Posted May 1, 2017
By LUIS GONZALEZ
Last season, the school’s spirit t-shirts read “Return of the Empire.” Combining a few Star Wars movie titles as expectations were met when the school won the 8A state championship.
Going into next season, the school looks to prevent a new force from awakening.
The Miami Southridge High Spartans started spring practice this week, taking the first steps in their title defense.
You will not hear the word “title” from Coach Billy Rolle this early on in spring.
The first coach to win state championships at three different high schools in Florida, had few words at practice.
“I got nothing to say. I ain’t feeling nothing with this team,” Rolle said.His silence serves as a motivational tactic to keep his team from getting a championship hangover, according to players
“No, he has faith in us. He just don’t want to say that right now,” cornerback Chris McDonald Jr., who will be a junior in the fall, said
One of the biggest concerns in the team’s road to a fourth state championship is in the secondary.
Cornerbacks Coemba Jones Jr. and Shawn Davis are off to play college football at Albany State University and the University of Florida, respectively. Safeties Antwan Collier and Billy Gibson Jr. will be playing at the University of Central Florida and Oregon University respectively, next season.
With an entire new secondary, it will rely mostly on the shoulders of McDonald.
“McDonald is a guy garnering a lot of attention in 2019 and, for Miami Southridge, he is the key,” contributing writer for Canesinsight.com and the Miami Herald David Perez said. “The defense as a whole is stepping up with Diamante Howard going into a bigger role, but McDonald has special speed and versatility and Southridge is going need that.”
It is an iron sharpens iron mentality in daily practice for McDonald, who has had four-star (according to 247sports) and University of Miami commit Mark Pope challenge him in practice.
“Chris is a younger guy, so we’re just out here competing and making each other better.” Pope said. “I told him ‘I ain’t going to go play with you, I’m going to go out there and make you better.’ And he said the same thing, ‘I’m going to make you better.’… I told him ‘Every team we play, I want you on the best receiver.’ You know, because he has the talent and he has everything.”
To help relieve some of the pain in the secondary, sophomore five-star outside linebacker (according to 247sports) Diamante Howard will be transitioning to Strong Safety next season.
“The hardest part is my hips,” Howard said on his transition to the new position. “Really, with linebacker, we don’t really work on our hips like that. So now, I got to stay focused to work on my hips. That’s my hardest transition. My vision is great, but yeah, it’s just my hips.”
After losing running back Bentavious Thompson, who is leaving to play football at UCF, the Spartans needed to bolster their offensive line to help make it easier on the new back.
They did just that by bringing in Killian transfer, offensive tackle Delone Scaife.
The three-star (according to 247sports) and Miami commit, already was vocal with his teammates during drills in practice.
“With the loss of seniors like Cody Bowes on the line, Scaife will provide the type of versatility needed on the line,” Perez said. “He’s blown up this offseason with an invite to The Opening [a national camp, hosted by Nike, that only select talent get invited], and will have to blow up next year for their run game to have success.”
“It’s been kind of bumpy, but I’ve gotten used to it,” Scaife said. “I had to get used to the O-line, get to know them. I’m kind of excited. It’s my senior year, my last spring, so I’m kind of ready.”
With last year’s Offensive Coordinator David Cooney leaving the program to become an offensive quality control analyst for the University of Miami, it is too early to hold accurate predictions.
However, sheer talent remains with the Spartans.
“Champions show consistency and right now, no 8A team has the returning talent that Southridge has,” Perez said. “They lose talent on defense, but with a top wide receiver in South Florida Mark Pope, one of the top [class of] 2019 talents in Diamante Howard, and a coach who has multiple championships, Billy Rolle, it is hard to imagine Southridge not being in the thick of things come December.”