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Deerfield Beach running back Jakari Norwood. (Source: Chuck Bethel Jr.)

Bald Predictions District Previews – District 11-8A

South Florida’s northern-most district has completely shaken the moniker of “just another district”. The overall talent level in this group is as high as its probably ever been this district houses a legitimate Class 8A title contender. Better yet, all the teams in this district have made full commitments to improve their stakes in South Florida high school football landscape.

Coral Springs Colts

2016 Record: 4-6
Coach: Vincent Ziccardi
2017 Outlook: On the surface, it is easy to discount what Coral Springs did in 2016. While their 4-6 record wasn’t playoff-worthy, but the Colts improved on their 2015 record (1-9) and seemingly bought into what new head coach Vincent Ziccardi’s was selling for the new direction of the program.

Coral Springs enters the 2017 season as a program that is looking to take another step forward – especially in district play.

What the Colts must avoid is a season of ups and downs like it had in 2016 – where they won their first three games, then lost their next five games and ended up losing six of the final seven matchups.

It doesn’t help that Coral Springs lost its starting quarterback Kyle Kaplan as well as its leading rusher and top touchdown producer Nate Stubbs from 2016. Both transferred to district foes – Kaplan to Deerfield Beach and Stubbs to Piper – which stings even more.

Still, the Colts should have enough to at least to make a run at a .500 record.

2019 defensive back/receiver Christopher Hill Jr. has the physical tools needed to be the on-field leader the Colts need. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete, who earned a Western Kentucky offer during the offseason, must use his speed to make more plays in the back of Coral Springs’ defense while also becoming a reliable target in the versatile passing game.

The hidden gem may be 2018 running back Tyrae Sessions. Though he doubles as a linebacker for the Colts, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Sessions’ is most valuable as a ball carrier. He’s proven to be a physical runner capable of bowling over would-be tacklers in the open field.

Making the playoffs doesn’t have to constitute a successful season for Coral Springs, their success comes in laying the next layer of the foundation – developing their own players and building up the status of the program – moving forward.

Deerfield Beach Bucks

2016 Record: (2016 District champion; Class 8A state semifinalist)
Coach: Jevon Glenn
2017 Outlook: Rewind to the 2016 Class 8A state semifinals, if you told Deerfield Beach coaches, players and fans that its defense would hold Miami Southridge to 170 total yards offense while also recovering all five of the fumbles it forced they would surely think that a win was in the cards.

Football is a funny game.

Despite having those two major stats on their side, the Bucks were on the wrong side of a 26-7 loss to the team that would end up going on to win the Class 8A state title.

Deerfield Beach, which will travel to New Jersey this season to take on St. Joseph Regional High School on September 2nd, enters the 2017 season once again a major player in the Class 8A championship race.

Even though they lost such standouts as Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Daewood Davis (Oregon), Lamonte McDougle (West Virginia), Deslin Alexandre (Pittsburgh) and Leroy Henley (East Carolina) to graduation, the Bucks’ are still brimming with talent.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more talent-rich defense than what the “Beach Boyz” will trot out this season.

Senior defensive back Miguel Edwards (Oklahoma commit), senior linebackers Rosendo Louis and Kenny Bastida, and senior defensive ends Ge’mon Eaford and Ashtan Pierre will provide leadership and playmaking at each level.

All five were a part of a Deerfield Beach defense that held opposing offenses to seven or less points eight times (four shutouts) this past season, but could theoretically be even better in 2017.

The Bucks offense has a few questions to answer this season.

Not only did Deerfield Beach lose its top three receivers from 2016, it also lost its starting quarterback (Nick Holm) to graduation.

Kyle Kaplan moves in from district foe Coral Springs and will likely assume the signal calling duties for the Bucks in 2017. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Kaplan has solid arm talent and has adequate mobility not to be a “sitting duck” in the pocket, but the question will be – like it was for Holm in 2016 – will he be able to handle the pressure of being the starting quarterback as the games’ stakes get higher.

Receiver Cornelius McCoy, who should be the No. 1 target in the passing game this season, and Boyd Anderson transfer tight end Daniel Barker (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) should help Kaplan settle into his new role.

Deerfield Beach would be smart to shift its offense to the ground and put the ball in the hands of senior running back and Illinois commit Jakari Norwood. He may be of slight build (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), but Norwood is speedy, elusive and a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Getting 2020 running back Jaylan Knighton (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) involved in the running game would also help the Bucks in the long run.

No matter what happens this season, the Bucks will be playing to honor the memory of T.J. Bradley, a class of 2017 senior who died a week before his graduation in a prom-night car accident.

They’ll also be anticipating the healthy return of 2018 cornerback Demetrius Palmer, who sustained critical injuries – including being in a comatose state for eight days – in the same accident that claimed Bradley’s life.

