Even though he will be more than 1,000 miles away, Damon Cogdell’s presence will still be felt at Miramar High School this upcoming football season.
Cogdell, who became the Patriots football coach in 2007, was a familiar sight for students and faculty when he became a physical education teacher at the school in 2002. But once he left in January to become linebackers coach at his alma mater, West Virginia, balancing tradition with the arrival of a new coach was the school’s top priority.
“[Cogdell’s] like a father figure,” senior offensive lineman and University of Miami commit Leeward Brown said of his older cousin. “When he was here — even now when he’s gone, but when he was here — it was like home. He was a father away from home.”
With Cogdell’s recommendation, Miramar hired Matt Strout — an Ohio State graduate who was hired to be offensive line coach last season. And Strout made no drastic changes “keeping everybody in house” to ease the transition while paying homage to what “Coach Cogdell had created and had built.”
“The players were comfortable knowing the fact that things were going to be the same,” Strout said Monday before his afternoon practice was sent indoors because of rain. “We’re doing things exactly how Coach Cogdell wanted it to be done.”
Strout — using his humor, tolerance and discipline — also plans to leave his own mark, too.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Strout had plans of playing at Ohio State because his grandfather Robert Brown coached at the school in the 1960s. Strout originally committed to Texas A&M out of high school but ended up playing linebacker and fullback for the Buckeyes in a capacity he has come to terms with.
“Let’s not get it confused. I was not a stud by any means,” Strout said with a chuckle. “I was a scout-team walk-on — that’s what it was.
“People always say all the time, ‘Oh my gosh, you played there.’ And, yeah, I was there, but let’s not blow things out of proportion. I wasn’t running the ball like Eddie George.”
Strout said his move to fullback helped him develop his offensive mind. On Monday, he received another weapon to use on offense as highly touted receiver Jovon Durante enrolled for his senior year at Miramar.
Durante — a four-star player rated as one of the top 20 wide receivers in the country by 247Sports.com — played for Miami Jackson last season and also spent his junior year at Miami Northwestern and Miami Norland.
He will be teamed up with underrated three-star prospects Kahlil Lewis (receiver) and running back Alex Anderson. All three players are currently committed to play college football at West Virginia.
Strout used the words “dynamic, special, entertaining, electric and scary all rolled into one” to describe having Durante and Lewis as his route runners.
“Both of those players on the field at the same time are going to give opposing defensive coordinators a fit on how to design their matchups,” he said. “It’s going to be scary. It really is.”
On defense, Miramar boasts one of the best secondary groups in the country led by defensive backs Tyrek Cole (committed to Florida State), Kendrell McFadden (WVU), Josmar Diaz-Martinez (uncommitted), Jeffrey Hill and Herbert Miller (both Northern Illinois).
Strout also expects 6-2, 235-pound defensive end Bryton Dieujuste to be a standout in his defense, which he categorizes as “a nickel-man-zone with a combination of dime and man press.”
Miramar won its first state title for football in 2009 and was a runner-up in 2011.
Last season, the Patriots (12-1) came within two games of playing for another state title but suffered a 12-10 loss to Palm Beach Gardens in the Class 8A regional finals.
“I felt like [state-title winner] South Dade was in the position we were really supposed to be in,” Brown said. “It left a sour taste in our mouth.”
Added Lewis, who remembers only one play from that loss: “I had a dropped pass. It could have been pass interference, but I could have made that play for my team. And that play has been in my head the whole offseason.”
Miramar starts a challenging season, playing both American Heritage teams in back-to-back weeks, visiting the Delray Beach school on Aug. 29 and hosting the Plantation team on Sept. 6.
The Patriots also will have their hands full hosting Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas on Sept. 20, and visiting their biggest district 8A-12 rival in Flanagan on Oct. 17.
“I want us to win every football game we play, but I want us to win a state championship,” Strout said. “If we stumble along the way, I’m not going to let that deter us or derail our overall efforts.”