The Hialeah High School Thoroughbreds are gearing up for another season in perhaps the toughest conference in Florida. With traditional powers Miami Northwestern and Miami Central looking to be just as good as always, the Thoroughbreds must improve on last season's 7-4 record if they are to make a big splash in the state playoffs.
"We didn't beat Central and Northwestern last year, which you need to do in order to get into the playoffs," Berman explains. "We return 15 starters, including most of the key positions. For example, we have four of the starting five offensive linemen returning. The kids and coaches are working hard to make sure that we beat them both this year. It definitely won't be easy because we play in such a hard conference."
Two players who will be vital in Hialeah's run to capture the conference crown and to make a splash in the playoffs are Corey Lemonier and Calvin Smith. Both players are highly recruited by traditional powerhouses such as Florida, and by non-traditional schools such as New Mexico.
The 6'-4", 225 pound Lemonier is ranked as one of the best defensive ends in the country. With 4.8 speed, Lemonier has all the athletic ability in the world to dominate at his position.
"Corey has big hands, and he's got as quick as a first step as you'll find. At Florida's Friday Night Lights camp, he was just incredible competing amongst some of the top recruits in the state and the country. He blew them away. No one there could really stop him. He's so quick off the ball, and his technique is as good as they come."
However, Lemonier does have some things he needs to work on.
"The main thing is he just needs to stay low when coming off the ball. Sometimes he comes high, so we're trying to teach him to stay low. Our defensive line coach is very good, so I know he's learning from one of the best."
The 6-'4", 277 pound Calvin Smith holds many of the same offers as Lemonier including Illinois, Florida State, Florida, Miami, New Mexico, Notre Dame, and Tennessee.
One surprising school in the hunt for Smith is New Mexico. Although not a school that traditionally recruits the state of Florida, Berman believes the new coaching staff has made an impact on Smith.
"For Calvin, New Mexico is a strong player because of the ties he has to Coach Locksley, the former Illinois coach now at New Mexico."
Berman believes Calvin's success on the football field is because of his improved physical form and dedication in the weight room.
"The key for Calvin is his stamina. He plays both ways for us. He's a left tackle on offense and a defensive tackle on defense. Sometimes with two-way players, they tend to take plays off because they just don't have the stamina to perform at their highest level for an entire game.
"However, Calvin's stamina is much better going into this season than last. He's in really good shape, better than last year. He's stronger, faster, and bigger. He does a great job of using his hands. Like Corey, he was pretty much unstoppable at Friday Night Lights.
"He does need to continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger in the weight room. He's made some strong gains in the weight room this summer. He must keep improving with his feet and with his technique to be successful on the next level."
The success of Lemonier and Smith on the field is matched by their success off the field.
"Both Corey and Calvin are excellent football players and they have the potential to play on Sundays, but they are also really high character kids. Both are solid with their GPA and their academics. They haven't taken any tests yet."
Illinois Coach Reggie Mitchell came down during the spring to evaluate the players on Hialeah High School. While Lemonier and Smith received the most attention, another player that caught his eye was Ravvone Carter.
"Ravvone plays safety for us. He holds about 7 offers with his best offer being from West Virginia. He's in the 2010 class and is 6'-0", 182 pounds. He runs a 4.5 40. Coach Mitchell liked him quite a bit, but Illinois hasn't offered yet."