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The Prospector: Football provides hope at Sanford Seminole

College SportsFootballNFLSt. Louis RamsBethune-Cookman UniversityNCAA

SANFORD — Just off the banks of where the Central Florida flow of the St. Johns River gets wide enough to be called a lake, the community of Sanford sits.

It’s known for a lot of things. There’s history in this once-bustling river-port town on Lake Monroe. It’s a community going through a revitalization of its downtown area and, unfortunately for some, it’s a community that takes on the daily burden of trying to overcome crime, poverty and unemployment.

It’s currently most known for Trayvon Martin. That will pass, though not soon enough.

What remains constant, however, is a storied football tradition that builds upon its past with every season.

It’s from these surroundings that young athletes look to emerge, to find something better. Sanford Seminole High School produces football players. And if they can steer themselves in the right direction long enough, it’s where success stories are born.

The proud banner greets those who arrive at Thomas E. Whigham Stadium in the Tim Raines Athletic Park with the Seminoles’ proudest moment: 6A State Football Champions 2008.

This community will latch on to that moment forever, or at least until the next banner is raised. Each one remembers his or her place when their beloved boys from Sanford knocked off powerhouse Miami Northwestern. And each year, as they first don the pads of the Orange and Black, each player taking the field is looking to make his own history.

Jerode Jackson and Milton Williams are two of those current players. They represent the next in an assembly line that keeps churning them out. They start them young in Pop Warner and the conveyor belt keeps rolling.

They’ve watched those before them. Ray Ray Armstrong, Andre Debose, Dyron Dye, Toby Durham, Charlie Green, Thurman Byrd, Jarkevis Fields, Tyrone Bouie, Serderius Bryant, Eric Farkas, among many others, were all on that championship team, if only a roster member. There were others before them, like Jeff Faine, who went to Notre Dame and spent 10 years in the NFL. Jeff Blake also made it to the NFL, as did Reggie Branch.

Baseball great Raines, who donated to the athletic complex that bears his name, also was a star football player at Seminole before going onto greatness in the major leagues.

Current Seminoles’ lonetime assistant coach Ron Moore went to Seminole High. He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, as well. His roots are strong. Two of his boys, also Seminole products, are off to play college football.

Armstrong, after getting tied up in the University of Miami’s NCAA mess, went pro this spring and signed as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams. Durham went to Minnesota but has been saddled with off-field issues.

Numerous others have played at the NCAA’s highest level, which is now called the Football Bowl Subdivision. Debose will be a senior at Florida, Dye enters his final season of eligibility at Miami, Bryant is a junior at Ole Miss and three months ago Ronnie Moore, son of the assistant coach, signed to play at Bowling Green.

Still others are at lower-division schools. Fields, Bouie and Ray Martin are all on the Bethune-Cookman roster. Byrd is at Reedley (Calif.) College, Farkas at Delaware, Green is at Savannah State, Roger Dixon is at Stillman College in Alabama and Ron Moore Jr., yep, another offspring of assistant coach Moore, is at Tennessee-Chattanooga.

This year, Walter Scapecchi signed with Sacred Heart of Connecticut; Rashaad Hampton signed with Mars Hill of North Carolina; and E.A. Watkins, London Byrd and Karl Calhoun all signed with Virginia Union.

“Ray Armstrong and them they played a great season [2008] and went to state and they won. We got tradition at Seminole and we just gotta keep it going,” Jackson said. “We’re going to try our best this year and go back to state. That’s what we’re looking for, state champs.

“Ray went to the St. Louis Rams. I salute him. He went and that shows us young’uns still here that we can make it too. That’s giving us a better outlook on life.”

Jackson, a defensive back who is ranked No. 58 in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super60, has yet to receive a scholarship offer, but he’s getting plenty of looks.

“I just keep trying to get those looks,” Jackson said. “I got no offers, but I’m trying to get ’em.”

Williams has one offer in his pocket from Bethune-Cookman and the wide receiver is hoping for more.

“It feels pretty good because I’ve been working hard in the offseason, and for a college to be looking at me is a blessing to me,” Williams said. “I’m just going to keep working hard practicing and keep doing my thing and hopefully I get some more in the future.”

 

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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College SportsFootballNFLSt. Louis RamsBethune-Cookman UniversityNCAA
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