For those who have followed high school football for any length of time in South Florida, what Coral Gables is doing this year brings back some memories when the Cavaliers were the team everyone talked about.
While championship football and Coral Gables haven’t gone together for much of the past three decades, things are starting to point in that direction once again.
While the dominating teams of the 1960s and ‘70s are not going to magically appear, making comparisons to those teams and players of that era — along with a program that is responsible for producing players such as Frank Gore and Jon Vilma — is certainly in one of those “zones.”
This has become a program that will not settle for quick fixes only to see the program decline in a year or two. What proud graduate and head coach Roger Pollard has done is make it fashionable to wear that fabled uniform again.
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Pollard has been able to keep local athletes at home, instead of stocking the shelves of other programs who have long benefitted from Coral Gables/Coconut Grove athletes.
What happened during the 9-1 regular season is that the Cavaliers finally had enough athletes to win a district that has been dominated by Christopher Columbus. They also showed character in beating longtime rival Southwest in the regular season finale — with major college running back prospect Greg Howell on the bench most of the night.
This is a team that can plug in a running game with a quality sophomore such as Keino Mike, who represents how far this program has come.
Mike is not the only underclassman who has really made a lasting impression. Freshmen Kevin Romer and Kenmore Gamble have gained experience. So have sophomores Shakur Cooper (linebacker) and Gee Stanley (defensive back).
The success of this program has been what the juniors and seniors have done to get the program to this point. Junior standouts such as linebackers Emilio Gibbs and Jontavis Testa, receivers Shaquery Wilson and Daemhun Fuller, as well as defensive backs Wendell Ashley, Andrew Spence and defensive end Kenneth Herring have been instrumental.
The senior class has really made a huge impact with offensive standouts such as receiver Antiwone Johnson, quarterback Dijon Smith and linemen Ray Novo, Luigi Savala, Richard Novo and Daniel Cotto to mention a few contributors.
Defensively, there is secondary standout Mark Wynn and lineman Nathaniel Nicolas who have gotten the job done.