Mater Academy was arguably the most improved small-school boys’ sports athletic program in Miami-Dade County last season.
The Lions won a state championship in baseball.
The boys’ basketball team reached the second round of the playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Norland in a thriller.
Is the football team the next program at the rising Hialeah Gardens area school to make some noise?
“We attended the pep rally for our baseball team when they were heading for state, and I remember some of our players were emotional,” Mater Academy coach Javier Valdes said. “They kept talking about how great that must be to be a part of. We feel like it’s our turn. We’ve been putting in the work, but now it’s time to show it.”
The Lions came within a point of securing the school’s first playoff berth last season, losing a 35-34 shootout to Miami Springs that left them in third place in District 16-7A.
Mater graduated a pair of 1,000-yard running backs in Jamal Adjamah and Joseph Barrocas.
Valdes doesn’t plan on changing much in his Wing-T scheme, although he said the Lions will be able to throw the ball with Hallandale transfer quarterback Temothas Herrington and leading receiver Steven Rodriguez (6-2, 185 pounds) still in the fold.
Sophomore Daniel Doriscar and senior Kevin Sanchez will likely see plenty of carries in the backfield.
Senior Dwyane Paddyfoot, a 6-3, 215-pound linebacker, has offers from Akron and Appalachian State and will lead the Lions’ defense.
Mater Academy’s toughest obstacles to a potential playoff berth or the District 16-7A crown appear to be the same as last year — three-time reigning district champion American and Miami Springs.
American returns nine starters on defense, and new coach Anthony White retained most of his defensive staff after former coach Corey Bell was hired at Florida Atlantic University.
Mater Academy strengthened its schedule with nondistrict contests against teams such as Miami Northwestern and Venice.
TEAM TO BEAT
American. The Patriots still have enough talent to win the district with skilled all-purposes athletes such as seniors Jeremiah Dinson and Karon Jackson and junior Antoine Webster. But can they hold off Mater Academy, Miami Springs and possibly even much-improved Hialeah-Miami Lakes?• Player to watch: Karon Jackson, American. The senior defensive back had four interceptions last season and has a Connecticut offer.
• New face: Anthony White, American. The former quarterbacks coach at Norland the past five seasons takes over the team that has won this district three consecutive seasons.
• Biggest game: American vs. Mater Academy, Oct. 30, Milander, 7 p.m. The defending district champions take on the hungry challenger in a pivotal clash.
• Predicted order of finish: 1. American; 2. Mater Academy; 3. Miami Springs; 4. Hialeah-Miami Lakes; 5. Mourning; 6. Westland Hialeah; 7. Goleman.