When he took over the head coaching job at Plantation American Heritage this year, former University of Miami standout Mike Rumph realized that he was stepping into a special situation.
Having been an assistant on the team the past few years under Jeff Dellenbach, the one-time NFL defensive back was ready for the challenge.
Even in his debut against nationally rated Miami Central, Rumph found a way to put his team in a spotlight against the potent Rockets. The Patriots have been in that spotlight ever since.
Loaded with talent, American Heritage has been able to roll over the competition — and after last week’s convincing district title-clinching win against Cardinal Gibbons, there are few teams who will have the athletes to match up against this outstanding football team.
For a program that had been all about gifted running back Sony Michel for the past four years, there has been a change in focus. While the University of Georgia-bound standout is the centerpiece of this team, he is not alone.
“This is a program that has benefited from a strong offseason — and that’s why we continue to improve each week,” Rumph said. “This is a team and a coaching staff that have worked too hard not to see some real results.”
The Patriots are one of the strong favorites to reach Orlando and play for a 5A state title because of players like Michel, and fellow seniors Isaiah McKenzie (Notre Dame), safety Carter Jacobs (Cincinnati), versatile linebacker Brandon Vicens, defensive back Juwan Dowels (Northern Illinois) and receiver Dallas Perez.
Offensive linemen Nathan Kirchmier and Mack Viel, defensive lineman Justin Sibole and kicker Scott Wade have also been tremendous.
“Our senior class has been so important to the success of this program,” Rumph said. “We have really been helped by them in every phase of the game.”
The future is certainly on display in every game. Junior quarterback Torrance Gibson might be the best athlete in the country.
He can run, throw and do just about anything else that this team has needed. He is not alone in this class.
Outside linebacker Andre Landin has been among the county leaders in sacks.
Defensive back Tarvarus McFadden has the chance to be very special over the next year.
He is already receiving plenty of college attention. There is also linebacker Anthony Flory and defensive lineman Brandon Holiday.
Even sophomore receivers Dredrick Snelson and Brandon Washington (son of former Miami Marlins catcher Charles Johnson) have made a huge impact.
Also playing a big role is freshman offensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton, a 6-5, 310-pounder.
Time to bowl
Two South Florida coaches and two players have been selected for this year’s Semper Fidelis Bowl at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif., on Jan. 5.
Miami Columbus coach Chris Merritt and assistant Andres Aviles have been selected to coach the East squad.
St. Thomas Aquinas defensive lineman Anthony Moten has been selected to the East team along with Booker T. Washington receiver Lamar Parker.
The game will also showcase University of Miami offensive line commitment Reilly Gibbons.