The first time Earl Tillman took over as head coach at Booker T. Washington for a member of the Harris family things didn’t go quite as planned.
Not only did the Tornadoes slip, so did Tillman.
A broken left tibia and fibula sustained breaking up a fight at a summer 7-on-7 game resulted in five surgeries over the next three years and consequently sidelined him while the Tornadoes went from state champions in 2007 to getting knocked out of the playoffs a round earlier each year.
The 44-year-old math and engineering teacher is expecting his second shot at being in charge of one of the nation’s premier high school football programs will pan out much better.
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Selected by school athletic director Hector Gray as Tim Harris’ Jr. successor at the beginning of this month, Tillman spoke to The Miami Herald on Thursday for the first time since getting his old job back and said he’s ready to keep the Tornadoes rolling.
“I just felt like I was long overdue to have another opportunity,” said Tillman, who went 28-8 his first three years as head coach at Booker T. from 2008 to 2010 and then stepped down to allow Tim “Ice” Harris to retake the reigns.
“The first time around I wasn’t at the best of health,” Tillman said. “When the opportunity presented itself and Coach Harris came back I was willing to step down and let him run the program as long as I was a part of the program. Since then, the program has been pretty successful.
“I wanted to make sure it continues. Being that I had the most experience of the guys that were still left here when [Tim Jr. left to become running backs coach at FIU in February], I just felt like I owed it to myself to make a push for it. My health is better. The guys that were here know what it takes. And we’re going to keep it going.”
The Tornadoes, who own the state’s longest active winning streak at 41 games, went a combined 96-10 under Harris Sr. and then 14-0 this past season with Tim Jr. at the helm after Harris Sr. joined Al Golden’s coaching staff at the University of Miami following the 2013 season.
Gray said the decision to hire Tillman was made “following an extensive, national search.” Gray said he received résumés and calls from coaches as far west as Nebraska and Texas and he interviewed seven to 10 candidates. He said Tillman was the best interview and the most qualified.
The Tornadoes open the 2015 season at defending Class 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas on Aug. 28. Tillman said the school is still working on trying to set up games with powers from Texas and New Jersey.
He said he has 11 assistant coaches returning and lost only four from last year’s team. Tim Harris Jr. and defensive line coach Pierre Senatus (named Miramar’s head coach in February) are among those gone.
“Torrance Moise, our old quarterback here when I was the coach, has come back from college and will be our quarterback’s coach,” Tillman said. “We’ve also brought back Benedict Hyppolite, who was with us in 2013, but spent last year at Edison. He’ll be our new offensive coordinator. And we’ve added Torrance Snelling, who played at Northwestern. He’ll be our defensive line coach.”
Tillman, who spent the last few years as associate head coach and offensive line coach, said his toughest task will be replacing himself “as the eye in the sky up in the press box” during games.
“We know the expectations are going to be high,” Tillman said. “We’ve been to four straight state championship games. That’s a big expectation we’ve built. But we’re not going to settle for anything less.”
Several more of South Florida’s top players earned All-State honors this week when the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches and Source Hoops released its Class 8A-5A teams.
Former Miami Beach center Zach Brown and McArthur’s Deric Jean earned first team honors for Class 8A. South Miami guard Ezacurias Dawson made second team and Southridge guard Raquan Mitchell made third team.
Blanche Ely’s LaQuincy Rideau earned first team honors in Class 7A after leading the Tigers to a state championship. Teammate Therell Gosier made second team. Miami Central’s Phillip Saunders also made second team.
Miami Norland forward Dewan Huell made first team in Class 6A following a state championship season. Pembroke Pines Charter guard Haanif Cheatham also made first team. Mater Academy guard Raul Frias made third team.
Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons’ Maverick Rowan and Jose Morales made first team in Class 5A after leading the Chiefs to their first state title. Dillard’s Cedric Wright made second team.
Doral Academy announced the hiring of Tim Edfors as its new girls’ volleyball coach. Edfors recently coached as an assistant at FIU and was the head coach at Webber International University.
▪ District 16-6A final — Doral Academy 6, Mater Academy 4:WP: Eddie Escabano (5-2) 6 2/3 IP, 2 R, 6 K’s. LP: Perez. Top Performers: Nelson Montilla 3 R HR, 3 RBI. Andres Balbuenas 2H, RBI. CJ Calero HR. Miguel Casanueva H. DA 19-7-1.
▪ District 16-8A final — South Dade 11, Palmetto 9: WP: Kendrick Pico 4-4. Gabriel Cruz 3-4, 4 RBI. Sergio Lopez 2-4, 5 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R. Alek Manoah Hitting HR, 2 RBI, 2 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 K. Willie Escala 2-4, 3 R. SD 18-6.
▪ District 15-8A final — Columbus 6, Coral Gables 1: WP: Alain Santana. LP: Bryan Melendez. CG: Elih Marrero 1-3, R, RBI, HR.
▪ District 15-2A final — Brito 6, Miami Christian 4:WP: Hector Garcia. LP:Chris Otero. Marco Bolano 3-3, 2B, 3B, 2RBI. Onelio Perdomo 2-4, RBI. Cristian Alvarez 1-2, RBI, 2B.BM 13-11. MC 12-12.
