Miami High has made the playoffs once in the past decade.
And not since NFL players Andre Johnson, Roscoe Parrish and Atari Bigby donned the Stingarees’ blue and gold have they been considered a true playoff contender.
Senior all-around athlete Keyshawn “Pie” Young is on his way to joining that Miami High football pantheon.
And this season, he plans to restore the Stingarees’ contender status.
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“I’ve been working seven days a week for this season,” Young said. “We’re ready to bring the tradition back. We’re senior-heavy and this year we feel a bond on this team and we feel like this could be our year.”
Young (5-11, 175 pounds), who has Alabama and Michigan among his top schools offering scholarships, has been an all-around force for Miami High, which has not been to the postseason since 2010 and not won a playoff game since 2000.
But this season, the Stingarees might have the right mix to challenge Coral Gables and Columbus for one of the District 14-8A playoff spots.
“We have experience and kids that have been playing for three years now,” Miami High coach Ivan Rosales said. “These guys are battle-tested and this should be the year for us to take it to the next level. We are going in expecting to … win a district championship — and in the playoffs anything can happen.”
Young has a combined 2,069 rushing and receiving yards and 30 touchdowns (16 rushing, 14 receiving) since his sophomore season. He has also been a vital part of the Stingarees’ secondary and returned three punts for touchdowns last season. He also split time at quarterback.
“It’s been a pleasure to coach a kid like that,” Rosales said. “It’s great to see that he has been loyal to the program and understands what the goals are and what we have to do in practice to get the job done.”
But with a senior-laden roster and depth at the quarterback position, Young’s talents will likely be utilized better and make Miami High’s offense more explosive than the one that averaged 30.4 points per game last season.
“We have more team speed on both sides of the ball,” Rosales said. “We’ve always had good skill players. We have a quarterback now that can distribute the ball and put it in our playmakers’ hands.”
That quarterback is junior Marcelo Rodriguez (6-3, 185 pounds), who transferred from Chaminade-Madonna. Rodriguez should give Miami High the ability to get Young the ball more often out of the backfield and in the passing game.
“We don’t have to stick to a tight formation, we can spread it out more,” Young said. “I don’t need to play quarterback, so it gives us more options.”
Miami High’s defense, which was no slouch either last season, allowing only 9.5 points per game, returns several key starters, including senior end Rahiem Ladson (42 tackles, eight sacks, two fumbles caused and two recovered).
If Miami High is to take the next step and compete for the district title, that defense will need to hold up against teams with high-powered offenses such as Columbus and Coral Gables.
▪ Columbus returns a loaded squad that should be among the best in the state.
Its defensive front might be one of the best in school history, led by 6-3, 220-pound end Joshua Uche, a UM commitment, 6-3, 215-pound junior end Guy Thomas, and senior tackle Kyle Mann (6-0, 245), who will again be the team’s center as well. The secondary will also be strong, led by 5-9, 175-pound junior Trajan Bandy.
On offense is where Columbus might be even more explosive than last season.
Despite running back Ivan Smith transferring to South Dade, senior quarterback Alejandro Ros is a dual threat and has several options, including senior wide receiver Jerron Rollins, who caught 42 passes for 660 yards and nine touchdowns last season during the Explorers’ run to the Class 8A state final. Running back C.J. Henderson, who ran for 271 yards in 2014, will get more carries and should be a good compliment to the offense.
▪ Coral Gables, which beat Miami High 22-12 last season to secure the district’s runner-up berth but lost twice to Columbus — including a 22-0 blanking in the second round of the playoffs — returns key starters on both sides.
Linebackers Shakur Cooper (83 tackles, 28 sacks) and Gee Stanley (119 tackles, 11 sacks) lead the defensive unit. Senior running back Amir Rasul (127 carries, 893 yards, 13 touchdowns) will be the featured back in an offense that also returns quarterback Voshon Waiters (1,390 yards, 17 touchdowns, and eight interceptions) and junior receiver Jaylin Clark-McNatte (13 catches, 230 yards, three touchdowns).
▪ Miami Beach is in its second season under coach Aaron Harris and hopes to improve on a 4-6 season in 2014. Senior wide receiver/defensive backs Randle Jones and Jeffrey Jennings are expected to factor heavily in any Hi-Tides success.
▪ Former Miami Beach coach Ralph Jimenez is entering his first season at Coral Park. The Rams have had a miserable seven-year run, going 11-58 during that span. Jimenez, who took the Hi-Tides to the playoffs twice during his tenure at Beach, hopes to begin turning the Rams around.
DISTRICT 14-8A OVERVIEW
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
▪ Keyshawn “Pie” Young, Miami High: Young is a versatile threat on more than just offense and could be the catalyst for a Stingarees playoff run. The 5-11, 175-pound senior has numerous offers from some of the country’s top schools, including Alabama and Michigan.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
▪ Joshua Uche, Columbus: Uche, a University of Miami commit and 6-2, 210-pound defensive end, is the target of several schools and should be a force for the Explorers, who have designs on returning to Orlando this December.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Columbus; 2. Coral Gables; 3. Miami High; 4. Miami Beach; 5. Coral Park.
Aug. 26: Jackson vs. Columbus (Tropical); Sept. 18: Miami High at Columbus; Sept. 25: Belen vs. Columbus (FIU); Oct. 2: Coral Gables vs. Miami High (Tropical); Oct. 23: Columbus vs. Booker T. (Tropical); Oct. 30: Columbus vs. Coral Gables (Tropical); Nov. 7: Coral Gables vs. Southwest (Tropical).