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Glades Central has just one goal

11/9/2011

BELLE GLADE, Fla. -- The crack of the helmet gets louder and louder with every drill as the coaches search out players who haven't taken part in the tackling exercise yet.

"Aaron hasn't gone yet," said Glades Central offensive coordinator Reidel Anthony, referring to junior running back Aaron Baker.

The other players clown Baker for a second and he steps in the ring with senior defensive back Dominique Gibson, a Wake Forest commit. It's the best collision of the day as Baker and Gibson meet shoulder to shoulder with each trying to push the other back.

After about 10 seconds, coach Roosevelt Blackmon blows his whistle.

"Good job! Both of you!" Blackmon shouts before rounding up the team to prepare for the 11-on-11 period.

The Raiders haven't won a state championship since the 2006 season -- far too long for a community that demands nothing less. Glades Central made the title game in 2009 and 2010 under former coach Jesse Hester only to lose to Cocoa both times.

For his efforts Hester was fired at the end of last season.

"Losing is unacceptable here and you know that taking the job," Anthony said. "Football is what this community lives for and they want a good life."

Anthony knows, he played here in the early '90s along with his best friend Fred Taylor. Both won at Glades Central and went on to win a national title at the University of Florida in 1996.

Not only does he understand the expectations but he understands why the expectations are so high.

"No one should beat us as long as we do the right things," Anthony said. "You see all the talent on this field. No one can match up with us if we do what we're supposed to do."

This week the assignment is simple -- beat Pahokee. Glades Central and Pahokee share a space in the western area of Palm Beach County known as "The Muck". The muck is known for two things -- sugar cane and football.

Glades Central and Pahokee meet annually in "The Muck Bowl" and the winner enjoys area bragging rights for roughly 365 days a year. Glades Central is going for their fourth Muck Bowl championship in a row while Pahokee has struggled to a 2-7 record. Last year Glades Central won 58-0, this year it could be worse.

The Raiders have talent from the Class of 2012 down to the Class of 2015 and it starts with athlete William Likely. At 5-foot-9 and 175-pounds, Likely isn't the biggest on the team but he very well might be the best.

Likely began the season with a highlight-reel touchdown catch in a 24-10 victory over Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer. Since then he has started at both defensive back and running back while continuing to play some wide receiver and even quarterback.

"I really just do whatever the team needs me to do and right now they wanted me to play some running back," Likely said.

Likely's versatility will end up being his calling card. He's already received verbal offers from FSU, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Miami and Rutgers. Last week he was in attendance at the Alabama-LSU game.

"That was a great game to see live, the atmosphere was just crazy," Likely said. "I wasn't pulling for either team because I like both of them. Trent Richardson and Tyrann Mathieu are two players that I love to watch and I have a lot of respect for their games."

Likely has also been to Miami to watch the Hurricanes play Kansas State and attended the FSU-Oklahoma game earlier in the season.

"I grew up as an FSU fan," Likely said. "My household was really big into the Seminoles when I was growing up."

Likely says he's going to be a cornerback in college and would also like to participate in the return game.

"I just want to be in a position to make big plays for my team," Likely added.

Glades Central has two leaders in the Class of 2012, Gibson and linebacker Jatavis Brown, who have also become additional coaches out on the field.

Gibson committed to the Demon Deacons a few weeks back, choosing them over Vanderbilt, West Virginia and Auburn.

"I felt like Wake Forest was the most honest with me," Gibson said. "They told me what was going on and exactly where I could fit it."

Gibson expects to play strong safety but will also have the option of playing running back and could end up on both depth charts initially.

"The coaches said I would be second on the safety depth chart and fourth on the running back depth chart and I could spend a little time at both positions," Gibson added. "I'll probably play more strong safety though."

As for Brown, he's still looking and hoping for some more late offers to come through. Marshall has already offered along with FCS programs Georgia State and Eastern Illinois. He says Miami, Maryland and New Mexico State stay in contact and expects more offers this month.

He would love to stay home, however.

"I grew up a Hurricanes fan and I'm really hoping I can get that offer," Brown said. "I'm just going to keep working hard and see what happens."

Brown, one of the team's leading tacklers, is hoping wherever he lands will give him the best opportunity to play.

"I love football and I love winning so I just want to contribute to a program and help them win ball games," Brown added.

There's plenty of youth at Glades Central as well. Baker was a 1,000-yard rusher last year before losing his starting spot to Likely. However the 5-10, 190-pounder shouldn't be written off yet as he's scored six touchdowns in the Raiders' last two games.

"He just needs to continue to run tougher," Anthony said. "It's something we've talked about with him for a few months now. Once he gets it he's going to be one of the best running backs. He's started to pick up his game in the last few weeks."

Another sophomore that Anthony is high on is Ronquavion Tarver, a 6-3, 200-pound sophomore that playing tight end for the Raiders this season.

With the graduation of senior Jamie Wilson, expect Tarver to move the outside next year.

"I think he's going to have serious potential, especially when we start really working with him in the offseason," Anthony said. "He's going to have the size and he could be the next Kelvin Benjamin (an FSU signee)."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.