Just a year after inheriting a program that was in such dire straits there was talk of shutting things down, Homestead head football coach Ahmad Ward stood proudly on the Traz Powell Stadium turf Thursday afternoon.
Taking on a struggling and winless Edison team, his Broncos struggled through a flat first half but opened things up in the second and rolled to a 46-6 blowout victory.
The pride came from a coach who was part of a program a few years back as an assistant that came apart at the seams with kids leaving the program out of every side door, back door and front door the school had.
Following the win over Edison (0-8) it moved his team’s record to 5-3 and, already the No. 8 seed in the battle for the playoffs in Region 4-8A entering this week’s action, only solidified Homestead’s hold on the final playoff spot.
The Broncos were two full points ahead of their nearest pursuers Coral Gables and North Miami Beach and likely will need only to win their regular season finale next week when they host Ferguson at Harris Field to secure their first postseason berth in 10 years.
“I’m very proud of these kids,” said Ward. “We have a saying, ‘Break the Curse’ which is simply Homestead making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 when they won district. Now we have one more game to go and hopefully we’ll have enough points to get in because these kids have earned it.”
A program that was still thriving six years back suddenly saw things come apart and the fact that there were two county powers in South Dade and Southridge they were competing against for players made it even worse. Ward was an assistant on the staff but, even though the kids were pushing for him to get the head coaching job, he didn’t.”
“I was assistant coach at the time and some of the kids were not happy about certain things,” said Ward. “Twice the administration went in a different direction in name a head coach and then kids just kept leaving more and more.”
What even hurt him more was that Ward was a Bronco, through and through having played for the program in the late 90s before graduating in 1998. He said he was an eyelash away from taking a coaching job offer in Houston when the phone call came in.
“I was this close,” said Ward holding his thumb and index finger an inch apart. “Then the phone call came and I said, you know what, I’m going to give back to the community and try and rebuild this thing. I just hit the halls and started grabbing some kids I knew were still in the building. Most were young, 10th graders, and I told them it would be rough the first season.”
And it was as Homestead struggled to a 1-8 season last year. But Ward said he had given them a five year plan to put in place.
“I told them they could be the cement of that plan and lo and behold, I guess they didn’t bother listening to me,” said Ward laughing. “Because here we are obviously well ahead of schedule which is a testimony to the heart and desire of these kids. Hopefully we can win our last game and have enough points to make it because these kids have earned it and deserve it.”
“We were excited when Coach Ward became the head coach because he not only worries about how we do on the field but he worries about us in the classroom and making sure we’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing off it,” said running back Tonie Dorsey, one of only a few players who was on the roster two years ago before Ward arrive. “Coach has worked to make us as student-athletes and brought discipline and structure to the program and what happens is eventually that translates to success on the field. I’m proud of the fact that I stayed and been a part of this rebuilding process.”
“He just is always trying to keep everything positive,” said wide receiver Kevin Butler. “There is just always this positive and encouraging energy. Nothing negative. Always building and not tearing down.”