Not since former Florida State quarterback Danny Kanell was throwing passes in a Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy uniform have the Lions won a state championship.
Although that won’t change this season since Westminster Academy is playing independent of a district, the Lions might be good enough to bring home a different kind of hardware.
The Lions have one of their more talented teams in recent memory and look like a favorite to compete for the Southeastern Football Conference championship in the independent league’s second year.
“We feel like we have an opportunity to do something special,” Westminster Academy coach Jake Sorg said. “We haven’t had any major football title at Westminster since we won that [state title] in 1990.”
The Lions moved to the South Division of the 16-team conference that will hold its championship game Nov. 16 at Florida Atlantic University.
Following a 5-5 season, Westminster Academy returns 11 starters including seven on defense and several talented two-way players.
Senior wide receiver/free safety Peter Holt, who will also play quarterback, scored a 35 on his ACT and has drawn interest from a few Ivy League schools including Yale, Harvard and Cornell. Last season, Holt had 11 catches for 288 yards, three touchdowns and 22 tackles and 3 interceptions on defense.
“[Holt]’s a dynamic kid that hopefully will on an Ivy League roster next year,” Sorg said. “He plays multiple positions for us and we’re hoping for big things from him this season.”
Holt’s top targets will be junior Andrew James, who recently received an offer from Temple according to Sorg, and seniors Harold Eubanks and Terrel Phillips – all of whom will double in the secondary.
James caught 32 passes for 612 yards and six touchdowns last season. James was also a state track and field champion in the 400 meters.
The Lions should be able to run the football well also.
Senior Spencer Saliba, who totaled 815 yards and six touchdowns on 144 carries last season, leads the backfield along with senior Jerome Grey and sophomore Elijah Daniels. Elijah’s twin brother, Elisha, is one of the team’s top defensive backs.
The offensive line has two big tackles on the ends in juniors Micah Smith (6-7, 250) and Luke Miseyko (6-4, 265). Senior Malcolm Devers (6-2, 245) anchors the interior and plays defensive tackle.
One of the team’s top defensive players is junior linebacker Hozie Hankerson, the cousin of NFL and former UM star receiver Leonard Hankerson.
“We’ve seen great growth in our program,” Holt said. “The commitment of the players and the coaching staff has helped us take the program to a new level. We’re really excited for this season. We have some great players and high expectations.”
Westminster Academy is joined by Miami Florida Christian, Miami Archbishop Curley, Tavernier Coral Shores, Miami La Salle, Miami Ransom Everglades, Miami Country Day and Marathon in the conference’s South division.
Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian join the North division that also includes defending conference champion North Palm Beach Benjamin, Boca Raton Pope John Paul, Fort Pierce John Carroll, Boca Raton St. Andrews Coral Springs Charter and defending conference runner-up Pine Crest.
Pine Crest lost nine starters on each side of the ball, but hopes junior quarterback Zach Smith and senior cornerback Alex Welch will lead the young group back to the conference playoffs.