Raider Football rallies to eight win season in wild 2018 campaign


Zachary Letson

A roller coaster season for the Raiders Football team concluded with a regional semifinal loss at University School on Nov. 16. The team finished the wild season with a record of 8-4.

 Six games into the regular season, the team sat at 3-3, losing all three games by one possession each.

“The first six games were more of a family building process,” said Senior Defensive End D’Sean Perry. 

It was the third of the losses, in which the team lost a 20 point halftime lead to Champagnat Catholic in a heartbreaking 28-27 defeat on Sept. 28, that completely changed the season. Going into their bye week, the Raiders had a chance to turn things around and did just that. The team got healthier. Every team deals with the injury bug, and it would be crucial that the Raiders healed up when they got the chance.

“We always have a challenge in terms of injury. When we lose one player, it’s like we lose three,” said Raiders Head Coach Earl Sims.

The biggest change was in crunch time — when games came down to the wire, the Raiders dominated in the fourth quarter en route to five straight wins. 

Senior DE D’Sean Perry delivers a tackle against North Broward Prep on Sept. 7. Photo by Jen Uccelli.

The first win of the streak came with one of the season’s biggest tests, a matchup with the at-the-time 7-0 Kings Academy. The Lions looked as good as advertised, up 28-14 as the third quarter winded down at Sean Taylor Memorial Field. It was then that the game, and the season turned around for the Raiders. 21 unanswered points secured a 35-28 win over Kings Academy. The team one-upped that game with dominating double-digit road wins over Pinecrest Prep and La Salle.

The Raiders were rolling as they headed into regular season finale and homecoming game against John Carroll Catholic. With the team behind 10 points at the half, the Raiders came out of the locker room and gave their home fans a show, dominating the second half by outscoring the visitors 28-7 in the second half and suffocating the Rams in crunch time. A 42-31 win gave the Raiders their seventh win of the season. 

Sophomore Running Back Yulkeith Brown was the heartbeat of the Raiders offense all season long. 17 of the team’s 24 rushing touchdowns belonged to Brown. But it was his 1,430 rushing yards with a torrid 11.9 yards per carry that stand among few others in South Florida Conference.

Between running the football, catching the football, and returning punts and kicks, Brown’s numbers were good for a spot on the South Florida Conference 1st team offense. 

“He was phenomenal to watch, and we’re lucky to have a player that on our team accounted for so much,” said Raiders head Coach Sims. Brown shined on the ground, but it was a trio of Seniors that led the air attack: Quarterback Will Poses, and Wide Receivers Sean Moore and Nick Hassan.

Senior QB Will Poses runs the football against Benjamin School on Sept. 15. Photo by Jen Uccelli.

On the defensive side of the football, the Raiders were led by Senior Defensive End D’Sean Perry. Perry played in all 12 games and led the team with 89 total tackles. His strong 2018 campaign earned him 2018 South Florida Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Perry stood out, but wasn’t the only main cog in a defense that improved down the stretch.

“It’s a special thing we got on the defense. We’re like a family, to be honest” said Perry.

Junior Dante de Rosa recorded a team-leading 11 tackles per game in the eight games in which he was active. Senior Matteo Uccelli recorded one of the season’s biggest plays when he returned a key interception for a touchdown in the regional quarterfinals victory against Monsignor Pace. 

With the absence of a JV Football team during the 2018 season, younger players were thrown into game action more so than in years past. 

“Our resilience, due to a lot of young players playing, moving with the ebbs and flows of player development [and] still playing together as a team and winning more games even though we had so much youth,” said Sims when asked about what impressed him the most about his team.

In a season with many ups and downs, the Raiders’ late-season rhythm made  this a year to remember for players, coaches and fans.