Consider it a new challenge for Pat Surtain and Plantation American Heritage.
For two years, the Patriots have been untouchable since Surtain took over the program. The results: a 28-0 record and back-to-back Class 5A state titles.
Year 3 looks to be different. A lot different.
The big-name stars who carried the team for the past two years are gone.
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But constants that remain: Surtain and a hunger to keep their run of dominance alive.
“We have the blueprint,” Surtain said. “If kids are willing to follow it, it’ll be a successful season.”
The blueprint has worked since Surtain took over in 2016. Heritage’s offense has averaged 35.1 points per game over the last two years, and the Patriots have outscored opponents by an average of 22.6 points in that span. The defense has forced five shutouts in those 28 games and held opponents to fewer than 10 points in nine other outings.
“The mentality is just domination,” tight end Beau Johnson said. “We’re not trying to skate by or get close wins. ... We want to dominate.”
But with just four starters returning and no big-name stars making preseason headlines, the perception is that the always dominant Heritage is destined for a down year.
Bring it on, Surtain says.
“The kids see that people are counting us out and that this isn’t our year,” Surtain said. “They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder. It’s motivation, especially from winning that many games in a row. Sometimes you need that extra motivation.”
So how does Heritage plan to overcome the relative lack of experience that hasn’t affected the program in quite some time?
Surtain’s approach: Strength in numbers.
“We have some talented guys,” Surtain said. “They’re not the high profile four- and five-star guys that we had last year and in years past, but some really good football players who have the ability to leapfrog and have a terrific year.”
There are some big names to replace.
Among them: Shutdown corners Patrick Surtain Jr. (coach Surtain’s son) and Tyson Campbell are at Alabama and LSU, respectively. Defensive line menaces Nesta Silvera and Andrew Chatfield are at Miami and Florida. Speedy wide receiver Anthony Schwartz is at Auburn.
Johnson and junior linebacker Alex Garcia return and will respectively lead the offense and defense, but Surtain will need a host of new faces to fill the production void.
The players are embracing the challenge ahead.
“We’ll let our play show,” Johnson said. “Simple as that.”
Added Garcia: “We’re not taking any plays or reps off. Making sure the standard is set.”
The tests will come early, too. Heritage opens the season Friday against Carol City — expected to be one of the top teams in the state — and will travel to Milton, Georgia, to face New Jersey powerhouse St. Joseph Regional in Week 2. There’s also those key district games against Coconut Creek on Sept. 14 and Cardinal Gibbons on Oct. 12.
“These guys,” Surtain said, “are ready and eager to make a name for themselves and continue their winning streak.”
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