After years of postseason frustration that saw plenty of talented teams go nowhere in the playoffs, the celebration was especially sweet for players and coaches from Plantation American Heritage on Friday afternoon.
A school well-known for multiple state championships in numerous sports, it had none in football. The one state championship game appearance in 1998 (30-13 loss to Tallahassee North Florida Christian) was then followed by a series of early-round exits.
That ended following the Patriots’ 66-8 rout of Green Cove Springs Clay in the Class 5A state title game at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
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And before they even had time to step up to the podium and receive their championship medals, the talk was already about the future and more titles.
With 11 starters returning — including quarterback Torrance Gibson — and the postseason monkey off their backs, the Patriots figure to challenge for years.
“We feel like we have a great program for the future,” first-year coach Mike Rumph said. “Between sixth grade, junior high and varsity, we feel like we’ve got things going in the right direction. But we’ll be getting together in two weeks, and I’ll tell them what Nick Saban tells his players. That it’s over. You’re not champions anymore. You’re a new team now and you have to start off in 2014 with big shoes to fill.”
Gibson added: “I’m ready to lead us back to another championship next year and get this thing to the next level. We have a lot of young guys on this team, and I can’t wait until next season. We’re going to come back and take it all again.”
Another player who will play a prominent role will be defensive back/returner Tavarus McFadden, who had an 86-yard kickoff return to open the second half Friday.
“Next year we’re going to have to pick it right back up because it really doesn’t stop after today,” said McFadden, a junior who has offers from Florida State, LSU, South Carolina and Florida. “We’ll be back in the weight room right after the holidays so next season starts in a couple of weeks. We’ll have plenty of players coming back, expectations will be big so we’re all going to have to step up. I look at it as a responsibility but at the same time look at it as an opportunity as well.”
One player who is going to be around for quite a while longer is offensive tackle Tederrall Slaton. At 6-5, 310 pounds, it’s hard to believe he is only a ninth-grader but Slaton looks to anchor the offensive line through the 2016 season.
“Next year, we hope to come back again, get a few more players in and keep this thing going for a while,” he said. “We want to keep winning because this was just too much fun.”
Rumph said: “Now we’re nationally recognized and the under-the-radar stuff is over with. Now everybody knows who we are so we’re just going to have to conduct ourselves like the program we can be and continue to move forward.”