PALM BEACH GARDENS - How do you get an edge on the competition? Why has your team won 90 percent of its games over the past five seasons?
The answer to those questions are quite simple. It comes down to lifting weights and keeping in top shape five days a week in the summer. It means that taking any time away from the game could cost you a win – or perhaps maybe more in the fall.
For head coach Jack Daniels and his Dwyer Panthers, the reasons that this program has been among the state's elite since 1999 could come from the fact that this team will work harder and give more to the sport than its opposition in the summer.
Coach Jack Daniels, Josh Wilkins
Standing in the hot sun of a late spring, early summer afternoon, Daniels watches his team lift for over an hour, run and loosen up for 20 more and then work on things that this team will need when summer practice opens in the first week of August when all eyes are on a 4A state title.
While talk about Miami's Booker T. Washington, Edison and Jackson perhaps standing in the way of the Panthers making it to Miami for the 4A state championship in December, Dwyer has been down this long road of no respect before.
Last season, after getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs, they beat Hollywood Hills on the road and then narrowly lost at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. That left the returning players believing that even though things will be tougher this time around, the understanding that it can happen is on everyone's mind.
"The one thing about the kids in this program, they fully understand that hard work adds up to success," said Daniels. "They have watched this program succeed through hard work, talent and desire."
While this isn't the most experienced senior class Daniels and the Panthers have had, it could make a claim for being one of the most athletic. Receiver/defensive back Daron Love (6-1, 185), speedy (4.46) receiver Josh Wilkins (5-10, 165), running back/linebacker Matt Speed (5-9, 215), running back Antwain Wallace (5-10, 170), center/linebacker Rick Burgess (6-2, 230), defensive lineman Richard Nelson (6-3, 260), offensive lineman Richard Meldrum (6-4, 275) and the much-anticipated return of basketball standout Tuboris Larkins (6-5, 250) to tight end and defensive end are certainly major pluses in the Panthers' attack.
Love is one of those simply unheard of athletes who remains a mystery on the recruiting trail. Not one person has ever mentioned him as a top player, yet everyone on this team, including the coaching staff, and those who have played against him over the past two years, believes he's as good as anyone in the state as a receiver or a safety prospect.
"I would put Daron against anyone that I've seen play," Daniels said. "Don't fool yourself, colleges are well aware of what he can do. The people who follow recruiting just haven't watched him."
Love is a solid, quick football player who runs outstanding pass patterns, has exceptional speed and may have the best hands of any receiver coming out of Florida. In another words, someone missed a potential top 30 player in this state.
If someone missed out on Love, they certainly haven't watched enough film on Wilkins, who is fast, athletic and has a 3.5 grade point average in the classroom. Together with Love, they form a very good receiving tandem.
Wilkins has turned into an elite player who is rising up the charts every day. He could be that ONE player who ends up being the biggest surprise during the next eight months!
In the offensive backfield this season, Speed and Wallace will carry much of the load.
Speed, who is also regarded as one of the top linebackers in south Florida, is impressive and has been a standout at every camp he has attended. His power, quickness and strength give him a solid edge over the opposition.
"I have worked very hard because I know that I will be called upon to do some more things this season," said Speed. "I am very excited to get this thing going."
Wallace runs a solid 4.4, can catch the ball out of the backfield and one of the players who Daniels believes will have a breakout season, helping with the transition.
"Watch Wallace play this game and you'll have a better idea of what he brings to the table in the way of being a team player," said Daniels. "This young man is a worker who can change a game around in an instant."
Burgess is perhaps one of the major reasons this team has that special chemistry. Playing offensive center, linebacker and being the first to arrive at workouts and the last to leave is something that everyone on this team has recognized.
"Rick Burgess has come a long way to be here," Daniels said. "He has been around this program for a long time and has always wanted to wear this uniform. From his days as a ball boy, he has really made major strides and has become a football player."
There are a pair of linemen who also can make a difference this coming season. One who plays exclusively on the offensive side of the ball and another who will be looked upon for help both ways.
