While District 12-8A leaders Flanagan and Miramar have their sights set on making state title runs, a run a state title this season, former Florida State All-American linebacker Buster Davis has his eyes on something else.
He’s trying to build the McArthur Mustangs into a winner from the ground up.
“I really had to strip this thing down like a car,” said Davis, 30, who took over for Andrew Rhoden (16-14 in three seasons) in January. “Right now we’re kind of sanding it down. The next step is putting the paint back on.”
Stripping down the program this spring meant saying good-bye to some of McArthur’s most talented players and holding on to the guys who were tough enough to deal with some new rules and believed in Davis’ vision.
“Most of them went to Hallandale, some to Miramar and one to St. Thomas,” senior linebacker Romain Richards said. “Some left after last season and some after the spring. Most kids left because they couldn’t be coached. They were used to doing whatever they wanted, playing as individuals.
“Coach Davis has a rule. He doesn’t like individuals. If you can’t comply with the rules you leave or you learn to comply with the rules.”
Davis, who spent three seasons bouncing around in the NFL until 2009, tried this approach at his first coaching job at St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut in the spring of 2013. Davis left the program after four months.
This season at McArthur, he said, is not so much about how many wins the Mustangs muster, but rather getting everyone — the administration, parents and players — all on the same page. So far, he says, it’s working.
“Some people only look to tomorrow,” Davis said. “But some people like myself need to have a vision that goes past tomorrow, past two weeks from now. We really feel that in the next two to three years that our program is going to be one everyone talks about and players at other schools will want to come play for.”
Richards, who didn’t play football last season, said Davis’ approach has been effective in changing the culture. Among the new rules set in place by Davis according to Richards: no bad language, good attendance and timeliness.
“The other day I told my friend I wish I had two more years with this coach,” said Richards, who qualified for regionals as a wrestler as a junior. “Even if we don’t improve that much this year, I can see bigger improvement on the horizon. He’s weeded out the problems.”
TEAM TO BEAT
Coming off a 12-1 season and tough loss in the regional finals, new Miramar coach Matthew Strout takes over a very hungry and talented team from Damon Cogdell. Nine players have committed to FBS programs, and three are All-American candidates in defensive backs Tyrek Cole (Florida State), Kendrell McFadden (West Virginia) and receiver Javon Durante (West Virginia).
• New face: Davis and Strout aren’t the only new head coaches in the district. Veteran Adam Ratkevich, who compiled a career record of 47-73 during eight seasons at Northeast and Deerfield Beach High, takes over at Western. The Wildcats finished 0-10 in 2013 and have lost 13 of their last 14 games after starting the 2012 season 7-0.
• Biggest game: Miramar at Flanagan, Oct. 17.
• Predicted order of finish: 1. Miramar; 2. Flanagan; 3. Everglades; 4. Cypress Bay; 5. Cooper City; 6. McArthur; 7. Western.