Parkland Douglas Eagles

2016 Record: 6-4
Coach: Willis “Peanut” May
2017 Outlook: Stoneman Douglas is a perfect candidate for a South Florida program that could be placed just about anywhere else in the country and it would be a premiere program.

Head coach Willis “Peanut” May and his coaching staff continue to get the most out of their players while also trying to do things “the right way”.

On the surface, the Eagles seem bound for another middling year.

Douglas lost stud offensive lineman Corey Gaynor (University of Miami) and diamond in the rough linebacker Daniel Crescitelli to graduation. Then 2018 running back Riley Allison took his talents – and the 1,227 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns he racked up last year – to powerhouse Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas while 6-foot-5, 275-pound offensive lineman Jack Fris transferred to Plantation American Heritage.

What does work in Douglas’ favor is the return of senior quarterback Tyler Goodman. Goodman threw for 1,121 yards and seven touchdowns – and rushed for six touchdowns – this past season and should step into a large on-field leadership role.

Goodman’s favorite target, senior receiver Tate Lehtio, also returns and will be looking to improve on the 34 receptions for 517 yards numbers he put up during his junior campaign.

Defensively, the Eagles’ will be in their secondary. Senior safeties Bradley Vilsaint and Robby Rodriguez are both four-year performers under Coach May and will be counted on heavily to come up and make plays from the back of the defense. Also, look for Coral Springs transfer Dianjelo Amaya to contribute right away. Don’t be fooled by Amaya’s size (5-foot-8, 160 pounds), he’s a playmaker in the defensive backfield and is more than willing to make contact with receivers and ball carriers.

Coconut Creek Monarch Knights

2016 Record: 2-7
Coach: Willie Dodaro
2017 Outlook: The rebuild continues for Monarch.

South Florida football aficionados will recall that it was only three years ago that Monarch was a team that could’ve been considered a dark horse title contender.

Over the span of 2012 to 2014 the Knights went 25-8, made consecutive (2013 & 2014) playoff appearances, and won a district title in 2014.

Fast forward through the two years since, Monarch has gone 4-14.

Despite his lengthy and impressive resume, Monarch head coach Willie Dodaro has had faced some difficulty when it comes to rejuvenating the program.

What should help in 2017 is the fact the Knights have a group of seniors that have weathered the storm and should want to end their high school careers with a productive season.

Senior linebacker/defensive end Austin Gray could end up being this district’s hidden gem in 2017. Gray is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound “thumper” that is at his best when he’s playing downfield – either blowing up a running play or putting pressure on a quarterback.

2017 defensive backs Nicholas Brown and Allan Jean-Jacques are more than capable of being productive players on a weekly basis and should set a good example for sophomore safety Xavier Restrepo – who is considered a rising prospect in the 2020 class.

Sunrise Piper Bengals

2016 Record: 9-2 (2016 District runner-up)
Coach: David Coleman
2017 Outlook: If there is a team that’s banging on the door to get the club of South Florida teams that are solid year in and year out, it’s Piper.

Since David Coleman took over as head coach in 2015, the Bengals have gone back to back with nine-win seasons with playoff berths.

Piper’s Achilles Heel has been having to matchup with Broward County’s elite teams. The Bengals lost just four games in that two-year span, two losses to district rival Deerfield Beach during the regular season and consecutive years of being knocked out of the first round of the playoffs by Pembroke Pines Flanagan.

In those four matchups, Piper was outscored 133-7.

Ouch.

2017 is the year that Piper can get into the club. There are expectations on the Bengals now. No longer will they be able to sneak up on teams because “that’s just Piper”, the Bengals now get circled on opponents’ schedules.

Piper’s success will go through sophomore dual-threat quarterback Derohn King. King burst onto the scene as a freshman as he threw for over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns while also rushing for another six touchdowns.

Physically, King is ready for prime time – standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 185 pounds. He’s earned scholarship offers from Bowling Green, Florida International University, Central Florida, and University of Florida and is in the conversation for being one of South Florida’s (Miami-Dade & Broward) most talented signal callers.

King must be more careful with the ball this season – he threw 16 interceptions in 2016 – and elevate the play of his receivers.

The Bengals receiver corps got a bit stronger with the arrival of senior Nathaniel Stubbs, who transferred in from Coral Springs. Stubbs can be a dangerous slot receiver while 6-foot-4, 180-pound three-sport (football, basketball & track) athlete Junair James Jr. continues to grow as an outside threat.

Piper’s defense will be buoyed by its secondary. Seniors Bryand Rincher and Shawn Valcin are the “big brothers” and playmakers while junior Jadus Rogers will gain valuable experience as he’ll likely play big snaps alongside Rincher.

