Dolphins High school Media day at Hard Rock Stadium
On the day spring practices began, Bryce Gowdy called his teammates together inside the locker room at Deerfield Beach High School.
Gowdy, who is coming up on his fourth season with the Bucks, has been around for all the close calls. He’s born and raised in Deerfield Beach, so he has heard about close calls all his life. Before preparations for the 2019 season could get underway, Gowdy had to make sure everyone knew the stakes.
“He was basically saying, ‘Yeah, we’re friends, we’re bros, but on the field it’s work. We’re on the clock, so all that friends — that’s out the window,’” said Christopher Townsel, a three-star cornerback with about a dozen scholarship offers. “We’re competing every day.”
After the Bucks charged out of the locker room and went through warm-ups, Gowdy and Townsel lined up against each other for the first rep of the day.
Both are four-year players at Deerfield Beach — an increasing rarity in South Florida — and they have experienced as many close calls as just about anyone across the state.
When they were freshmen in 2016, the Bucks fell to eventual champion Southridge in the Class 8A semifinals. When they were sophomores in 2017, Deerfield Beach won its district and bowed out in the first round of the postseason. Last season, the Bucks made it back to the 8A semifinals only to again fall one game short of a title shot with a 49-21 loss to Columbus in Deerfield Beach.
Too many otherwise successful seasons have ended without an elusive championship for the Bucks, making them perhaps the most successful program in Florida without a state title.
There are real reasons for Deerfield Beach to feel this year, which begins Saturday against Carol City in Miami, could be different. The Bucks are as talented as ever, but now they have a core group of senior leaders — including Gowdy and Townsel — who have spent all four years of high school at Deerfield Beach.
They watched Jerry Jeudy, now an All-American wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, finish his Bucks career without a state title and he saw the same thing happen for Detroit Lions wide receiver Brandon Powell, who would have himself heard about the years when Denard Robinson and Jason Pierre-Paul came just short.
“We understand it’s part of our lineage. It’s going to be part of our story,” coach Jevon Glenn said. “When we go and complete the ultimate goal, they’re not going to forget about the close calls, so at the end of the day it’s part of the way we’re going to get to where we’re getting.”
Gowdy and Townsel are touted as the vocal leaders of a group of four-year seniors, which also includes four-star running back Jaylan Knighton and three-star wide receiver Deajaun McDougle. Gowdy, McDougle and Townsel all grew up in Deerfield Beach, playing with or against each other in youth leagues in the community, so they understand the importance of the sport in the city.
Gowdy, who orally committed to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last month.
“It would mean the world, “ Gowdy said. “When I’m walking the streets, and I’m talking to my family, friends in the community — they really pride themselves on football ... It would mean, literally, history in Deerfield Beach.”
The Bucks also have maybe their most talented offensive roster ever. Knighton, who committed to the Florida State Seminoles last month, is the No. 3 running back in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the Class of 2020. The wide receivers corps is one of the best in Florida with Pittsburgh Panthers commit. Aydin Henningham and Xavier Restrepo, who is committed to the Miami Hurricanes as an athlete, complementing Gowdy and McDougle, who committed to the Maryland Terrapins in July. Their top offensive lineman, Woody Jean, is committed to the Arizona Wildcats and their top defensive lineman, Choute Gervins, has pledged to the Central Florida Knights. They also boast two of the best quarterbacks in the Miami metropolitan area with Derohn King, who committed to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in April, and Michael Pratt, who is committed to the Tulane Green Wave and transferred in earlier this month.
Like always, there is enough in place to contend and there is enough history for the program to lean on for motivation.
There’s a parable Glenn heard recently and he decided to share it with his team as it prepared for the 2019 season. There was a man who used to break rocks by banging them against one another. For one particular rock, he slammed at it 999 times to no avail. On the 1,000th hit, a breakthrough.
“Guys who don’t have foresight will say the 1,000th hit is what broke the rock, but true guys who understand will know that every one of those hits had a cause into that 1,000th hit,” Glenn said, “and that’s what we use our history as.”