Byron Walker has led teams to state championships during a coaching career that has spanned nearly four decades.
Following Thursday’s 44-0 rout of visiting Coral Glades, Walker will next direct undefeated Archbishop McCarthy in the championship of the recently-formed Gold Coast Football Conference, a league of six independent teams in Broward and Monroe Counties, next week at the Mavericks’ home field.
He rarely has felt more proud for the journey it took his players to achieve that opportunity.
“There was a point a couple of years ago where we were getting beat 64-0 and 49-0,” said Walker, who won three state titles at Belle Glade Glades Day and once led Plantation American Heritage to a state championship game. “I kept telling my kids, ‘If you keep working hard, good things will happen.’ But it gets to the point where you wonder if the kids will ever believe it if things don’t turn around quick.”
The Mavericks made the decision to leave district play and go independent following that 2-8 season in 2013.
Two years later, McCarthy is the one winning lopsided games.
The Mavericks improved to 10-0 following its second win of 35 points or more over Coral Glades in the past three weeks. They will next play either North Broward Prep or Key West, who play in the other GCFC semifinal Friday, for the conference title at 7 p.m. next Thursday.
Seven of McCarthy’s 10 wins have been by 20 points or more. And although the competition level isn’t always what it was while the Mavericks were a member of the state series, their schedule has included impressive nonconference wins.
Earlier this season, McCarthy beat University School, a playoff team in Class 4A, and Walker’s former school Belle Glade Glades Day, typically a contender in Class 2A. The Mavericks also defeated Fort Pierce John Carroll (6-3), a playoff qualifier this year in Class 3A, and Class 6A Naples Barron Collier, which missed the playoffs but went 7-3 this season.
“If I went back in time to four years ago, I’d never have expected this,” said McCarthy senior running back Anthony Rey, who has a handful of offers from Division II and Division III schools and leads Broward County in rushing with 1,577 yards and 26 touchdowns. “Showing up for practice was the worst thing ever. Now, we’re loving it, and we just go out there and win.”
Rey ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries Thursday with touchdown runs of 54 and 50 yards. He is one of several seniors who labored through difficult freshman and sophomore seasons.
The Mavericks’ defense overwhelmed Glades (2-8), swarming to the quarterback for seven sacks and limiting the Jaguars to minus-18 total yards (counting sack yardage).
Rey represents a senior class that has orchestrated the school’s turnaround over the past two seasons.
Sophomores such as explosive kick returner/receiver and strong safety Vincent Redmon represent the program’s potential future. Redmon opened the game with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He later intercepted a pass and returned it 79 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Willie Davis, a freshman. The Mavericks capped the first quarter with a safety on an all-out blitz that finished with sophomore Eric Scott sacking Coral Glades quarterback Donovan Samuels Jr. in the end zone.
“A lot of seniors have stepped up, and everyone is stepping up,” senior safety/wide receiver Tyler Messer said. “We’ve built a team relationship, and it’s showing in games.”