The conference call that took place between Naples High and Miami Central High school officials Tuesday morning is standard operating procedure in advance of high-profile football games played in Miami-Dade and Collier counties, officials from both counties confirmed.
However, shots were fired near the parking lot of Traz Powell Stadium, located near the Miami-Dade College North campus during a state playoff game nearly two weeks ago raised questions about how security will be handled during Friday’s Class 6A semifinal game between Naples and Miami Central. The call, which normally includes standard game info like what uniforms each team will wear, confirmed there will be at least 34 deputies in attendance to ensure the safety of all players, coaches and spectators.
Two officials from the Florida High School Athletic Association were also on the call.
“We want our folks here to be comfortable coming down knowing we did our due diligence and created the best possible plan,” said Collier County Schools athletic director Joe Kemper, who was on the 20-minute call with officials from both schools, including Miami-Dade Schools activities coordinator Cheryl Golden.
Kemper, a former AD at Barron Collier, said it’s common for schools to ramp up security for rivalry and postseason games due to the large number of fans who attend. He understands the gunfire that happened Nov. 20 during the last three minutes of Central’s 36-8 win over Carol City, where videos depicted players dropping to the turf following the shots fired and officials running to an exit raised concerns.
Miami-Dade will employ 20 uniformed deputies and eight not in uniform while six Collier County deputies will accompany the Golden Eagles, their band and three or more fan charter buses, Miami-Dade Schools spokesman John Schuster and Kemper said. Beyond that, neither were allowed to go into specifics about the security measures.
Deputies will be present as the buses unload before the game and as they load up following the game.
“Safety is always at the forefront of these calls,” Schuster said. “The security of the players, coaches and fans are a priority every single week. This week is no different.”
Traz Powell is the home to six Miami schools who don’t have on-campus stadiums, and is used for games Thursday through Saturday during during the fall. Schuster said gun-related incidents are few and far between there.
Three teenagers were arrested in connection with the Nov. 20 incident, according to the Miami Herald. Traz Powell hosted a Class 4A semifinal last week between Cocoa and Miami Washington with no incidents reported.
Naples coach Bill Kramer coached in Miami-Dade for 11 years and had a couple bouts with gunfire during games.
“I don’t think it will be an issue,” said Kramer, whose team is playing in its first state semifinal in three years. “I think it’s a rarity. But that’s nothing that we’re focusing on.”
At Traz Powell, the visitor and home stands are separated with no way to get from one side to the other once inside the stadium. Kemper said Naples fans should park and enter on the stadium’s east side when the games open at 6 p.m..
Central coach Roland Smith, whose program is seeking to become just third team in state history to go to six consecutive state finals, was unavailable for comment.