Posted: 6:18 pm Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
By Matt Porter
Note: Welcome to the PBGametime 2011 Spring Football Tour. During our three-week tour, we visit area teams, meet some of the top players and answer the most pressing questions. Today’s stop is American Heritage, where the Stallions are looking like a sure shot to return to the state tournament.
Click below to see the video, and come back at PBGametime.com in the coming days as we make more stops around the area.
Every team changes in the offseason in some way. No area team has changed more for the positive than American Heritage.
The Stallions you see in the spring game will be much different this fall. Because of FHSAA rules barring in-season transfers to participate in athletics at their new school, former Olympic Heights linebacker Zach Slafsky, lineman Kyle Mahoney and athlete David Tanis, former Cardinal Newman wide receiver Xavier Swinton and others are ineligible to play in Heritage’s spring game against Plantation-American Heritage, but will be there for the kickoff classic against Bradenton-Manatee.
The offseason movement doesn’t make Heritage too popular with some of the other schools in South County, but the Stallions’ new players say they made the right choice.
“It’s harder here,” said Slafsky, who joins an already-loaded squad that has been to the state finals three of the last four years. Do they have enough to get there again? Here are some things to ponder this spring:
Playmakers everywhere. The Stallions will replace senior wideout Herve Coby, who signed with Illinois, but there’s plenty of offensive weaponry in store.
Three players – defensive back Jhavon Williams (5-11, 180, No. 17 on the preseason Big Board), running back Jeremy Gaskins (5-11, 185, No. 22), WR Cameron Posey (6-2, 180, No. 23) and Slafsky (6-2, 235, No. 25) – are on our preseason Big Board, the list of the top seniors in the area.
The team returns its triple-pronged rushing attack of Gaskins, rising junior Greg Bryant and quarterback Marcus Davis. Swinton (6-0, 170) had 16 catches for 177 yards and one touchdown last year as a freshman and made was a second-team All-Area defensive back. Coby’s brother Marcus is a strong slot receiver who will see time at defensive back.
The Stallions are so loaded that Tanis, a second-team All-Area selection last year after rushing for 856 yards and 10 touchdowns, may not see much time on offense. That’s partly because a high ankle sprain that will keep him out this spring. He should compete at defensive back or linebacker in the fall, at least to start.
“We return all the key productive guys,” American Heritage coach Doug Socha said. “We lost Nestor Lantigua and Herve Coby, but we feel really good about who’s coming back.”
Backfield in motion. Gaskins and Bryant are the two backs, and Davis (5-9, 175) can take off if given room. It’s a crew that combined for 1,857 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns last season.
“I think Greg’s got a little bit better vision, and Jeremy at times can hit it a little bit harder,” Socha said. “There are more downhill runs that I’ll give to Jeremy, and some more read runs that I’ll give to Greg.”
Davis threw for 868 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 55.2 percent completion rate. He has Posey, who is coming off a wrist injury, and the younger Coby to throw to this year, along with Swinton. The return of 2012 TE Blake Davis (6-5, 225), who missed last season with an injury, creates another dynamic. Socha can use Davis and 2013 TE Tyler Provo (6-2, 225) in double-tight sets, and may use Slafsky as a red-zone option.
“Every year we look at how we can be better,” Socha said. “We’re going to take a look at some different sets and wrinkles, but we’ll continue to do what we do.”
Rising senior Nick La Sala had ACL and shoulder surgeries this offseason.
Defense will be a strength. Eight starters are coming back, two of them not going through spring because of injury. Sophomore lineman Giancarolo Bernardo and junior linebacker Ronald Bell are both out after shoulder surgeries. “They’ll be fine,” Socha said. Since the Stallions don’t have overpowering numbers, their playmakers play on D, too.
Expect guys like Coby and Posey to play DB, complementing Williams and upcoming senior Mike Wallace, who started last year. Swinton, as mentioned, was an All-Area DB last year, so expect him to get plenty of reps.
Football factory. There are plenty of Div. I coaches around the Delray Beach school because of all the Div. I-potential players. “I think there’s six this year, and probably three next year,” Socha said. Here are quick updates on them:
* Williams: Interest from MAC schools, Bowling Green, Purdue, Illinois, FAU and FIU.
* Posey: Offers from Bowling Green, Illinois and Purdue. Interest from Cincinnati, FAU, Nebraska, Rutgers and Wake Forest.
* OT Arthur Crouse (6-5, 255): Interest from Army, Indiana, Miami, Oregon and UCF.
* OT/DT Kelly Parfitt (6-6, 285): Offer from Bowling Green and Western Kentucky. Interest from Boston College, Penn State, USF and Wisconsin.
* Slafsky: Interest from Miami, Illinois, UNC, Nebraska and Bowling Green. Slafsky visited UNC over spring break. Likes UNC and Miami.
* Blake Davis recently took an official visit to TCU.
* Next season, Bryant, Bell, Provo and OT/DE Roderick Johnson (6-6, 281), an offseason transfer from Village Academy, should have plenty of interest.
State title ultimate goal, real possibility. Socha says his team has been moving forward from Jan. 3, when it came together for the first time this season.
“I think we’re starting to develop. There’s no way I can sit here on May 9 and tell you what we can accomplish,” he said. “If we take care of each day in the month of May, the month of June, the month of July leading up to August 8, I think we’re going to be in really good shape.”
They’ll have to be ready for a schedule that includes a Week 1 date with Atlantic, followed by Monsignor Pace, Glades Central, King’s Academy, Pahokee, Pope John Paul II, a bye, Benjamin, Cardinal Newman, Cavalry Christian and a season finale against Orlando-Jones.
They’ll also head to UCF’s 7-on-7 tournament June 4 and FAU’s team camp from June 17-19.
“We’re in pretty good shape. From January 3 until May 2, we kick their ass,” Socha said. “We came off a 70-play scrimmage on Saturday and expected a letdown on Monday, but we had a great practice. The mentality of this team is right. We’ve got 17 seniors and they’re really hungry. There’s competition. Nothing is safe.”