In the tunnel leading to Camping World Stadium, Keidron Smith addressed his team before his last game as a ThunderWolf.
“Keidron was the voice,” Oxbridge coach Brendan Kent said. “He spoke to our team and gave them some words of inspiration and talked about his time at Oxbridge and what it meant to be in that game at that time. It was Keidron’s voice, and everybody was just listening.”
Smith said: “I was just telling them about how it was my last game. And the underclassmen, I just told them it’s no longer my team. I’m no longer the leader of the defense.”
Smith had a solid game, getting four tackles and snagging a punt and returning it 34 yards, but Oxbridge Academy fell just short, losing the Class 3A state title game 31-28 to Hollywood-Chaminade Madonna. It was a disappointing end to what was otherwise a stellar season from Smith, who was chosen as the 2017 Palm Beach Post All-Area Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was a (good achievement) for the school and the program, but it was a tough loss,” he said. “I can’t really say anything bad about the season. The boys played their hearts out that last game. It was just a tough loss.”
The loss in Orlando was the first time the ThunderWolves have ever made it to a state championship, and Kent attributes that, in part, to Smith.
“The expectations are high at our school,” Kent said, “and he’s part of the class that really set that foundation and has done a great job of laying the groundwork for us.”
Smith spent all four seasons of his high school career at Oxbridge, developing into one of the top players in the county.
“As he got older, the more football he played, the slower the game came to him. It slowed down, and he was able to play faster,” Kent said. “He really matured in that way, as a football player, and he really matured as a leader.”
Smith ended his senior season with 41 tackles and three interceptions. He allowed only one touchdown all season, and it was against Alabama-bound Xavier Williams in the title game.
Smith may get a chance to get the better of Williams, as the two will be regular opponents in college. Both players signed with their future teams during the early signing period: Williams with the Crimson Tide and Smith with its Southeastern Conference division rival, Ole Miss.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Smith said. “I waited 18 years to do that. I made my family proud.”
Reggie Alexis, Cardinal Newman, Sr., DL: Alexis had a prolific season on the Newman line, racking up 54 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 17 sacks.
Herman McCray, Oxbridge Academy, Sr., DL: McCray, a Georgia State commit who also plays tight end, led the ThunderWolves with 79 tackles. He also had 3.5 sacks.
Mike Morris, American Heritage, Jr., DL: The Florida State commit is one of the top juniors in the country, and he had 84 tackles, 31 for loss, and four sacks.
Latarie Kinsler, Pahokee, So., DL: The 6-foot-4 defensive lineman had 60 tackles, 12 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Kinsler is a Louisville commit.
Horace Stephenson, Glades Central, Sr., LB: Stephenson racked up 90 tackles, including four for loss, and five sacks in only eight games played.
Jason McCleod, Oxbridge Academy, Sr., LB: McCleod, a Penn signee, was second on the ThunderWolves with 70 tackles. He also had two sacks and two interceptions.
Brandon Moses, American Heritage, Jr., LB: Moses was one of the top tacklers in Palm Beach County, racking up 113 along with 26 tackles for loss. He had four sacks.
V’Lique Carter, Oxbridge Academy, Sr., DB: The senior Pitt signee played all over the field but made the biggest impact in the ThunderWolves’ loaded secondary, notching a pair of interceptions and 31 tackles.
Jamari Laster, American Heritage, Sr., DB: Laster allowed only eight completions all season, but he intercepted seven balls thrown in his direction.
E.J. Jackson, Glades Central, Jr., DB: Jackson, who recently received offers from Louisville and South Carolina, had six interceptions. When paired with Green, the two made a formidable pair of corners.
Jamarian Green, Glades Central, Sr., DB: Green had an astounding nine interceptions for the Raiders, breaking up 26 passes, as well.
DL: Wilkevious Davis, Glades Central, Sr.
DL: Brandon Hudgins, Oxbridge Academy, Jr.
DL: Jamarius Landers, American Heritage, Jr.
DL: Michael Police, Pahokee, Sr.
LB: Chris D’Or, Cardinal Newman, So.
LB: Maceo McClain, Glades Central, Sr.
LB: Dorian Jones, Oxbridge Academy, Jr.
DB: Cory Croteau, King’s Academy, Jr.
DB: Antavious Lane, Oxbridge Academy, Jr.
DB: De’Vuntray Hampton, Pahokee, Sr.
DB: Tommy St. Julien, Cardinal Newman, Jr.
DL: Adam Vespi, American Heritage; Nick Jones, Cardinal Newman; Francis Laurieux, Milton Rhoden, Kourtney Ware, Glades Central; Prince Hall, Kevin Higgans, Jupiter Christian; Carolo Basile, King’s Academy; Ta’Quan Kinsler, Pahokee; Zach Elgart, St. Andrew’s; LB: Marc Dagobert, American Heritage; Jojo LaBovick, Benjamin; Brock Chase, Jaydon Hood, Cardinal Newman; Yasser Halum, Rett Lohman, Glades Day; Noah Ross, King’s Academy; Kyle Vanputenvink, Oxbridge Adademy; DB: Marcel Quince, American Heritage; Joey Mockoviak, Cardinal Newman; Elie Fils-Aimes, Glades Central; Jacob Camacho, Anthony McPhee, Glades Day; Joshua Pierre-Louis, Oxbridge Academy.