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.
“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.
“We’ve made a big emphasis on strength and conditioning,” Valdes said. “The commitment has been unbelievable.”
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.