The maturity of Meldrum on the offensive line is perhaps due to his success as a wrestler. He has worked his way up to the position where he will make a serious run a state title next February in Lakeland, but first he has football to worry about.
Meldrum has gotten quicker and stronger and his confidence level has shot through the roof.
While Meldrum has shown improvement offensively, Nelson is a player that the coaching staff has been waiting to come into his own – both ways.
Here is yet another football player who colleges throughout the country kept an eye on throughout the spring and much of the early summer.
"Richard is strong, very athletic and someone who will easily catch the attention of opponents as well as colleges," said Daniels. "Just watch him work and play this game and you'll see exactly what we all see in him."
Another rising senior is someone this program missed in a major way last season. A basketball player as well as a talented football standout who made a lasting impression as a sophomore, Larkins is an athlete college coaches fell all over this spring. From Miami to Georgia and just about every college in between, they all saw the potential in perhaps someone who can make up for the lost season quickly, but as long as basketball remains a priority he will not be regarded as one of the top football prospects.
Daniels and the coaching staff simply do not address the Larkins issue. They believe that if he wants to be a force on the football field, he will put more into it.
In addition, the senior class will also be lead on offense by receivers Mike Tuscani (5-10, 170), Vinny Turforo (5-10, 180) and James Henderson (5-10, 165), running backs Daniel McAndrew (6-1, 190), linemen Fred Ross (6-2, 240),
On defense, linebackers Adrian Cires (6-0, 170), Andrew Roper (5-11, 180) and Nathon Behrent (6-1, 190) will lead the way.
The junior class will also have its share of quality athletes as well with wide receiver/defensive backs Jason Bryan (6-1, 165) and Wil Brown (6-2, 185), defensive linemen Jasper Grimes (6-1, 230), quarterback Rocke Gricco (5-10, 165), defensive backs Anthony Pagnotta (5-9, 150) and Lloyd Blythe (5-10, 165), running back/defensive back Anthon Magras (5-7, 155), linebackers Evan Millard (6-1, 205), Tommy Driscall (5-11, 200), and linemen Daniel Jackson (6-1, 235), Nick Young (5-10, 200), Vince Leonard (6-1, 230) and Emilio Gonzalez (5-10, 210), and receivers Bobbie Bohne (6-0, 160) and Evans Pierre (6-0, 160), and tight end Bobby May, a 6-1, 185-pounder.
Chase Merrill, David Pittman
While there may be a few sophomores to emerge into the starting lineup for the Panthers in 2005, the first two you will hear about are quarterbacks David Pittman (6-0, 190) and Chase Merrill, a 5-10, 170-pounder.
"Both of these young men showed plenty of promise during the spring and need to prove they can step in and take a lead role on this team.
In addition, receiver/linebacker Chris Cameron (5-10, 165), running back/linebacker Brodie Cosamento (5-10, 165), running back Mike Danza (5-9, 180), linebacker Terrance Bullard (5-11, 200), receivers Leonard Seymore (5-10, 150) and Roosevelt Maggitt (6-2, 180), and lineman Bruce Stone (5-10, 220) will also add some much needed depth.
The trip to see how a program continues to win and churn out quality football players each year was worth it. We will continue to visit schools from Pensacola to Key West this summer to get the best stories for the fans to read about.
Want www.floridakids.us to profile your school in the summer? Just let us know by e-mailing FloridaKids1@hotmail.com or CFishbein@aol.com.
Immokalee, Blountstown, Miami Central, Naples Lely, Fort Myers, Tallahassee Godby, Lauderdale Lakes Boyd Anderson, Pompano, Boca Raton, Greenacres John I. Leonard, Ocala Trinity Catholic, Miami Booker T. Washington, Melbourne Florida Air Academy, Fort Myers Dunbar, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, Davie Nova and North Fort Myers knows what it's like to have their program exposed for all to see!
SUMMER REPORT: Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer
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