Matching the nine-win total would be nice, but Piper’s main goal must be accumulating the necessary points to secure a playoff spot.

Coral Springs J.P. Taravella Trojans

2016 Record: 3-7
Coach: Charles Hafley
2017 Outlook: Give Taravella head coach Charles Hafley a lot of credit, he is going all in on building up the school’s program.

The Trojans were very active during the offseason and they are hoping that all their hard work pays off tangible dividends this coming season.

There’s no reason to think that Taravella won’t – at the very least – make a one game improvement on its win total from 2016 and possibly be in line to finish at the .500 mark.

Offensively, Taravella will put the ball in the hands of senior quarterback Malik Beckford. Beckford missed time during the 2016 season, but he appears to be ready to fully take the reins of Trojans’ offense.

2018 receiver Moses Snell Jr. should be Beckford’s favorite target. Snell Jr. had a productive 2016 season but his numbers should run higher this season since three-star receiver Wayne Parrish chose to transfer to South Broward High School.

Also, senior offensive lineman Brock Parry (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) – who will serve as a team captain this season – could end up being one of the top blockers in this district if he lives up to his coach’s expectations.

Like a lot of the other teams in the district, Taravella’s secondary will have to carry its defense. Senior cornerback Quentin Williams, Deerfield Beach transfer Lincoln McKenzie and Snell all are athletic enough to mirror receivers and make plays as defenders.

Bald Prediction

Deerfield Beach will still own this district. The Bucks are overwhelmingly talented on defense and their offense strikes as one of those units that will get better as the season wears on.

With the Bucks earning the automatic district champion playoff bid, I think Piper will be in position to earn a playoff spot.

Because of the schedule they’ve built – non-district games against Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson, Miami Norland, and Naples High – the Bengals could either earn a couple of impressive wins or high-point loses.

Beyond that, I don’t foresee a third team earning a playoff spot. Douglas should take the third position in the district ahead of Coral Springs.

Taravella will finish fifth and Monarch will bring up the rear.

Predicted Champion: Deerfield Beach
Predicted Playoff Team(s): Piper

Bold Prediction

Swinging for the fences with this one, in saying that Deerfield Beach will only lose two games during the regular season.

The Bucks start their regular season with a road game against defending Class 6A champion Miami Carol City, follow that up with a road trip to New Jersey, and they will square off with powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas during the first week of October.

The pressure is on you, Coach Glenn.

District MVP

Sticking as close to the true meaning of MVP, I think the player that will have the most value for his team is Piper quarterback Derohn King.

King will literally touch the ball on every offensive play and his performance will have the biggest direct impact on the Bengals’ wins and losses.

I could see a season – whether it is 2017 or down the line – where King joins the “20-10 club”, meaning he throws at least 20 touchdown passes and rushes for at least another 10 touchdowns.

Top Players

Adam Scoggins – Taravella
Allan Jean-Jacques – Monarch
Ashtan Pierre – Deerfield Beach
Austin Gray – Monarch
Bradley Vilsaint – Douglas
Brock Parry – Taravella
Bryand Rincher – Piper
Cam’ron Bell – Coral Springs
Christopher Hill Jr. – Coral Springs
Cornelius Doe – Deerfield Beach
Cornelius McCoy – Deerfield Beach
Daniel Barker – Deerfield Beach
Demetrius Palmer – Deerfield Beach
Derohn King – Piper
Despelado Alexandre – Deerfield Beach
Dianjelo Amaya – Douglas
Fabian Allen – Piper
Ge’mon Eaford – Deerfield Beach
Jakari Norwood – Deerfield Beach
Jaylan Knighton – Deerfield Beach
Junair James – Piper
Kenny Bastida – Deerfield Beach
Kyle Kaplan – Deerfield Beach
Lincoln McKenzie – Taravella
Lucas Taylor – Douglas
Luis Garcia – Coral Springs
Malik Beckford – Taravella
Miguel Edwards – Deerfield Beach
Moses Snell Jr. – Taravella
Nate Stubbs – Piper
Nicholas Brown – Monarch
Nicholas Defroscia – Douglas
Noah Rosado – Monarch
Quentin Williams – Taravella
Robby Rodriguez – Douglas
Rosendo Louis – Deerfield Beach
Tai Lehtio – Douglas
Tyler Goodman – Douglas
Tyrae Sessions – Coral Springs
William Calloway – Piper
Xavier Restrepo – Monarch
Zach Simmons – Deerfield Beach
Zachary Stark – Douglas

About J.T. Wilcox

J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist that has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" Blog and "The Baldcast" Podcast. J.T. Wilcox joined the Football Hotbed staff in 2017.

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