Summer Spotlight: Western Emerges As A Playoff Team Once Again In 2018

Larry Blustein
June 11, 2018 - 1:26 pm

Larry Blustein

While many coaches do not buy into changing the culture of any program, others, such as Western head coach Adam Ratkevich, thoroughly believes in it.

In his many coaching stops across Broward County, the one -time Miramar High standout saw what can happen when solid coaching meets potential - and at every stop in his successful career - he has applied that approach.

As he had the opportunity to be around several elite football players along the way, Ratkevich also has been blessed with assistant coaches who have always been on the same page - and have that same year round passion that he shares.

From camps and combines - to 7-on-7 events, Ratkevich found that exposing the athletes to top competition will always win out. That held true this past season - when the Wildcats advanced to the playoffs and ended going further than any program in school history.

With upset wins over Deerfield Beach and Palm Beach Central, Western advanced to the third round of the 8A state playoffs - before losing to eventual state runner-up Delray Atlantic.

That setback to the Eagles served as a reminder that Western’s team had not only arrived, but showed that those off-season –on-7 meetings with powers such as Miami Booker T. Washington and others - were indeed what was needed to get this program to that next level.

Even though there were some key losses from the best team in school history, the Wildcats ended this spring with new faces and plenty of optimism.

On offense, losing veteran quarterback Harrison Story (Florida Tech) was indeed tough, but getting Class of 2019 prospect Jesse Rivera from Archbishop McCarthy has worked out very well for this program.

Fellow senior Zack Fifelski and promising Class of 2021 standout Dylan Romig are solid as well.

When you lose one of the best running backs you have ever had, looking for a replacement could take a long while, but the Wildcats are indeed fortunate with the emergence of Class of 2019 standouts Eric Cuevas and David Guillen. There is also rising sophomore Jason Beneby and Class of 2021 rising prospect JoJo Vega.

Throwing the ball will be a must like it ws last year. The Wildcats head into spring with seniors Emmanuel Akinbehinje, Hayden Blount, 2019 - Kingsley Grissett and Alex Lee.

The Class of 2020 also has plenty of promise with impressive Peyton Monaco, versatile Daniel Panchookian (PK), Phillip Renje, Giovanni Santiago, Morgan Siegle and Mateo Urbaneta, The Wildcats also have Class of 2021 - Daniel Bross and Matias Jaramillo.

Any offense is only as good as the line, and while the Wildcats are rebuilding, there is some talent to choose from.

Class of 2019 big men Dylan Decasseres, Patrick Grillo and Marcel Martinez are joined by rising juniors Sebastian Rojas, A.J. Rubio, promising Jack Thibodeau and Ricky Williams

The future looks solid as well with Class of 2021 hopefuls Nicholas Beckett, Raymond Cuervo, Baylor Lukowski, Tristen Milord, Nataniel Moral, Zachary Rinehart and Logan Zollo.

DEFENSE IS YOUNG AND TALENTED

When the 2018 season opens up, you will find that the Wildcats are very impressive on the defensive side of the ball. But at the same time, they are very young.

Up front, there are just two seniors, but Austin Cordero and playmaker John Panchookian (DE) are very good and will display leadership.

But where this program appears to be really good is the Class of 2020 – where Nick Birdseye (DE), Stephen Chadwick, Larry Johnson, Zion Joseph, Nicholas Pena and Eric White are all impressive.

With several key losses at linebacker, the objective in the offseason has been to rebuild the position – and with rising seniors Angel Cepero, Aaron Desouza, Jarrett Hampton and Archbishop McCarthy transfer Gino Sandora, things are looking good.

Add in Class of 2020 standouts Luis Heran, Jonathan Lawdan and promising star Brian Miller, and things look good. Class of 2021 rising prospects Tristan Hendrick, Justin Szyrr-Mackie and Liam Muhlig are also getting better and better all the time.

Last season, it was not easy throwing against the Wildcats’ secondary, and with a solid spring, things look very good.

Seniors Cameron Decasseres, Lilton Horne and Myles Wilson are all very good. But so are Class of 2020 standouts Nazir Forbes, Jacob Grehl, Danny Santos, and Jeremy Weber.

The Wildcats are also very excited with Class of 2021 standouts Nicholas Whitton, Zion King, George Podubynsky and nationally-rated Omar Simpson, Jr.

For the past 11 years, the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show has promoted and exposed high school and college players and coaches as part of a radio show on WQAM - https://wqam.radio.com/categories/south-florida-high-school-sports - as well as our Social Media (Facebook/Twitter).