Post Top 25 countdown: No. 21 Pahokee
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
by Matt Porter
Wherever he goes in his football-mad town, Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson can't avoid the questions.
With varying levels of urgency, fans want to know if Pahokee football is back.
The short answer? Not yet, but there exists legitimate hope.
Hired in 2007, Thompson won state championships in his first two seasons as coach of the Blue Devils and produced a long list of Division I signees. His program's fall since then has been as ugly as those years were glorious.
After a disappointing 6-5 finish in 2009, the Blue Devils are a combined 5-15 in the past two seasons. More embarrassing, they haven't scored a touchdown in the past two Muck Bowls, losing to Glades Central by a combined 128-0.
What can restless Pahokee fans expect this season?
"I think we've got a more athletic football team this year, that's highly motivated to do better than last year," Thompson said. "I think we've got some potential."
The hope rests in players like senior quarterback Derry Brown, who had 150 passing and 100 rushing yards in a 22-21 spring game win over Port St. Lucie. Like junior receiver Rashaun Croney, a 6-foot-1 athlete who can fill in at quarterback and play multiple defensive spots. Like senior wideout James Johnson (6-1, 170), who moved home from the Miami area and could be a Division I-level playmaker.
Thompson sees potential in junior Anton Paige (6-4, 175), a receiver and pass rusher, and junior running back Jonathan Jordan (6-0, 210).
Thompson believes freshman Amari Angram, a 6-1, 320-pound tackle, "will be a beast in the next couple years." He thinks 6-2, 245-pound junior lineman Francisco Ramirez is on the cusp of showing college potential. He expects big things from junior WR/DB Trent Laidler, who is 5-10 and 150 pounds but was tough enough to earn a boxing silver medal in June at the Junior Olympic National Championships in Mobile, Ala.
Pahokee's 2-8 record may not markedly improve this season. Its schedule includes out-of-district games with top-10 teams Royal Palm Beach, Atlantic and Seminole Ridge; District 7-3A matchups against defending state champion American Heritage and Cardinal Newman; and another potentially lopsided Muck Bowl.
But fans looking past the numbers will see a still-young, still-improving team, albeit one with concerns about size on the lines and overall depth.
"If we can get some good blocking, we have the ability to be good, to surprise some teams," Thompson said. "Our goal every year is to be state champions, but I can't say I'd really predict a deep run in the playoffs, especially with American Heritage in our district. I would say that we're going to compete a lot better than we did last year."