patriots have made the playoffs every year since 2007 — the year Cogdell took the helm. After falling to Miami Northwestern in the state semifinals in 2008, the Patriots trampled DeLand 42-20 in 2009 to win the school’s first state title. Since then, the Patriots have had quick exits out of the playoffs in 2010 and 2012 with a state title loss to Tampa Plant in between.

Now playing in District 12-8A, Miramar has to continue its winning ways against familiar foes in Cooper City, Miramar Everglades, Pembroke Pines Flanagan, Hollywood McArthur, Davie Western and Weston Cypress Bay.

Miramar’s season starts with a four-game slate of nondistrict opponents in South Plantation, Oakland Park Northeast, Plantation and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. But a rematch on Oct. 25 with Cypress Bay, which toppled the Patriots 34-14 in the regional finals last season, is a game Cogdell said doesn’t really phase him.

“Everybody keeps asking me about that, but it was the first time they really beat us,” Cogdell said.

Cogdell said his offense should be a strength as he expects the team to score at least 21 points a game. His senior starting quarterback thinks the Patriots can score more.

“Our goal this year is to score 10 touchdowns a game,” Nick Jeanty said. “We run a tempo offense, air-raid-type offense and that’s what we do — try to put up as [many] points as possible.”

Jeanty, who has scholarship offers from UCF, FAMU, Ohio, Western Kentucky and Eastern Michigan, wears No. 12 — the same number Smith wore at Miramar and West Virginia before switching to seven now as a rookie with the New York Jets. Jeanty grew up a Jets fan and said Smith advised him to “be a leader and stay poised under pressure.”

“Geno has had a big influence on me,” Jeanty said. “I have a chance to watch him grow and learn even more from him as he’s still learning. He’s had a big influence on me.”

Jeanty has as many as 10 wide receivers to choose from this season, including senior Kwasim West, who said he has appreciated the lessons he has learned running routes alongside his former teammate in Lewis and St. Louis Rams rookie Stedman Bailey. West also sees himself playing after high school.

I just keep focused and keep [being] humble because after I put in all this work, my time will come,” West said.

Added defensive back Andre Godfrey: “It just pushes me even more. It lets me know it is possible for me to make it to the next level and be successful.”

Cogdell expects solid contributions from Godfrey and his fellow defensive backs Tyrek Cole, Jeffrey Hill and Josmar Diaz-Martinez. Backup quarterback Gerald Hawkins, receivers Kevin Purlett and Milton Desir, and linemen Yodny Cajuste and Damone Thompson are also expected to make an impact.

But the biggest contributor all the Patriots expect to see this season: the family orientated bond they have developed over time, especially in the offseason.

The Patriots had a strong showing this summer in 7-on-7 tournaments, which Cogdell said he does for team-bonding purposes more than the playing itself. Godfrey said it has helped seniors like him with developing the younger Patriots and “nourishing the guys behind you.”

“I’m glad I came to Miramar because I’m pretty sure no other coach in Broward, Dade or Palm Beach is like [Cogdell],” Godfrey said. “He’s strict on us, and I like that. He gets us ready for the next level.”

As for Cogdell, who helped the CFL’s British Columbia Lions win the Grey Cup in 2000, he can’t wait for the season opener Aug. 30.

“I’m ready to play,” Cogdell said. “I’m not a big talker. Actions speak louder than words.”

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