By: Wells Dusenbury
Following their 70-0 thrashing of Pahokee in the Muck Bowl, it looked like it was going to be a dream year for Glades Central. The Raiders finished the regular season at 10-0 with wins against two of the area's top programs in Dwyer and American Heritage. However, Glades Central had four of its top defenders suspended for its playoff run and would have their season come crashing down with a 29-13 defeat to Miami-Norland in the 5A Regional Finals.
The Raiders don't have time to think about last season though as they have some serious work to do in Roosevelt Blackmon's second year as head coach. The team has to replace a talented senior class that saw four players sign with Division 1-A schools. While the Raiders will be without the services of players like Dominique Gibson and Jaime Wilson, Glades Central does return one of the country's most electric players in Will Likely. The do-it-all senior, who won the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and the Lou Groza Award, will be expected to carry a heavy load for the Raiders in 2012.
Record in 2011: 12-1
Playoff result: Lost to Miami Norland 29-13 in 5A Regional Finals
Head coach: Roosevelt Blackmon (2nd year)
Returning starters: 3
Will Likely- WR/CB (Sr.) Listed as the 79th best player in the country by Rivals.
Aaron Baker- RB (Sr.) Bruising running back ran for 8 touchdowns last year.
Giovanni Lugo- QB/K (Soph.) One of the best kickers in the area and will compete at quarterback.
Biggest spring concern: Quarterback battle
For a second consecutive year, there's the strong possibility of a transfer quarterback getting the nod at Glades Central. Last year's starter Tanner Redish earned the job for his senior year after transferring from Glades Day. This year, a pair of transfers, Antwan Washington (Seminole Ridge) and T.J. Abrams (Royal Palm Beach), will compete with rising sophomore Giovanni Lugo for the starting job. While Abrams was a backup at Royal Palm, Washington had a standout season for the Hawks and could be a good fit in the Raiders more pass friendly offense.
Don't count out Lugo just yet though. The sophomore, who doubles as the Raiders' kicker, has looked sharp so far this spring throwing the ball and could realistically earn the starting job. Lugo also has the benefit of being the only QB who can play in the spring game, as Washington and Abrams are unable to play due to both players transferring mid-year.
Player to watch out for: Ronquavion Tarver
With standout receiver Jamie Wilson heading to Western Michigan, the Raiders have a big hole at the number one receiver position and Tarver could be the guy to fill it. The rising junior has great size and with opposing defenses having to focus so much on Likely, Tarver could be ready for a breakout season.
In their words:
"You get spoiled because in your first year you have a player like that. You want to continue to coach and have a player like that every year. A special kid on and off the field. Tremendous athlete. Tremendous student. I mean, as much as you can say about the kid. He is that guy." -Roosevelt Blackmon on Will Likely
If any other program had to replace 19 starters, it'd be crazy to list them as one of the top teams heading into the year. Glades Central isn't a normal program though. The Raiders are the epitome of the saying, "we don't rebuild, we reload," and there's no reason to believe they shouldn't do so again this year. There are tons of talented, young players waiting in the wings and they have the luxury of returning an unbelievable player in Likely, who makes plays on offense, defense and special teams. The Raiders may have lost too many players to compete for a state championship, but I have no doubt they'll be right up their among the class of the area and make a deep playoff push.
Spring Game: Atlantic (5/25)
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There are no games scheduled for today.