Larry Cole: Coach Thompson, share your thoughts on your season, now that it is over and you can reflect.
Blaze Thompson: I'm really proud of the kids and how the coaching staff kept them focused through a tough season. We played a lot of 6A teams and had an undefeated season, we achieved our three goals; A) become district champs, 2) win the Muck Bowl and 3) win a State Championship.
I can't speak more highly of this team and coaches and of our senior leadership. They stood up and played in every game. They took one game at a time and look at where it got us.
LC: What was the mindset of the team as you entered the season?
BT: Without a doubt, we had faith. We believed we had the ability to win each game. The way we entered the season we had a bull's eye on our back. We had to go out and not take anyone lightly and we had to stay focused. We couldn't look forward to any of our opponents during a game week or an off week. We couldn't show up and not play up to our set standards. We couldn't play down to opponents, staying focused was key because of that bull's eye on us.
LC: When the goal of a State Championship was in sight, did your mindset change at all?
BT: We kept the play to a minimum, but we let kids have fun. Practice was serious as we talked lot about getting to this level beforehand. We told out seniors that this is what they were looking for and this is their last chance, this is where they need to shine, a lot of colleges will be looking, and if you are going to get scholarships you need to perform each week and get those highlights to attract scouts. We kept reminding them every week. We need to play our game and play hard for 4 quarters, this was no different.
LC: What are some of the ideals you've tried to instill into your players?
BT: Let me give you an example.
Each week, in the playoffs, we faced a team that had a player that was a threat. The first week we played against a team that had the leading rusher in Broward County. The focus was on stopping him. We really didn't change our approach as we maintained to talk about our own focus and we play to our focus and play to our assignments and be able to take care of business.
Then against in the second round, against King's Academy, they play us hard and give a good game every time. So we'd pinpoint each game plan or some kind of something we could key on. Their running back Miles Jackson, rushed for over 150 yards against us the first time, so we didn't want that to happen. We gave them something tangible to shoot for. Then against Dalton Thompson, we knew we had to play off the wall to stop him, we had to find something to motivate the kids. Not on the fact that we needed to maintain focus and play one game at a time. The last time we lost was to King's Academy. We lost focus and we don't want that to happen again.
LC: What motivates your team? What are the goals that you lay out for your players?
BT: Listen, we were considered an undisciplined team and we thought because of it there are to be all kinds of things that can and will motivate us. Look, we are out in the Glades. We don't have best equipment and facilities, but we stay hungry and we try to provide the best for the kids. That is something we used to motivate ourselves. We can always get better and do something to achieve.
They think that football is the only way out of the Glades, as much as we tell them to get out academically, that they can get to college not just with football. But that is something that is motivates them most.
They are driven and highly motivated to succeed on the football field.
LC: What does the State Championship mean for the seniors?
BT: One thing we talked about before season is building a legacy, a tradition, that was also a motivating factor, so it means a lot.
When you have such a small school and you have so many players that are predicted to go to Division 1, it sets the bar high, real high. The next groups of seniors do not want to lower the bar, they want to push the bar, it a real motivating factor for them. When you have players of this quality, and they take that on, they practice the way they play, and it makes kids go out there and play harder. It is like they try and get the kids to model that behavior after them.
LC: Describe the bond that these players have.
BT: We went through some tragic events up here as well. There were a group of local Pahokee graduates in a tragic car accident a few weeks ago and it really bound the players together. This is a real small community, and any tragedy just binds these kids together, it just reminds us how short life is. Those are the types of things that helped us stay together and somehow, you can see it being a little more of a motivating factor for this community.
LC: What is it like to play in an area that year after year has the level of talent that it produces?
BT: We take pride in this area. We call it Muck City. Belle Glade, Glades Central, and Pahokee are in the top five most winning programs in the state of Florida. That means a lot for those in the area when the emphasis on football to get these kids. We keep them focused on that and everything else falls into place.
LC: Describe some of your seniors in as little words as possible, and what they meant to your team.
Anthony Sheppard, Quarterback – General.
Jatavious Miller, Linebacker. – Playmaker. He covers the field. He is a special kid…pure playmaker.
Martavious (Tay) Odoms, Wide Receiver. – Ridiculous. Anything in his area, he catches everything. Unstoppable.
Janoris Jenkins, Cornerback. – Total Athlete. Anything you need him to do, whatever, he does it all.
Micanor Regis, Defensive Tackle. – Game Changer. Everyone he ever went against, he took down and took control of the line of scrimmage.
Artis Ford, Wide Receiver – Great player. He'll go great things.
LC: How do you help your seniors choose the right school?
BT: We talk about similarities to out offense and the schools they want to attend. They let me know what they want to do and we beat the pavement trying to get these kids offers and choices and we try to let them decide. We just try and give them the guidance they need. We all want to see them succeed.
LC: Coach, I appreciate the time you took out of your day for the interview, thanks a lot.
BT: No problem, you're welcome, and thank you.