Westminster Academy football coach Jake Sorg doesn't need anyone to remind him of what happened to his team last year in the opening round of the playoffs.
He still has nightmares about it.
“We won our division, and then we lost in the first round to Pope John Paul 26-24,” Sorg said. “We had five turnovers. Five. We were in the red zone seven times and only scored twice. Awful game. But please, don't ask me any more about it because I can't even think about it.”
The Lions, winners of the South Division in the independent Southeastern Conference in 2013, are hoping for a much happier ending this fall.
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One of 12 teams from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County competing in the conference, the Lions are returning six starters on offense and four on defense and probably would have been the odds-on favorite to win the division if it weren’t for the loss of a few transfers.
Star receiver A.J. James, a University of Wisconsin commitment, left with two teammates for Cardinal Gibbons. But such is life in high school football, Sorg said.
And the Lions aren't looking back.
After all, they've still got plenty of talent around, including four players with college scholarship offers: right tackle Micah Smith (6-7, 240 pounds), left tackle Luke Miseyko (6-5, 280), running back Jordan Cabral (5-10, 180) and receiver Ryan Moore (5-11, 185).
Cabral is committed to Bryant University; Moore has an offer from FIU, Miseyko from Davidson; and Smith has offers from Air Force, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Lehigh.
Sorg said he thinks he could have eight or nine players that sign with colleges in February.
“We've definitely developed a culture of winning,” said Sorg, who came over from University School in 2010.
“Mediocrity is not acceptable for our kids. We were a team that lost 16 straight games in 2008 and 2009. They’ve put a lot of pride into being a competitive football team and putting players in position to play college football. We’ve got five in college right now. We want to keep it going.”
Although the team’s leading rusher (Spencer Saliba) and receiver (James) are gone, quarterback Joe Vairo (6-0, 190) is back. He threw for 1,334 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions last season.
The backfield will be anchored by St. Thomas Aquinas transfer Johnnie Gaines and Calvary Christian transfer Cabral. Three offensive line starters return, and with the addition of St. Thomas Aquinas transfer Houston Underwood (6-4, 280), the Lions expect to dominate up front.
Defensively, Smith, who also plays end, and senior tackle Henry Kluger are expected to wreak havoc. Safety Sanders Desir, the team’s defensive player of the year in 2013, is also back.
How they’ll finish
Southeastern Conference, North Division: 1. Coral Springs Charter; 2. King’s Academy; 3. Pope John Paul; 4. Pine Crest; 5. Benjamin; 6. Calvary Christian.
South Division: 1. Westminster Academy; 2. Tavernier Coral Shores; 3. La Salle; 4. Boca St. Andrew’s; 5. Florida Christian; 6. Archbishop Curley.