Larry Blustein

SPRING SPOTLIGHT – 8A: Unfinished Business Drives Christopher Columbus

Larry Blustein
April 30, 2019 - 11:18 am

When Christopher Columbus beat Deerfield Beach to advance to the 8A state title game last year, it was a given that the Explorers would have their best chance to win a first ever state football title. Never worked out that way.

The game against a Jacksonville Mandarin team that has never had any success on the gridiron was indeed a wakeup call for this program – and while then head coach Chris Merritt and his team felt they had a chance to win it all, they may have been setting the table for the future.

As Merritt resigned after the season to take the head job at Bryant University, Columbus looked toward its past by bringing back Dave Dunn to continue what Merritt and this program started over the past few years.

Make no mistake, this is not the same Columbus team that in the past would fade away. Far too many quality prospects to believe that what happened last season was a fluke.

With Dunn calling the shots, the objective is once again the same. This is a team – with so many returnees from 2018 – that they are huge favorites – along with Deerfield Beach, Davie Western, Miami Palmetto and South Dade – to get to Daytona Beach in December.

With a schedule that has been upgraded the past few years, this is no longer a program that cannot get over the hump. Despite not winning a state title in Orlando last year, there is a belief that there is unfinished business – and this program has the talent to get it done.


The Explorers had an offense a year ago that was slowed down just one time and that was by a Carol City team that was one of the best in the country.

This season, no matter who appears on the schedule, this is an offense that will indeed light up the scoreboard.

Class of 2020 quarterback Brandon McDuffey returns after a solid season that saw him lead a group of playmakers that made a difference.

Class of 2021 signal caller Carlos Ross and 2022 rising prospect Khalil Anglin are also getting valuable experience.

When it comes to the running game, the Explorers have one of the best in Florida – as Class of 2020 standout Henry Parrish Jr. is joined by 2020 fullback Michael Dominguez, and 2021 emerging standouts Vershod Quinn and Maykel Solis.

Once again in 2019, the receiving corps will be impressive – with 2020 elite standout Xzavier Henderson leading the way.

The unit also features 2020 prospect Trynyty Conway, and 2021 standouts Tristan Dodge, Christopher Gibert, Jahvar McSween and Duriel Moss. Class of 2022 standout Shiloh Conaty is solid as well. There is also Class of 2021 TE/LS  Francisco Castro and TE Michael Dominguez.

The one position that this program has always been able to boast is up front on the line.

Class of 2020 athletes Brett Cortright (C), Jose Fernandez (G), Jordan Garcia (G), Andre Lamas (G) and Michael Puig (T) are all solid.

Cass of 2021 prospects include Jake Aguirre (C), Sebastien Laraque (T) and Ryan Rodriguez (T) figure to be talented as well.


Despite the graduation of some key playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, the Explorers boast a very talented and athletic group for 2019.

Up front, Class of 2020 defensive ends Eiljah Roberts and Maximus Villar are major playmakers who are getting looks from just about everyone. Tackle William Duval is also very impressive.

Class of 2021 elite nose guard Kesean Norris-Hayes, impressive defensive end Jabari Ishmael and nose guard Jared Trapp are all among the best in south Florida.

The group of linebackers that this program boasts include Class of 2020 players Luther Johnson V (OLB) and Patrick Silva (MLB) – as well as Class of 2021 prospects Joseph Price (OLB) and Dustin Vinas (MLB).

The key to this year’s defense will be in the secondary – where this unit was challenged in the state title game.

Class of 2020 prospects Branden Coleman (CB), Nicholas Figueredo (S) and Courtney Holmes (S) are all solid.

Underclassmen will also play a key role as well – with Gabriel Dozier (FS), Kris Falcon (S) and Rodney Williams (CB) leading the Class of 2021. The Explorers also boast some depth with 2022 cornerbacks Ken Moore Jr. and Cornelius Wright.

Class of 2021 kicker/punter Alejandro Prado is one of the best in south Florida


We began our series, looking at state championship game teams from 2018 with 2A state runner Champagnat Catholic, Chaminade-Madonna (3A) Cardinal Gibbons (5A), Miami Northwestern (6A), St. Thomas Aquinas (7A) and this week new coach Dave Dunn and Christopher Columbus (8A). We will also continue to take a look at the contenders in south Florida throughout the spring and summer.


Throughout the spring and summer – we will continue taking a look at several south Florida programs.

Click on the link to check them all out!

2A – Hialeah Champagnat Lions.

3A – Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna Lions.

5A – Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs.

6A – Miami Northwestern Bulls.

7A – Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Monday night (7-8) on WQAM (560AM - For the past 12 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot about football recruiting!