If you are a high school football fan who has long believed that this region of the country is second to none when developing talent, you will love the direction the quarterbacks are starting to move in.
Although running back, receiver, defensive back and linebacker have always been the calling-card positions for some of the elite high school talent that has come out of South Florida, you can now add quarterback.
Not because a Thaddeus Lewis (Hialeah Miami Lakes) and Geno Smith (Miramar) have started to make some noise beyond college, but it’s the new breed of local talent — such as Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Jake Rudock (Iowa), John O’Korn (Houston) and Rakeem Cato (Marshall), who have thrust themselves into a spotlight.
Although the talent has always been in place in Miami-Dade and Broward, there never has been a showcase devoted to the development of this position.
When Ken Mastrole was in high school at Cardinal Gibbons, nobody really was doing anything to take this position to that next level.
Last weekend, Mastrole helped host the first showcase that brought in top-flight quarterbacks from all around the state. Most were players who Mastrole has watched in the past, but with more than 100 underclassmen on hand, there were some new faces as well.
“This was a showcase that really turned the corner,” Mastrole said. “I have to admit that I never realized that we have this much talent — right here in our neighborhoods. It was something that opened a lot of eyes up.”
From as far away as Homestead — where junior standout Maurice Alexander came from — and Royal Palm Beach, which produced the eventual champion of the event, freshman Todd Centeio — this turned out to be a real impressive collection of talent.
This was an event that attracted three state champion quarterbacks in Kato Nelson (Champagnat Catholic), Torrance Gibson (Plantation American Heritage) and Daniel Parr (Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer). It also produced seven top-tier players who advanced to the final round.
“I think this was a great thing to be a part of out here,” said Gibson, who brought the crowd to its feet with a 75-yard toss. “We had tremendous coaches and players out here as well.”
In addition to the Centeio and Nelson, a sophomore, the other five finalists included sophomore Tyler Huntley (Hallandale), junior Ryan Stanley (Flanagan), junior Jason Collins (Dillard), Buck Calvert (Chaminade-Madonna) and Greg LaStella of Calvary Christian.
For Stanley, who set all kinds of records this past season, the weekend not only included that Sunday performance, but also a Saturday Tournament of Champions Combine in Miramar, where he turned heads as well.
“This weekend was very important for me,” Stanley said. “To get a jump on my final season — receiving exposure the way I did — was vital.”
Another player who looked good during the competition was St. Thomas junior Jake Rizzo.
“This opportunity to come out here and compete in this environment is what the process is all about,” Rizzo said. “The players who came here were really impressive — which made the entire experience.”
Southwest Miami current junior DeUndre Pickett-White hasn’t competed in many showcase events, but his big arm and accurate passing turned heads.
“The experience of just coming up here to compete and learn was tremendous,” Pickett-White said. “This was indeed one of those things that gets you better.”
The best thing at an event of this nature is that no matter if you have a freshman – or budding prospects such as Eldrick Clapp (Coral Gables), Sage Atwood (Cape Coral Ida Baker), Kevin Dzwonkowski (Nova), D’Angelo Fulford (Northeast), Michael Harris (Monarch), Jhakari Harrison (Coconut Creek) or North Miami’s Hilton Joseph, you have gifted athletes.
“What this showcase does is help to elevate the athlete,” Mastrole said.
Among the other talented quarterbacks who showed promise include Mo Hassan and Jowan Watson (Miami Gulliver Prep); Christian Matos (Belen Jesuit); Michael Mele (South Plantation); Osky Serbin (Miami Beach); Tyler Sabine (Cooper City); Murphy Theodore (Miami High); Kole Stealy (North Broward Prep); Zach Rinker (Western); Blake Dever (St. Thomas); and Aaron Ortiz (Keys Gate Charter).