Senior running back Jordan Scarlett breaking free to the end zone has become a familiar sight in Broward County the past two seasons.
But for the county’s top senior, it’s a new look seeing him do it wearing blue and gold.
Now, what would that look like followed by Sam Bruce, nephew of former NFL star Isaac Bruce, making big catches in that same uniform?
And couple that with a punishing defense swarming quarterbacks led by star junior defensive end Nick Bosa, one of the country’s top 2016 prospects.
That is this year’s version of St. Thomas Aquinas football.
It could be one of the best ever at South Florida’s most tradition-rich school.
And that’s saying a lot considering it’s a program that has already won two national championships and eight state titles.
“I think St. Thomas Aquinas has a very good chance to win a national title, probably as good as any team nationally,” said MaxPreps National Football Editor Stephen Spiewak. “I think the biggest question mark is how well the team will come together. There's undeniable talent at every single position.”
Those Raiders debut Friday at Sun Life Stadium in a game against another of the nation’s best in defending Class 5A state champion Plantation American Heritage.
Scarlett and Bruce gave a brief demonstration of how strong Aquinas can be during a 31-7 exhibition win over Dillard last week.
Scarlett and a handful of other star players transferred in the offseason from nearby University School, where they won a state championship in 2012 following the departure of then-Suns coach Roger Harriott to Florida Atlantic University.
The transition to Aquinas has been smooth according to Scarlett.
“It’s been great playing for this program and around all these great players,” Scarlett said. “It feels great because we were all together as a family at our old school. Now, this is a new family we’ve become a part of.”
Aquinas finished 10-3 last season, losing in the Class 7A regional finals to Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer.
A year later, the Raiders enter the season ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps, with a squad that appears to have few weaknesses and is deep at nearly every position.
But Aquinas has had great teams in the past. Even last season’s team soared into the national top 10 until suffering defeats against Miramar and Deerfield Beach.
“Aquinas just needs consistent effort each week,” Spiewak said. “In each of the last two seasons, it has lost games that it probably believes it should have won. If it plays to its potential in 2014, Aquinas could easily go undefeated and have a great argument for a national title.
“On paper, it seems like this team could stack up favorably to any team the Raiders have ever fielded.”
Scarlett, a University of Miami commitment, ran for 979 yards and 17 touchdowns for University School last season. He and Deltron Sands (Maryland commitment) lead a potent rushing attack that will run behind one of the biggest and most talented offensive lines in the nation anchored by Colin Byrne and Sam Clausman (both Syracuse commitments), senior Richard Desir-Jones (FIU commitment) and Phil Hartsman.
The receiving corps, which already had 6-5, 195-pound star Devante Peete, got better with the arrival of Bruce (an early UM commitment), who had 55 catches for 835 yards and 10 touchdowns last season at University School. The two will give senior quarterback Jake Rizzo plenty of targets to throw to.
Aquinas is just as loaded on defense.
Bosa (6-4, 255-pounds) has been continuing his family’s tradition of standout linemen since his freshman season at Aquinas. Bosa is the county’s top-ranked junior and leads a huge defensive line with senior nose tackle Brandon Boyce (Duke commitment).
Aquinas’ secondary will be one of the best in the state as well with senior Rashard Causey (FAU commitment) and seniors Tyson Cisrow, Lance Deveaux and James Oliphant.
“We’re loaded with talent,” Scarlett said. “We just have to bring it together. This is the toughest defense I’ve ever played against for sure. Our coaches are really tough with us, but so was coach Harriott.”