High School Sports

University School changes look and nickname

Miami Central players, left to right, Donovan Thompson, Jerrod Thomas, Navaughn Donaldson, Keir Thomas and Jamel Cook carry coach Roland Smith Jr. during a photo shoot at Nova Southeastern.
Miami Central players, left to right, Donovan Thompson, Jerrod Thomas, Navaughn Donaldson, Keir Thomas and Jamel Cook carry coach Roland Smith Jr. during a photo shoot at Nova Southeastern. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

It took a moment Saturday for people to recognize the school located the closest to the site of this year’s Miami Dolphins High School Football Media Day.

University School of Nova Southeastern walked in to the event wearing new uniforms with new colors.

The team will have a new nickname and has new coaches on its staff.

The Sharks are hoping the facelift isn’t contained to their attire.

“We’re hoping for a fresh start,” University School coach Daniel Luque said. “But we’re bringing it back to our old ways and traditions.”

The Sharks, whose previous nickname was the Suns during a near-decade run that included a state championship in 2012 under former coach Roger Harriott (now at St. Thomas Aquinas), was one of 108 high school football teams from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties represented Saturday at the third annual media day event held this year at Nova Southeastern because of renovations at Sun Life Stadium.

University School’s change in look from its green-and-yellow jerseys to blue and silver stemmed from Nova Southeastern choosing to maintain uniformity with its partnered high school.

It’s a welcome change for a program that struggled after Harriott departed following the 2013 season. A one-year stint under then-coach Brandon Harris resulted in a 3-7 record and University finishing last in District 7-4A.

Luque, an assistant for nearly 10 years at University School, was promoted to coach.

University also added former Boyd Anderson coach Wayne Blair and former Miami Central star quarterback Jeff Godfrey to its coaching staff.

As far as its roster, the Sharks have a way to go if they are to reach the level of talent possessed by its state championship team.

But the cupboard isn’t bare.

Sophomore cornerback Al Blades Jr., the son of the former University of Miami standout, leads a young squad that hopes to contend for a playoff spot in a tough district that includes Belle Glade Glades Central, Clewiston and Somerset Academy.

3-PEAT POTENTIAL

All four of South Florida’s reigning state champions were in attendance Saturday as well.

American Heritage has a chance to add more milestones to its recent state championship run. The Patriots could become the first Broward County team to win three consecutive state titles.

Some of the Patriots’ top returning players attended the event and, along with coach Mike Rumph, talked about the difficulty of achieving a three-peat.

“We have some of the top teams in the country and state to play this season,” Rumph said. “We just have to focus on IMG [Academy] right now and then when the district play comes step it up to a whole other level.”

IMG, which will be nationally ranked, is Heritage’s preseason opponent on a schedule that begins with clashes against Stephenson (Georgia ) at the Battle of the Borders Classic in Georgia and Maryland powerhouse DeMatha at home.

The biggest challenge lies in a District 16-5A schedule that got tougher with the addition of Hallandale, Coconut Creek and Fort Lauderdale Stranahan to go along with Miami Jackson and Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons.

“We found out last season that one of the hardest things to do is win back-to-back [state titles],” Rumph said. “We’re realizing that getting a three-peat is even harder. We’re trying to make sure that everyone is all in for the effort to get it done again.”

Miami Central and St. Thomas Aquinas each showed up in force with numerous players on squads that should also vie for state titles and potentially a national championship.

Booker T. Washington, winners of 41 consecutive games, brought its impressive crop of underclassmen and seniors who will try to keep the Tornadoes’ run of three consecutive state titles alive.

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