While some coaches say that the game is in their blood, Jeff Bertani’s DNA comes up a match in a football family that dates some 55 years in Miami-Dade County.
Forget that Bertani smashed his father Fred’s North Miami Beach High coaching record over the past two-plus decades, it’s a record that he may never get close to, that the 41-year-old former NMB starting quarterback, is perhaps most in awe of.
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, there were some genuine football minds that roamed the sidelines of Miami-Dade County.
While Nick Kotys was putting Coral Gables onto the national map, and several Miami High coaches were out to keep the perennial powerhouse Stingarees near the top, Jim Powell was getting it done at Edison and Hialeah where he won two state titles and produced some of the icons of the era — such as Ted Hendricks at Hialeah.
Powell was best known for developing talent at every stop — much like his son-in-law, and now his grandson, who has been in place as head coach for 17 years, carrying on a tradition.
Having been on the football field since he was 3, watching his father start the program at NMB, Bertani has indeed picked up some valuable coaching pointers throughout the years.
His objective after he finished playing football was to coach — just like his dad — and his grandfather.
“It’s always been in my blood, never knew anything else,’’ Bertani said. “Just watching and listening to some of the great people who have coached in this tremendous county, I have picked up a lot of what I apply today.’’
Bertani’s teams are often short on numbers, but very large on talent. Current NFL players E.J. Biggers and Louis Delmas were two of his best. Max Jean-Gilles, a current coach with the Chargers, had a very productive collegiate and professional career.
Players like Jean-Gilles and current running backs coach Aaron Winchester represent the kind of program Bertani runs. They are committed to teaching and developing the way Bertani groomed them to be.
Bertani has never needed a lot of players on his teams. Most of his athletes are equipped to play both ways, so having too many disgruntled bodies around only brings the team down.
His sacrifice to play ninth- and 10th-graders last year resulted in an 0-10 season. One year later, and still very young, Bertani’s Chargers are district champions and will host Coral Gables.
On a team that does have a number of quality seniors, it’s the youth that has really picked up the team down the stretch.
Sophomore quarterback Cedric Wiggins is the younger brother of former NMB standout Doug Wiggins.
He was one of those youngsters who spent one full year in the system.
Other sophomores who have been learning include Brian Soto (LB/RB), Emmanuel Lubin (DB/RB), Duanne Jones (DB/WR) and Claude Stevens (DB/WR).
Of all the versatile players in South Florida, it will be hard to get one who brings as much to the table as Steve Ishmael.
This is one of those athletes, who might be a junior, but those who have watched him agree he is a big-time prospect at receiver, defensive back — or just about anywhere you need an athlete to make a play.