Fort Lauderdale Stranahan senior linebacker and safety Alec Fray learned he needed his teammates to win. Senior running back Darrion Burrows found out the importance of trust after a trying junior campaign.
The season before Joe Redmond took over as coach of Stranahan football, the Dragons finished 0-10. In his first year, they saw some improvement at 2-8.
Heading into the sixth year of Redmond’s tenure, the program has won a district title three times and looks to repeat with five returning starters on both sides of the football.
“I think that the guys that are here now are the ones that have actually come under the staff that we have and I expect expectations are very high, but they’re realistic expectations,” Redmond said. “We have people with experience and ability and skill and we just have to as a staff mold that into a working solution for all of us.”
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In 14 seasons as a coach in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which includes stints with Miami Jackson, Miami Killian, Fort Lauderdale Dillard and Deerfield Beach, Redmond holds a 96-48 record. Prior to that, he spent 23 years at the collegiate level.
Fray, who has played three years for varsity, intercepted seven passes and finished third on the team with 52 tackles. He credits Redmond to the team’s preparation and growth.
“He’s meant a lot because he has a lot of experience,” Fray said. “He never really put us in a bad situation. He’s a real professional and helps us to the best of our abilities. He tries to push us. He’s a great coach. Even if we make a mistake, he looks past the mistake and to the things we did good. He’s always encouraging us.”
Lessons continued when the season ended in a 38-21 loss to Miami Belen in the regional quarterfinal, putting the team at 5-5. Not finishing games turned out to be a recurring theme and led to renewed enthusiasm over the offseason.
Over the course of developing the program, Redmond said what proved to be the most difficult thing was getting players to accept coaching. So far, guys have worked extensively on their agility and strength training.
“I think that was all on us,” Fray said. “We would always start out big. I think what affected us was not working hard at practice and staying in shape. This year, we know what we’ve got to do. We know we’ve got the talent, just work on finishing and practicing and everybody working hard.”
Stranahan hopes this offensive scheme, featuring a back who runs for power, another with breakaway speed and the third as the complete package, could prove to be too much to handle for defenses.
“We work hard together as running backs, which is one of the most important positions on the football team,” Burrows said. “Coach told me it’s going to be one of the positions where every play is going to be dependent on us.”
As a four-year member of the varsity team, Burrows has seen the program’s transformation.
“Ever since I came to Stranahan I wanted to play football for coach Redmond, and every day at practice go hard,” Burrows said. “Ever since I’ve been out here it’s been hard work. I haven’t had anything given to me. I had to take it.”
With its success, Dragon football has finally garnered support that wasn’t there during a decades-long postseason drought.
“I’ve always been a program builder, even in college,” Redmond said. “Sometimes I took jobs or went after jobs that some people wouldn’t understand why I went there. Stranahan has a great tradition and it was up to us to bring that tradition back, and I think now we have people coming back to the school being very proud of what we’re doing.
“Football has kept me alive, and I truly mean that because when I look into the eyes of some of the guys that look to me to make things happen, that gives me strength to continue doing what I’m doing.”