While the preseason Super 25 football rankings won’t come out for a few weeks, this is one of a series on teams that could contend in the Super 25 high school football rankings next season. We previously looked at De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), South Panola (Batesville, Miss.), Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.), Miami (Fla.) Central, Chandler, Ariz, DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), Allen, Texas; Cedar Hill, Texas, Webb City, Mo., Clay-Chalkville (Pinson, Ala., Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), Centennial (Corona, Calif.), Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.), St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale).
Team: Flanagan (Pembroke Pines, Fla.)
2014 finish: Went 13-1, losing 16-12 to Columbus (Miami) in the 8A semifinals.
Tradition: Flanagan, in existence since 1996, won its first football playoff game last season.
2015 schedule: Plays Oct. 2 at Miramar; at home Oct. 23 vs. Cypress Bay; and on Nov. 6, at reigning 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale)
Top returnees (years listed are for next school year): Senior LB Devin Bush Jr., who was a first-team All-State player last season with 67 tackles and 4.5 sacks and senior DB Devin Gil, a Michigan commit who had 64 tackles and three interceptions.
Toughest to replace: All-State linebacker Adrienne Talan, who signed with Nebraska and quarterback Ryan Stanley, a Florida A&M signee who passed for 3,001 yards and 30 touchdowns and ran for 357 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season.
Top newcomers: WR Dredrick Snelson, who transferred from American Heritage (Plantation), had 35 catches for 729 yards and three touchdowns last season. Another big-name transfer, Kato Nelson from Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah), was the likely starting quarterback but will miss significant time after having knee surgery this week.
Outlook: The Falcons appear to be on the upswing. New coach Devin Bush, who played safety for Florida State and for three NFL teams, helped lead the Falcons to their first district and regional titles since the school opened in 1996.
“I’ve got a group of guys this year who are more serious ballplayers,” Bush said. “We are trying to think on one accord, so we don’t have ups and downs. Every time we go out, that’s just the way we do it. You ask these kids to bust their hump in the hot sun, because this is the way to win. I’ve had too much experience to think otherwise. I was on Florida State’s first national championship team (in 1993) and with the St. Louis Rams, we went from the worst team in the league to winning a Super Bowl (XXXIV in 2000).”
While Bush said his team’s offensive line could use a little more depth, the team’s defense looks solid.
“We have a pretty good nucleus coming back, guys with a lot of experience,” Coach Bush said. “We played (the semifinal loss to Columbus) without one of our key starters (his son, Devin Bush Jr., who broke his wrist). I think we can compete with any team in the country. We just have to stay healthy.”
Besides Bush Jr., the defense features a wealth of talent, particularly in the secondary. That includes Josh Mettelus, another Michigan commit, plus Rocco Marucci, Mark Pleffner and Charles Williams. Another likely secondary starter, junior Stanford Samuels III, instead will play quarterback because of the injury to Nelson, his cousin.
“He has a really good arm,” Bush said of Samuels. “He has more arm talent than our other quarterbacks, but he’s just getting back into the swing of it. He had been a quarterback earlier in high school but we had already had a four-year starter in there. The good thing is we are really deep at defensive back, so we can get by.”