Monarch senior quarterback Michael Harris would watch varsity games in the stands two years ago, struggling to sit through loss after loss.
That is until coach Calvin Davis, who has spent 10 years at the school, took over the program last season and led the team to an 8-3 record. Davis aimed to change the culture and attitude, which started with players that wanted to win through hard work.
Senior strong safety Marvin Rousseau, who entered his third year on varsity in 2013, noticed the difference right away.
“Everything got more intense. We work harder,” Rousseau said. “Conditioning became more important, and it became more organized. We got a lot better.”
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Much better, in fact.
The Knights (7-0) host District 11-8A rival Deerfield Beach at 7 p.m. Friday during homecoming week, vying for their first postseason berth in program history.
“Seeing those first two years was kind of rough [and then] going in knowing we were coming off those last two seasons,” Harris said. “But we came in and made it happen.”
Until this year’s spring game, Harris was still a junior varsity quarterback. Davis decided during the scrimmage that the 6-1, 158-pounder was finally ready to be the quarterback the team was looking for.
“It was fun,” Harris said of earning the spot. “It was a big responsibility, but you’ve just got to execute and do everything right. I just saw it as another opportunity to take advantage.”
Harris ranks near the top of many Broward County passing statistics. He has completed 104 of 154 passes for a county-high 2,154 yards, 20 touchdowns against three interceptions. He has finally started to receive letters from schools, but no scholarships.
Davis called Harris’ football IQ amazing. His understanding of the game and two years in the system make him grasp what is needed of him.
Top targets include senior Calvin Ridley, who has 27 catches for a team-high 890 yards and eight touchdowns, and junior Ellex Davis, who has a team-high 40 receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns.
“I am surprised, but everyone always said he had the talent and he was going to be great once he got to varsity,” Davis said of Harris’ success. “It was a matter of getting there and actually getting the opportunity.”
Added Rousseau: “To me he’s so successful because instead of just throwing the ball he reads the plays and he knows them as well. He’s on the same page with all his offensive players.”
Monarch runs an offense that opens up the ground game with the pass, and the team averages 35.4 points per game. The defense gives up just 16.7.
Other than needing a fourth-quarter rally against Nova, the lone close call for the Knights came on Sept. 27 in a 28-27 comeback victory over Douglas.
“We’ve been in maybe three different situations where we’ve been down and came back and won the game,” Harris said. “This week we’re going to jump into it early and hopefully not get into that situation.”
Though facing the Bucks, last year’s district runners-up, will prove to be the toughest challenge yet for the Knights, the coaching staff has hyped up games each week of the season.
Friday will mark the fifth of a seven-game stretch of district contests with possible postseason implications.
“We build up each game as the most important game in the history of the program, but this is definitely that game,” Davis said. “To make a statement to prove that we’re a true playoff contender.”
Once a program ignored because of a lack of success, students now walking the hallways wish Harris and Rousseau good luck on game days. When school resumes every Mondays, they offer congratulations.
“We’re trying to build a program, and the kids are buying in,” Davis said. “This is a big week for our program. We’re playing one of the top teams in the state. The opportunity is there for us, and we need to take advantage of it.”