Every college scout will likely tell you that when they come to Broward County to look in on potential talent for their respective programs, stops number one and two, in no particular order, are St. Thomas Aquinas and Plantation American Heritage.
As well they should be as each program is now routinely ranked high in the national polls on an annual basis and treat state championships (six in the last four years between the two) as nothing short of a birthright.
This usually doesn’t leave a lot more room for "off-the-radar" players to perhaps get the attention they might deserve.
Case in point? Nova High School in Davie.
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For more than two decades, the Titans football program, in the midst of regular success out of the baseball (back-to-back state titles in 2004-05) and girls basketball programs, toiled in virtual anonymity, routinely turning in sub-.500 seasons while not getting a sniff of postseason play.
The school usually only had college prospects in the aforementioned sports.
That changed two years ago when the football team won its first district championship and nailed down its first playoff berth in 21 years.
And with the success came a closer look at the talent on the roster. That ultimately led to the emergence of Nova running back/linebacker Shaun Peterson as a big-time talent capable of playing on Saturdays.
As a junior last season, the 6-3, 210-pound talent already had plenty of major programs after his services including Auburn, Michigan, Nebraska, Miami, South Florida and UCF.
A 3-star recruit and the 192nd best player in the state regardless of position according to 247Sports, Peterson decided a few weeks ago that he didn’t want to drag the old "so-where-do-you-think-you-want-to-go" stuff into his senior season with the Titans and made the University of South Florida and new head coach Charlie Strong his school of choice.
Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in new head coach Kevin Huntley’s Navy triple option offense last season, schools are projecting him to play on the defensive side of the ball.
"I’m glad I got everything out of the way and now I can just concentrate on helping my team this season," said Peterson on his early-commit decision. "I just really liked the coaching staff, (at USF) and talked with them everyday. They were very helpful especially Coach (Blue) Adams, the defensive coordinator. It’s just a relief that I can just go out there and play and not have to deal with any of the other stuff. It’s all good looking forward."
After taking a step back a year ago when that senior-laden team of 2015 graduated leaving a lot of young players to fill the void in what turned out to be a 3-7 season, Peterson will be one of 10 returning starters on the Nova defense.
"He brings a lot to the table and we’re blessed to have him," said Huntley of his star linebacker. "We have a kid in Shaun who isn’t just a good football player but a good kid and somebody important to have in the locker room as kids can lean on him. Even though he gets a lot of accolades and the attention, he’s not a prima donna or any nonsense like that. He’s a humble kid and the kind of kid that every coach needs in the locker room."
The ultimate compliment to Peterson came as the interviewer was wrapping up the conversation with the interviewee when somebody walked past and said "best darn linebacker in the country."
That ‘somebody’ happened to be former Miami Dolphins linebacker Twan Russell, now the official liaison between the Dolphins and youth football in South Florida who was in charge of high school media day at Hard Rock Stadium.
"Coming from someone like that, that’s quite a compliment," Peterson said.
▪ Friday - Palm Glades Prep 34, Westminster Academy 9: Ja'Morie Grier returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown. Ashante Appleby also had an interception, forced a fumble and recovered and had a sack. Marcus Spivey ran for two touchdowns and Malikk Kennedy ran for one. JaVonte Holmes ran for 103 yards and a touchdown and forced a fumble. Marc Franklin had four solo tackles and a sack.
▪ Friday - Pine Crest 26, Belle Glade Glades Day 20: Shane Williams led the Panthers by rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Williams also completed 12 of 21 passes for 73 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Bailey Finkelberg had two interceptions and Ryan Zimmerman recovered a fumble. Jordan Eskenazi had five solo tackles.
▪ Preseason classic - Florida Christian d. Miami Country Day (25-15, 25-19): Gianna Ortiz 8 assists, 6 points, 4 kills and 3 digs; Emily Ruiz 5 kills and 4 digs; Nicole Caballero 6 kills and 6 assists; Karina Tohme 10 points and 5 digs.
▪ Spanish River Preseason Classic - West Boca d. St. Thomas (23-25, 25-23, 19-17): Sophie Davis 10 kills, 5 service points; Kelsey O'Loughlin - 8 assists, 4 digs.
▪ Spanish River Preseason Classic - St. Thomas d. Spanish River (28-26, 26-24, 15-6): Paula Cerame - 17 digs, 3 aces, 6 service points; Maeghan Dolph - 10 kills, 1 block, 4 digs.
▪ Mourning baseball player Fabian Ortega signed with Florida Memorial University.