Larry Blustein

Larry Blustein: North Miami renaissance began when excuses ended

When Ed Williams took over the North Miami coaching position two years ago, he knew that the fans and alumni were tired of the excuses why the Pioneers were not producing winning teams on the football field.

Although it was easy to use the fact that nearly four years of having no practice field on campus — as the school moved across the street — was always convenient to point to as the reason this program remained on the bottom of the district — Williams didn’t want to get caught up in excuses.

“I think the thing that people got so used to at this school was making excuses for everything,” Williams said. “There had to be a reason why the schools to the north and west of us were winning, but we weren’t.”

What Williams did was make it fashionable to wear the green and grey again. He told the players and coaches that the excuses for not winning were over. No longer would this be the North Miami program that settled for moral victories and never learned from making mistakes.

“I was taught to be accountable for everything I did on the football field,” Williams said. “I played against North Miami back in the day, and you cannot tell me that they didn’t have athletes. I knew better.”

From the day he took over the program, Williams welcomed those athletes who wanted to work hard and were proud to be a part of this tradition-rich dream that had enjoyed success in the ’80s and ’90s.

The student-athletes who didn’t want to buy into what he and his coaching staff were about to do were more than welcome to move on.

Even though several players left for other programs, Williams remained confident that the athletes who wanted to be part of the growing process would stay around and do their part to work harder. He was right.

Although this is still a growing process, the young Pioneers won their first five games of the season — for the first time in nearly 20 years — putting themselves in a position to make the playoffs for the first time in more than 15 years.

While seniors such as USF-bound receivers Stanley Clerveaux and Sidney Auguste, defensive backs Stanley Guz, Bryan Jacques and Brandon Wright, defensive ends Steven Decius and Alix Cesar and Jordan Cherenfant have made a solid impact, it’s really the underclassmen who have vaulted this program to the next level.

Among the talented juniors who have given North Miami a big lift: quarterback Hilton Joseph; receivers Victor Sam and Tavaris Harrison; running back Alex Pierre; offensive lineman Eric Rico; defensive end Markes Scott; defensive backs Kerson Jeanpierre and Wesley Charles; and linebackers Quiton Moore and James Bell.

“Our junior class really has taken this thing personal,” Williams said. “They wanted to be a part of the change and have worked hard to make it a reality.”

Sophomore standouts such as receiver Henry Payoute, defensive back Xavier Woods and defensive end Garven Mondelus have also bought into what it takes to be successful.

At a time when many of the programs that enjoyed rich pasts, such as Coral Gables, South Dade and Southwest Miami are emerging in Miami-Dade County, that Pioneer pride has returned to North Miami.