Miami Gulliver Prep has had its share of talented teams the past couple of seasons.
But being in the same district with national powerhouse Miami Booker T. Washington has limited the Raiders’ playoff success.
Booker T. Washington, which will start the season Saturday as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation by USA Today, is once again the favorite to win Class 4A, just as it did last season.
Gulliver just wants another opportunity to challenge the champs.
“We have a lot of potential, and we’re trying to build something,” junior linebacker Dominic Sheppard said. “Our purpose is to win state, and we know they’re in our way. We have to find a way to get past them.”
Getting past the Tornadoes is easier said than done, as Sheppard and the Raiders know. But Gulliver figures to have enough talent to make another playoff push, which could give them two more games against the Tornadoes.
Sheppard, a 6-2, 225-pounder who also plays fullback and tight end, is one of 12 returning starters from a team that went 6-6 last season before losing to Booker T. in the Region 4-4A final.
Gulliver will also contend with Miami Monsignor Pace and Miami Edison for one of the district’s playoff berths.
Sheppard, senior Cornelius Floyd and sophomore Dionte Mullins are among Gulliver’s talented two-way players.
Floyd (6-0, 180 pounds), a defensive back/wide receiver, has Arkansas, UCF and Wake Forest among his 14 scholarship offers. Floyd was the team’s defensive Most Valuable Player last season and hopes to continue the school’s tradition of talented versatile players that stems back to late UM and NFL star Sean Taylor.
“I’d like to think I could be as good as he was someday,” Floyd said. “He was the greatest. And I just try to be a hard worker like he was.”
Mullins, whose teammates have nicknamed “Must See,” is one of the top players in Miami-Dade County in his class and can also play wide receiver. They will be top weapons in an offense that rotated between quarterbacks Alonzo Fanakos and Jowan Watson at times last season.
Gulliver graduated its primary rushing threat in Bo Ellis. The Raiders hope senior Mitch Davis can fill in and give them another big play threat out of the backfield.
Up front, Gulliver’s line will be anchored by Tulane commitment Braynon Edwards (6-3, 330) and senior Raoul Khouri (6-2, 257).
On defense, junior defensive back Antonyo Sotolongo, who had five interceptions, should boost the secondary.
“[Booker T.] has been knocking us down the past couple of years,” Floyd said. “We’re still going to try and compete and try to knock them off their high horse.”
FloridaHSFootball.com released its first preseason rankings Tuesday. The new poll will rank the top 20 teams statewide in Classes 8A-5A and in Classes 4A-1A.
Miami Central was ranked No. 1 in the Class 8A-5A division followed by Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas at No. 2.
Defending Class 8A state runner-up Weston Cypress Bay is ranked No. 11. Miami Northwestern is ranked No. 16, and Miami Jackson starts at No. 18.
Booker T. Washington is the top-ranked team in the Class 4A-1A division. Davie University School is ranked second.
Miami Dade Christian is ranked No. 15.