So it turns out Rich Stuart, the winningest high school football coach in Miami-Dade County history, was only in his third year as head coach at Belen Jesuit when he discovered his eventual successor in his seventh grade P.E. class.
“I remember thinking this guy is the head coach, so I want to impress him,” Ed Delgado recalled Monday, the first day high school football teams across the state of Florida began fall practice. “So I made this diving catch in the mud and he ended up naming me a captain in his class. I said ‘OK, I’m on my way.’ ”
More than 30 years later, the kid who impressed Stuart with that diving catch in the mud is dedicated to carrying on the winning tradition he established at Belen – albeit with a few minor tweaks here and there.
Named Stuart’s successor back in March when the 57-year-old was promoted to become Belen’s associate athletic director in charge of middle school sports, Delgado, 43, isn’t completely veering away from the Wing-T offense that helped the Wolverines win six district titles and finish as the state runner-up in 2009.
But he is adapting with the times, and the same shotgun spread offense Belen debuted in a blowout loss to University School this spring will be mixed in with variations of the Wing-T attack this coming season. It’s something Stuart wanted to do before he was even offered his new job back in December, and something Delgado’s older brother, German Delgado, the team’s offensive coordinator since 2002 and a former Belen All-Dade quarterback, is also excited about.
“When you’ve got a special talent like that you have to do what you can to get him in space,” Stuart said Monday as he pointed at sophomore star running back Don Chaney Jr., who was named the Miami Herald’s Male Athlete of the Year back in May.
“Once they figure that out with this new offense, they’re going to be really good. I’m excited about this coming season. They’re going for four district titles in a row, 12 wins in a row against Gulliver Prep, and hopefully they finally get that big one against that school off 87th Avenue [rival Columbus High].”
Seven starters are back on defense for Delgado, who has been calling that side of the ball since 2002. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for seven years and an assistant on staff right out of high school.
Although he’s considered giving up his defensive play-calling duties to focus on all the responsibilities Stuart left behind as head coach, he’s going to try and do both jobs at least for this coming season.
“The spring was hectic,” said Delgado, who in his 26 years at Belen under Stuart never pushed to find work elsewhere.
“We had a good spring practice-wise. But the game was not very good. They played well. We did not. We were trying a lot of new things and were missing a lot of guys who were out following surgeries. Chaney played well. But for us, not having seven guys is a massive loss. We’re not a transfer school. We don’t let [any athletic transfers into the school] after ninth grade. What we’ve got here – that’s it.”
The Wolverines, who have been to the playoffs 16 out of the last 18 seasons, are heavy favorites to repeat as District 15-8A champions. But advancing past the first round for the first time since 2014 will require Chaney (6-0, 190) getting some help.
Although Chaney, 15, could potentially take on a bigger workload this coming season after growing two inches and adding on 30 pounds of muscle since the end of last season, coaches don’t want to overburden him either. Going to the spread, Chaney said, could help him take less of a pounding.
“I love it – great change,” said Chaney, who calls the University of Miami his early recruiting leader. “We do a lot of passes now. The Wing-T, everybody knew where I was going. Now it’s different.”
The one thing that doesn’t feel much different: the leadership.
“It is indeed a different era, but I don’t see a difference other than maybe the training, which is a little harder with coach Eddie,” Chaney Jr. said. “In the end, coach Eddie doesn’t want to change the tradition coach Stuart started.”