High School Sports

Districts 8-3A/8-2A preview: Chaminade aiming for a return to dominance

Jason Milgrom takes over as first-year head coach at Chaminade-Madonna with a motto of “Return 2 Dominance.”

The motivation is to get the program back to the success it had in the past, specifically under former coach Mark Guandolo.

Milgrom comes in with the championship pedigree to get that done. He comes to Chaminade after helping win seven state titles as offensive coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas and one more as a player in 1992.

To reach that same pinnacle with the Lions he brings with him some of the same ideological philosophies that served as the foundation at St. Thomas: “Faith, family, football.”

The Lions have some solid young players at the skill positions. Sophomore wide receiver Xavier Williams and running back Shaun Shivers are players that will make a name for themselves in seasons to come.

The pro-style offensive attack will be led by quarterback and senior Cypress Bay transfer Kole Stealy, and Milgrom is confident in his offensive line heading into the fall as the team wants to play run first and protect Stealy on passing plays.

Him and his staff have placed a heavy emphasis on winning the battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

“We’re a lot better up front than I thought we were going to be,” Milgrom says. “It’s an offensive line dominated game and a defensive line dominated game. If you’re good on those levels, which I think we are with guys like Chris Whittaker, Davion Hawkins and Tremaine Herring, we’re going to be able to get after people on defense.”

Steve Jean-Baptiste, a 6-2, 295-pound junior, anchors the offensive line, and senior safety Justin Thomas, an Army commit, spearheads the secondary.

The district the past two seasons, however, has belonged to Westminster Christian, and despite losing exceptional talents like Jordan Cronkrite and Tim Irvin, the Warriors still have plenty of firepower to reign supreme again under coach Sedrick Irvin.

District 8-3A previously consisted of just Chaminade and Westminster Christian, guaranteeing that both would make the playoffs and the district title would just come down to their one annual regular-season meeting.

Now the district has added a pair of former independents based out of Homestead in Somerset Charter, which also goes by Somerset Silver Palms to differentiate itself from other schools by the same name, and Everglades Prep.

Milgrom likes the addition of the two teams, making it a four-team district.

“You never want to backdoor yourself into the playoffs,” he says. “You want to compete, you want to win and you want to get in on your own merit.”

The two rivals met last season and Somerset won. Everglades enters its second year as a football program and in its first season sent a player off to play college football in Jose Estrada (Sterling College).

CHAMPAGNAT TO CHALLENGE IN 2A

With coach Mike Tunsil, who won the 2013 Class 2A state title, moving on, Champagnat hired young up-and-comer Dennis Marroquin to lead the way for the Lions.

On top of his previous duties as offensive coordinator at Hialeah, Marroquin has made a name for himself in 7-on-7 competition leading the Florida Fire.

Marroquin’s message to his players: “Earned, not given.”

“I always teach kids that they have to earn everything they have. Nothing is given to them,” Marroquin says. “At the end of the day, you have to earn everything in life.”

Champagnat touts a player who is already one of the most highly-recruited players in the class of 2018 in inside linebacker Donavan Georges. He will anchor the Lions defense along with junior defensive back De’Vante Mitchell and senior defensive end Thierry Lafortune at the other levels of the unit.

Champagnat can challenge Glades Day for the district title, but with that regular-season meeting coming with a road trip to Belle Glade, it’ll be a difficult challenge to take the crown.

Dade Christian is in its first year following a largely successful run from Mike Sonneborn with new head coach Nick Martinez.

DISTRICT 8-3A/8-2A OVERVIEW

TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYERS

District 8-3A – Elbre Gaiter, Westminster Christian: The 5-8 wide receiver is ready to take the next step up for the Warriors after the departures of All-Americans Cronkrite (Florida) and Irvin (Auburn). Gaiter is elusive with the ball in his hands and can turn a play seemingly going nowhere into a touchdown with his breakaway speed. The uncommitted prospect lists offers from Louisville, Wisconsin, Duke, USF and Indiana.

District 8-2A – Cory Surles, Belle Glade Glades Day: The senior quarterback is one of a few returning starters for Glades Day, but he will have to lead the Gators offense after losting All-Palm Beach County and All-State running back D.J. Duncanson. Surles passed for 15 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards last season in a run-heavy offense.

TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYERS

District 8-3A – James Sutton, Westminster Christian: The Colorado State commit is a staple in the Warriors’ defense from either the outside linebacker or defensive end position. He’s tremendous in pursuit of a ball carrier and finds seams in opposing blocking schemes to break through for tackles for loss.

District 8-2A – Donovan Georges, Champagnat Catholic: Only a sophomore, Georges already lists offers from UM, Alabama, Georgia, Louisville and West Virginia, among others. Already with ideal size at 6-1 and 225 pounds, he is sure to grow into an elite prospect at middle linebacker.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

District 8-3A: 1. Westminster Christian; 2. Chaminade-Madonna; 3. Somerset Charter; 4. Everglades Prep.

District 8-2A: 1. Belle Glade Glades Day; 2. Champagnat Catholic; 3. Dade Christian; 4. Village Academy.

CAN’T MISS GAMES

Sep. 25: Westminster Christian at Gulliver; Oct. 9: Chaminade at Westminster Christian; Oct. 16: Champagnat at Glades Day; Oct. 28: Somerset Charter at Everglades Prep.

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