After missing the playoffs last season for the first time as coach at Dillard, Lorenzo Davis is ready for the season to start.
“I’m feeling real good about the guys,” Davis said last week. “We’re really starting to bond together. We’re looking forward to playing a long, long season. All the way into December.”
Dillard’s previous season didn’t last very long — although it sure felt that way.
After beating host Plantation in the opener and going 2-0 with a win over Deerfield Beach, the Panthers were blown out by Bradenton super-team IMG Academy 61-0.
A home loss on a muddy field to Coconut Creek the following week put a dent in the Panthers’ playoff hopes as Dillard finished 5-5 and won two of five district games.
“The guys learned that sometimes you are going to fall down, but you have to pick yourself back up,” Davis said. “These guys are excited about taking it to the next level this year.”
Now in a new-look 15-6A, Dillard should not only compete but perhaps be considered the favorites.
After losing out to Carol City in the Dolphins’ 7-on-7 tournament, the Panthers go into the season with a little confidence.
“It’s wide open, but we look at being the strength of the district,” Davis said. “You have to be confident in yourselves.”
Dillard is strong on the defensive side of the ball and have plenty of speed and talent on the offensive side.
Former Miami Gulliver quarterback Anthony “Mo” Hassan transferred in and will take over for Jason Collins, who is now at Howard University.
Hassan will have plenty of targets as Dillard boasts a number of top receivers, including senior Demetrius White and junior Jordan Merrell.
“Mo is one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen on the high school level,” said Merrell, who is committed to Cincinnati. “He can make any throw a quarterback needs to make.
“Things are working out perfect. We finished second in our past two 7-on-7 competitions and every game came down to the last play.
“It’s been awesome. There’s no doubt we should be district champs. We just need to go from there.”
As for the defense, bruising defensive end Aaron Thompson (6-3, 270) leads a strong unit. Linebacker Jon Ford (6-4, 250) is talented and receiving a number of scholarship offers.
Boynton Beach and Dillard are the only returning teams from last year’s District 16-5A, which was won by Hallandale. Coconut Creek finished third; Stranahan and Riviera Beach Suncoast were the other teams here last season.
▪ Boynton Beach went 9-2 last year, although those two losses came in the Tigers’ final two games.
The Tigers lost by two to Hallandale in the regular-season finale for the District 15-6A title, then got blown out by Miami Central in the first round of the playoffs.
Longtime Boynton Beach coach and athletic director Rick Swain stepped down in December and was replaced by Andy Siegal.
In March, Siegal resigned for personal reasons, with Errick Lowe taking over.
Lowe joined Siegal’s staff as wide receivers coach after spending nine seasons as Lake Worth’s head coach from 2004-12. Siegal spent the past two seasons coaching receivers at Park Vista.
“It’s very exciting to be back at the helm of a program,” Lowe told the Palm Beach Post. “I’ve been away for the past couple of years.”
Boynton Beach will have to find a replacement at quarterback with dual-threat Lamar Jackson — who led the Tigers to the postseason the past two seasons — off to Louisville.
▪ Northeast is very young but has some playmakers as new coach L.D. Anderson tries to turn the Hurricanes around. Defensive back Sandro Joseph (6-1, 180) is one of five starters back on defense and had a school-record 107-yard interception return for a touchdown last year. Vashawn Roland (5-7, 160) led the team with 113 tackles last season.
▪ Boyd Anderson has its third coach in three seasons as Eddie Brown left Miami Northwestern to take over the Cobras. Since Wayne Blair left, BA has won just two games — the Cobras were 0-10 last season — although Brown says he can get things turned around by bringing players back to the program. Only five starters return from last year’s team.
DISTRICT 15-6A OVERVIEW
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
▪ Demetrius White, Dillard: A senior wide receiver getting offers from a number of non-power 5 schools, White is looking to improve his stock this season. A big, physical receiver with good speed, White is a big part of a talented receiver corps for the Panthers.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
▪ Aaron Thompson, Dillard: The defensive end is considered one of the top recruits in the state after making 51 tackles with 12 sacks last year. Thompson is considering Clemson, Miami, LSU, Pittsburgh and N.C. State, among others.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Dillard; 2. Boynton Beach; 3. Northeast; 4. Boyd Anderson.
Oct. 1: Boyd Anderson at Dillard; Oct. 2: Northeast at Boynton Beach; Oct. 30: Boynton Beach at Dillard; Nov. 7: Ely vs. Dillard (Lockhart).