Since January, many have felt American is the favorite to win the newly formed District 16-7A.
American defensive back Andrew Soroh, however, said his team has bigger aspirations than just winning a district championship this season.
The Patriots are coming off back-to-back district championships, and return a talented squad led by Soroh that could be in line to win a third.
But contending with the rest of Class 7A, and teams such as defending state champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, ranked No. 9 nationally by Rivals.com, is something American has yet to be able to do in the playoffs.
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“The games I really can’t wait for are when we play South Dade and Carol City,” Soroh said. “They are great teams and those are the kinds of games that show you what you are made of as a player and as a team.”
“We have a very athletic team and a lot of young players eager to make an impact.”
Soroh, a 6-2, 185-pound safety and FIU commitment, has also garnered interest from FAU, Arkansas and South Carolina. Soroh, junior Karon Jackson and junior cornerback Jeremiah Dinson, should make the Patriots secondary formidable.
Sophomore running back Kama Barnes, a transfer from Hialeah-Miami Lakes, senior running back Isaiah Williams and senior quarterback Ed Crouch (6-3, 175) are the big playmakers in a pro-style offense that should put up plenty of points.
WIDE OPEN RACE
While American figures to be the most-talented team in the district, picking the other top contender isn’t as clear.
American, along with neighborhood rivals Miami Springs and Goleman, are now joined in the district by four programs — Mater Academy, Westland Hialeah, Mourning, Hialeah-Miami Lakes — that were playing independent last season.
Mater Academy, Westland and Mourning are all relatively young programs that figure to be on the cusp of contending for a playoff berth.
• Mater Academy is coming off a 6-3 season and hired former Homestead and Southridge offensive coordinator Javi Valdes as its new coach. The Lions will run a more-expanded version of the Wing-T offense that will rely on backs Jamal Adjamah and Joseph Barrocas, and quarterback Brian Guerra. Adjamah, a transfer from Southridge, ran for 675 yards and six touchdowns last season.
“We’ve made a big emphasis on strength and conditioning,” Valdes said. “The commitment has been unbelievable.”
• Westland Hialeah, entering its fifth season, already accomplished a first recently when senior athlete Romell Guerrier committed to FIU. Guerrier would become the program’s first FBS signee. Guerrier leads a program that returns 10 starters and is looking for its first winning season.
• Mourning went 5-5 last season and joins a district for the first time in the school’s five-year history.
Senior wide receiver/cornerback Austin Stradford, son of former Miami Dolphin running back Troy Stradford, leads the Sharks on offense and senior Rasheed Laguerre (6-3, 275) will anchor the defense.
• Miami Springs has not made the playoffs since 1995, but coach Darryel Bethune’s squad should at least bounce back from a dismal 1-8 season. Senior Ja’Ree Tolbert is one of 10 returning starters including four on defense.
• Goleman hopes to get back to the form it displayed during a 7-3 season in 2011. The Gators should still have a solid ground game led by junior tailback Tory Myers.
• Hialeah-Miami Lakes also struggled to a 1-9 record last season, but should benefit from rejoining district play.