Inner city high schools prepare for football competition
By Derek Joy
Second of Four Parts
They are often referred to as inner city schools. Some attach the label of “At Risk” schools. And then there are those who just can’t resist putting Miami before the name. Well, the latter might work for Booker T. Washington, Edison, Jackson and Northwestern because each is located within the city of Miami. But, the Carol City Chiefs and Norland Vikings are located in the city of Miami Gardens. Yet, you never see the name of that municipality before the names of those two schools.
No matter, football is football. High schools are in their second week of fall practice. It’s the preparation for the various “Kick-off Classics” that lead into another regular season in pursuit of a State Championship.
Interestingly enough, of the seven high schools that are so often referred to as inner city schools, only the Vikings and Chiefs have an alumni as its head coach. Tim “Ice” Harris is an alumnus of Booker T. Washington Middle School, not the high school.
“I’m trying to go back,” said Vikings Head Coach Daryle Heidelberg, when asked about his team’s chances of winning a second State Class 5A Championship. “I’m spoiled, for the lack of a better word.”
Heidelberg guided his Vikings to the Championship game in 2010, but narrowly lost the title game. Then the Vikings returned in 2011 to win it all with a 15-0 record.
Those two teams had the likes of All State and Mr. Florida Football running Duke Johnson (now at UM), All State linebacker Bam Brown (now at the Univ. of Louisville) and multi-talented quarterback Tony Thomas (now at FAU).
This year’s Vikings team will look for offensive exploits from junior receivers Zaquan Tyson, Kendrick Edwards and junior running back Khali Murack.
Defensively, Heidelberg touts an accomplished group of senior defensive linemen featuring five stand-out players: Paul James, Torin Young, Anari Ragin, Raficka Lindsey and Akeem Barton.
This group is capably backed up by senior linebacker Trayvon Williams and sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Dinson.
“We’ve been to the State Title game two years in a row. Our players know what it takes to get there,” Heidelberg said, while reflecting on last year’s dismantling of the McCullough War Eagles, 38-0, in the championship game.
The Vikings will begin to find out just how good they are when they meet the Carol City Chiefs in the “Kick-off Classic” Aug. 23, and open the season Aug. 30, against the American High School Patriots.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs, for the second time in four years, had to endure the shooting death of one of its former players. Paul Royal, who was headed to Edward Waters College on a football scholarship, was shot and killed behind the wheel of a car as he waited for a friend, Royal’s former Chiefs teammate, Gavonnah Williams, was also shot, but survived.
“We’re much improved over last year,” said Chiefs Head Coach Harold Barnwell. “We have a mixture of seniors and some juniors. We’re returning nine players on defense and a solid core of experienced and talented players on offense.
Looking to improve upon last year’s 5-5 record, the Chiefs look for defensive effectiveness from senior defensive lineman Aaron Thomas, senior defensive end/receiver Edward Rolle.
Offensively, the Chiefs look for-an offensive punch from “a solid core of receivers” in seniors Gregory Conde, DeVontae McKinney, who also plays basketball, and senior running back Daquan Johnson.
“Some of our children play multiple positions. Our children are very positive. We played in 7 on 7 games at Disney and four other places. In fact, we won the Dolphins 7 on 7. You see, the District we play in is called the SEC (Southeastern Conference – NCAA) of high school football. All the teams are good.”
Those teams include Belen Jesuit, the lone private school in this 6A District, Miami Central, Homestead and Miami Northwestern.
After the “Kick-off Classic” against the Norland Vikings, the Chiefs open the season against the Booker T. Washington Tornadoes, which narrowly lost the Class 4A Championship game against Jacksonville Boles last year, on Aug 30.
“We play Northwestern in the second game of the season. We beat ‘em last year. We consider them state a championship caliber team. We play championship caliber opponents all year,” Heidelberg said, while discussing teams on their schedule that are above their Class 5A status.