Larry Blustein

SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: Could This Be Western’s Year In 8A?

There was a time if you had the Western Wildcats on your schedule, it was pretty much a given that you would come away with a win. Not anymore!

What veteran head coach Adam Ratkevich and his football team have done over the past four seasons in build, add pieces on the field and in the coaching staff, and as we head toward the summer, this is one of the five teams, along with Deerfield Beach, South Dade, Miami Christopher Columbus and Miami Palmetto that many are looking at as a favorite to represent the south in December in Daytona Beach.

But before any of that happens, this program will need to play its toughest schedule in school history – which includes 7A power St. Thomas Aquinas, 4A power University School and several other teams that will be in the playoff hunt as well.

After a solid spring, this is a program that figures to pick up some valuable experience in the summer – with camps, combines and other events that will give them a huge advantage.


Make no mistake, while the offense will be much improved, with key players added and others maturing, the defensive side of the ball where the Wildcats will be one of the best in south Florida.

Up front, there is a solid group of seniors – led by dominating tackle Larry Johnson, who is among the best in Florida this coming season. His leadership will pave the way for some very gifted players.

In addition to Johnson, other Class of 2020 standouts Nick Birdseye, Davion Deveaux, Kevin Izquierdo, Nick Pena, Erik Rozanski and Eric White will all be huge this coming season.

Class of 2021 players not only will add depth, but also give this program a major advantage. Myles Bethel, Zahir Johnson and Alec Pursell are all solid.

The group of linebackers will also be impressive, but none has the ability to take over like Class of 2020 standout Bryan Miller, who may be one of the top prospects in all of south Florida.

Class of 2020 prospects Jonathon Lawdan is joined by Class of 2021 prospects Terrel Surles, Justin Mackie and Liam Muhlig, and Class of 2022 rising prospect Zak Mackie.

Perhaps the deepest part of the unit will a secondary that is loaded with playmakers.

Class of 2020 standouts such as Justin Hodge, who has been offered by many Power 5 programs. But he is not alone. There are Jaylin Collins, Herron Eniste, Nazir Forbes, Zion Joseph, Rashad Manning and Nick Whitton.

Class of 2021 players will also make a major impact – with Brian Blades, Latrell Sam-German, Zion King, Omar Simpson and Jeremy Weber. Also, Class of 2022 athletes Websley Etienne and Alex Soto add quality depth.


While the defense gets much of the attention – for good reason – there is plenty of talent on the offense.

With Monarch High 2020 transfer Zach D’Amico leading the way at quarterback, there is plenty to be optimistic about. Class of 2022 standout Trevor Harris is also being groomed for the future.

The running game will also be very impressive – with Class of 2020 talents Jason Beneby, Miles Friday, Jacob Grehl (FB) and Khaheim Simon.

Class of 2021 prospects Cody Brown and speedy Joey Vega will also be huge this coming season.

The deepest position on the offensive side of the ball will be receiver, where there are many top-flight players – such as Class of 2020 players A.J. Berry, Jimmy Hendricks, Pennsylvania transfer Johnny Hoffman, Semaj Jackson, Dominic Pagano, Danny Panchookian, Gio Santiago, and highly-regarded Karaun St. Louis and Shemarr Wright.

The Class of 2021 will also benefit the attack – with Danny Bross, Brock Burnette, Vinny Pagano and Jayson Salkey. There is also Class of 2022 prospect Gerard Jewel.

The Wildcats also use a tight end – and with Class of 2020 standouts Stephen Chadwick,

Luis Heran, Vinny Izzo, Philip Renje and Morgan Siegel, there are some quality players.

The story on any team is usually told up front – and with this year’s offensive line, under the direction of veteran coach Joe Coucelle, things will get interesting.

Big Jack Thibodeau, Sebastian Rojas and Ricky Williams are rising seniors, but there is plenty of talent in the Class of 2021 – with Nick Beckett, Blake Korn, Baylor Lukowski, Tristan Milord, Nate Morel and Zach Rinehart.

The kicking game will also been in good hands with Class of 2021 rising standout Matias Jaramillo.


It’s all about promoting the best talent in the country – and right up until the start of the 2019 season, we will spotlight south Florida football teams that figure to be in the mix for a state title this coming season.

We began our series, looking at state championship game teams from 2018 with 2A state runner Champagnat Catholic, two-time defending champ Chaminade-Madonna (3A) defending state champion Cardinal Gibbons (5A), two-time defending state champion Miami Northwestern (6A), state runner-up St. Thomas Aquinas (7A), and new coach Dave Dunn and state runner-up Christopher Columbus (8A).

Click on the link to check them all out!

2A – Hialeah Champagnat Lions.

3A – Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna Lions.

4A - Fort Lauderdale University School Sharks.

4A – Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons Chiefs.

5A – Miami Northwestern Bulls.

6A – Miami Central Rockets.

7A – Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

8A – Deerfield Beach Bucks.

8A – Miami Christopher Columbus Explorers.

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!