Pierre Senatus always admired Miramar’s football tradition even while coaching at nearby powerhouse Booker T. Washington.
It made the choice easier when offered his first head coaching job this past January.
“People asked me about going from Booker T. to Miramar,” Senatus said. “I said they’re both All-American programs. It was just a bridge for me. There are a lot of similarities in talent, tradition and culture. I told the kids the first day I spoke to them how we always watched them from afar at Booker T. and had tremendous respect for what they accomplished.”
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Miramar won a state championship in 2009 and was a state runner-up in 2011 under then-coach Damon Cogdell.
But last season snapped a seven-year streak of the Patriots competing in the playoffs.
Miramar wasn’t eliminated on the field.
After going 7-3 and earning the runner-up berth in District 12-8A, the Patriots’ season ended abruptly after they forfeited their first round playoff game amid allegations of academic fraud, impermissible benefits and illegal participation of ineligible players levied by former coach Matthew Strout following his resignation in October.
This prompted an ongoing investigation into those allegations, and Strout was later reported to have falsified his own credentials when hired by the school as an assistant coach the season prior to taking over for Cogdell.
The scandal left Miramar’s program reeling.
The 37-year old Senatus, who spent the past nine seasons coaching at Booker T. Washington where he was a part of four state championships teams that included one national title squad in 2013, was tabbed with the task of helping the program move forward.
“We’re not looking for drastic changes on the field, but we’re going to accentuate the great things that Miramar has been all about in the past,” Senatus said.
Senatus’ resume at Booker T. Washington brought him instant credibility. But even then, Senatus said he is still slowly earning the trust of the Miramar community.
“I completely understand them being a little guarded after what happened,” Senatus said. “We’re rebuilding that trust the right way and I’ve received great support especially from the alumni.”
Players such as senior running back Gregori McCrae said it didn’t take long for some of the team’s veterans to bond with their new coach.
“[Senatus] is bringing a winning tradition to this program,” McCrae said. “He was part of a national championship team at Booker T. Washington. I think it’s a matter of time and everything is starting to click.
“There was an instant bond when he became the head coach. I remember we spent an hour earlier this spring just talking about football.”
McCrae will lead a speedy backfield that should be bolstered by a stout offensive line. Senior and Tulane commitment Obinna Nwankwo and senior Troy Fields anchor the unit.
Senatus, who coached defensive line primarily during his time at Booker T. Washington, has a pretty good leader on Miramar’s line this season. Senior defensive end Terrell Lucas should provide a solid pass rush this season and according to Senatus is being considered for the Under Armour All-America All-Star game.
Senatus said senior Deshondre Pitts will bring experience to Miramar’s group of linebackers, whom he praised for their skill.
The secondary will be one of the best in the county led primarily by senior cornerback Korel Smith, an FAU commitment, senior Shemar Jean-Charles and junior Brian Edwards.
“Everything has been up tempo and organized,” McCrae said. “If coach [Senatus] could get out there in pads and play the game with us he would. He pushes us to give everything we’ve got out there on the field. We all appreciate that.”
Flanagan earned a No. 25 national ranking by USA Today on Monday.
The Falcons are a clear favorite not only to repeat as district champions, but to win what would be a first state championship.
Linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. is back and healthy from a wrist injury that prematurely ended his junior season. The Falcons have a stacked secondary that also includes Michigan commitments Devin Gil and Josh Metellus.
Cornerback Stanford Samuels will start the season in a pivotal role as he will play quarterback in place of injured senior starter Kato Nelson, who is expected to return midseason from a torn meniscus.
Samuels has a plethora of weapons to throw to including senior Dredrick Snelson, who came over from American Heritage, Jahcour Pearson, who transferred from Coconut Creek and Clevan Thomas, a Booker T. Washington transfer.
District 12-8A Overview
If Flanagan is as good as advertised, Cypress Bay, Plantation and South Plantation figure to present the biggest challenges to Miramar for the district’s other playoff spot.
Cypress Bay has finished third in its district behind Flanagan and Miramar each of the past two seasons.
To break that streak, the Lightning will rely on a veteran defense that returns nine starters and is expected to be strong in the secondary with seniors Darrell Malone and Isaiah Sampson. Junior defensive end Jacob Lichtenstein is a stalwart up front.
Cypress Bay has a big-play threat returning on its offense in 6-2, 186-pound senior Andrew Parchment, a Cincinnati commitment who will play quarterback as well as receiver and free safety on defense. But the Lightning must replace nine starters on offense.
▪ Plantation returns six starters on offense including the backfield tandem of senior quarterback Archie Banton and sophomore Jordan Johnson. If the offensive line can hold up, it should bolster a defense led by senior defensive back Jacques Tenelus.
▪ South Plantation could make its own push with a couple of star seniors leading its offense. Wide receiver Johnny Huntley, a Colorado commitment, and running back Anthony Julmisse, another FBS-level prospect, should make the Paladins a formidable foe.
▪ Everglades has one of the best offensive linemen in the district in senior Keenan Forbes (6-4, 270 pounds), a Tulane University commitment. The Gators should be able to run the ball well with sophomore Jaykus Johnson and remain competitive with their district foes. Everglades hasn’t made the playoffs since 2010.
▪ Western has also missed the postseason the past four seasons, but hope to turn things around this season led by senior quarterback Tyler Monaco, a transfer from Cardinal Gibbons.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Dredrick Snelson, Flanagan: One of the most explosive weapons from American Heritage’s state championship run joins the Falcons and should help expand an already potent attack. Snelson, a Minnesota commitment, caught 35 passes for 727 yards and three touchdowns last season.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Devin Bush, Jr., Flanagan: His absence was keenly felt during the Falcons’ lone loss in the state semifinals against Columbus. Bush, Jr., broke his wrist last season in the first round of the playoffs after recording 67 tackles and 4½ sacks in 10 games. With Bush healthy, Flanagan is a nationally-ranked squad with a defense that could carry it to the Class 8A state title.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Flanagan; 2. Miramar; 3. Cypress Bay; 4. Plantation; 5. South Plantation; 6. Everglades; 7. Western.
CAN’T MISS GAMES
Sept. 4, Miramar at St. Thomas Aquinas; Oct. 2, Flanagan at Miramar; Oct. 9, Miramar at Cypress Bay; Oct. 16, Hallandale at Miramar; Oct. 23, Cypress Bay at Flanagan; Oct. 30, Plantation vs. South Plantation (PAL); Nov. 6, Flanagan at St. Thomas Aquinas.