In My Opinion

University School is loaded for a run at a repeat title

 

A1Fernandez@MiamiHerald.com

University School added its name to the list of all-time Broward County state football champions last season.

The Suns, who got another taste of national notoriety last weekend playing Homestead on ESPNU, hope to make an even bigger splash this year.

University, ranked nationally as high as No. 19 by PrepNation.com, moved into Class 4A and faces a tough schedule that includes nationally ranked Miami Central, Cypress Bay, Belle Glade Glades Central and a road test at Bradenton Manatee to name a few.

But many expect the biggest obstacle expect will come in the playoffs, where the Suns could play Miami Booker T. Washington, the defending Class 4A champs.

University is ready for the challenge with another loaded roster.

“We’re excited about the reputation we’re developing and the schedule we’ve been able to assemble,” University School coach Roger Harriott said. “We’re looking forward to matching up with each and every opponent and taking them on one at a time.”

On offense, starting quarterback Sean White transferred from Chaminade-Madonna and won the prestigious Elite 11 national quarterback competition during the summer. He joins an offense that includes junior Jordan Scarlett and senior Lajuan Hunt — two of the best running backs in the state — as well as receivers Emmanuel Soto, Jairus Brown and Chris Taylor — all seniors — and sophomore Sam Bruce.

The offensive line of Ephraim Levy, Michael Irizarry, Brett Kahn, Michael Gonzalez and Zain Ali is solid.

On defense, Brandon Boyce and Richard Yeargin III are bookends on a tough line along with Kaylan Striggles.

They’re backed up by strong linebackers Andrew Korakakos, Brandon Russell, Bradley Clement and Hunter Schechtman.

The secondary is one of the best in the nation led by University of Florida commit Quincy Wilson, Rashard Causey and Christian Irving.

If that’s not enough, kicker/punter Andrew DiRocco is one of the nation’s best and already committed to Tulane.

University faces several teams that will prepare it for a potential showdown with Booker T. as it plays Cypress Bay, Boyd Anderson, Miami Central, Bradenton Manatee, Miami Norland and Belle Glade Glades Central. If it can get past the Tornadoes, expect University School to be dancing in Orlando again come December.

Power rankings

1. University School: An encore performance of last season will be tough, but not impossible for this group.

2. American Heritage: Can Heritage finally overcome Miami Jackson and make a run at state in Class 5A? It would be the perfect way to send off Sony Michel and the rest of their talented seniors.

3. Cardinal Gibbons: The Chiefs have a potent offense, are well-coached and have a good amount talent. But it’s going to be tough not to be left out of the playoffs again in a district with American Heritage and Jackson.

4. Chaminade-Madonna: After losing several key players, including their starting quarterback, can the Lions still beat improved Miami Westminster Christian to win District 8-3A?

5. Westminster Academy: One of the more talented squads they have had in years should make the Lions a contender to win the independent Southeastern Conference in their second season.

6. Coral Springs Charter: Led by quarterback Joe McChrystal, the Panthers should be one of the better teams in the independent Southeastern Conference.

7. Pine Crest: The Panthers lost a lot from the team that finished runner-up in the new Southeastern Conference. It might take some time for a young squad to jell, but not too long.

8. North Broward Prep: Tough to compete in a compact District 7-4A that includes University School and Belle Glade Glades Central.

9. West Broward: The Bobcats went independent, which was a smart move as they try to build a winner under new coach Eric Gudger.

10. Highlands Christian: The Knights went 5-5 last season and have enough talent to possibly improve. But upending Dade Christian and Hialeah Champagnat Catholic in District 8-2A is another matter.

11. Calvary Christian: The Crusaders joined the Southeastern Conference after struggling to a 4-6 record last season and should be among the league’s more competitive teams.

12. Pompano Beach: After coaching the team’s junior varsity, Rick Nagy takes over the Tornadoes’ varsity squad that went 0-9 last season. They should get back in the win column after going independent, but how many times remains to be seen.

13. Somerset Academy: New coach Thomas Fanakos, the offensive coordinator at Miami Killian the past two seasons, faces an uphill climb in a brutal district.

14. Coral Springs Christian: Former UM star Donnell Bennett came over after coaching at Northeast in recent years. Bennett faces a big challenge to turn the Crusaders into winners in Class 2A.

15. Zion Lutheran: Just winning a couple of games would be a step in right direction.

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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