▪ District 16-7A semifinal — Westland Hialeah 2, Reagan 1: WP: Giovanni Arriera CG, 11K, 1H, 0ER.Ronel Rodriguez 2-3, R. Bryan Lavastida RBI. Evander Hernandez RBI. RR 12-10. WH 14-10
▪ District 16-3A semifinal — Westminster Christian 10, Marathon 0. WC 18-7-1.
▪ Late Wednesday, District 14-4A quarterfinal — Somerset Academy 11, Chaminade 4: WP: Angel Perez (3-1). LP: Michael Blanco (3-4). Derek Cartaya 3-4, 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R. Kenny Moreno-Costa 2-4, RBI, R. Mark Bejar 1-2, 3 R, 1.2 IP, K. Juan F. Teixeira 1-3, 2 RBI. SA 18-9. CM 12-15.
▪ Mourning d. Chaminade (25-14, 19-25, 25-15, 26-24):Jimenez 19 kills, 3 aces, block, 7 digs.Nascimento 2 kills, 33 assists.Zuluaga 8 kills block. ATM 19-6
▪ Miami High d. Killian (25-21, 25-20, 25-18):Melenciano 12 kills, 6 digs, 2aces.Brouri 10 kills, 5 blocks, 4 digs.Maloney 10 kills, 16 assists, 3 blocks, ace. 21-3.
▪ Florida Christian d. Hebrew Academy (25-9, 25-15, 25-21): Gonzalez 12 kills, 4 aces, 9 digs.Tejedor 21 assists, 3 kills.Herschman 6 kills, 3 blocks. FC 11-11.
▪ Late Wednesday — Hebrew Academy d. International Studies Charter (14-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-17): Hochner 22 kills, 6 digs.Del-Giglio 41 assists, 9 digs.Shakib 20 kills, 5 digs. HA 7-4.
▪ Late Wednesday — Ransom d. Archbishop McCarthy (21-25,25-21,25-19, 25-22): Colonna 22 kills, 2 blocks, ace, 10 assists.Cobb 11 kills, 10 digs.Spiegelman 5 kills, 2 blocks.Lee 24 assists.
▪ Late Wednesday — Cardinal Gibbons d. Spanish River (21-25, 25-20, 27-25, 22-25, 15-8):Short 28 kills, 9 digs, 4 blocks, 2 assists, 2 aces, 3 points.Dannenhauer 51 assists, 5 kills, 12 digs, 3 blocks, 2 aces, 7 points. CG 20-4.
▪ Late Wednesday — South Broward d. Nova (25-9, 23-25, 25-13, 25-12):Torres 12 kills, 14 points, 10 digs. SB 13-7.
District 11-8A final: Douglas at Taravella, 2
District 12-8A final: Cooper City at Cypress Bay, 5
District 13-8A final at Flanagan: West Broward vs. Flanagan, 6:30
District 14-7A final: Monarch at Fort Lauderdale, 10 a.m.
District 15-7A final at South Broward: Nova vs. St. Thomas Aquinas, 7
District 16-7A semifinal: NMB at American, noon; Final: Westland Hialeah vs. American-NMB winner, 2:30
District 15-6A final at Florida Memorial University: Goleman vs. Miami Springs, 1
District 16-5A final: American Heritage at Archbishop McCarthy, 7
District 14-4A semifinals at Nova Southeastern University: Somerset vs. Pine Crest, 1; Coral Springs Charter at Calvary Christian, 4; Final: 7.
District 15-4A final at Monsignor Pace: St. Brendan vs. Mater Lakes, 4
District 16-4A semifinal at Gulliver: Key West vs. Keys Gate, 10 a.m.; Final: Key West-Keys Gate winner vs. Gulliver, 1
District 14-3A semifinal: Highlands Christian at Westminster Academy, 7
District 15-3A final at Slade Park: Hialeah Educational vs. SLAM Academy, 3:30
District 16-3A final: Palmer Trinity at Westminster Christian, 4
District 16-2A final: Redland Christian at Colonial Christian, 3
Region 3-8A quarterfinal: South Plantation at Douglas, 4
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: Palmetto at Coral Gables, 11 a.m.
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: Miami High at McArthur, 7
Region 4-8A quarterfinal: Flanagan at Hialeah Gardens, 9 a.m. (comp. of susp.)
Region 4-6A quarterfinal at Virginia Gardens Park: TERRA vs. Miami Springs, 4
Refion 4-6A quarterfinal at Silver Lakes South: Okeechobee at Pines Charter, 7
Region 4-4A quarterfinal at Betti Stradling Park: Kings Academy vs. Coral Springs Charter, 1
Region 4-4A quarterfinal: Calvary Christian at Delray American Heritage, 7
Region 4-2A quarterfinal: Posnack at Boca Grandview Prep, 1:30
TRACK AND FIELD
Region 4-1A at Westminster Academy — Field/prelims: 1; Running finals: 7