High School Sports

Byrnes coach makes his return

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Finally, game week is here.

Two high school football teams - one in Fort Lauderdale, the other in Duncan - have been looking forward to this kickoff for months.

St. Thomas Aquinas and Byrnes, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in USA Today and several other polls, have been planning for this game since mid-January.

Now, it's time to play. But for one coach, Friday night isn't just about football.

He's hoping for big postgame hugs from the grandkids and some time to catch up with friends.

Mike Srock, the strength and conditioning coach at Byrnes, wants to celebrate a homecoming of sorts.

Before moving to South Carolina, the coach spent 28 years in south Florida from 1970 to 1998. He worked with two Broward County schools, Stranahan and Northeast.

This week, he and his Rebels arrive to take on St. Thomas (3-0) in the nation's premier high school football game at 8 p.m. Friday at Lockhart Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

No wonder he can't wait for the team plane to land.

"I'm going to enjoy it," Srock said. "I've made a lot of phone calls. I'm excited to show Byrnes off to my friends and family in Florida."

There's plenty of reason for Srock - who will only joke that he's in his 60s - to be proud of his Rebels.

Byrnes (5-0) has won six state championships in the past seven years.

Talented players such as running back Marcus Lattimore and quarterback Chas Dodd, a Rutgers commit, have helped Byrnes score 145 points in its past two games. And Srock gets a lot of credit for the Rebels' success.

But here's the thing - as the excitement level increases in Duncan, he's one of the ones trying to keep the team - and community - grounded.

That can sometimes be a challenge when a team is a talented fan-favorite.

"Here, high school football is a community event," Srock said. "The community involvement is so great. We have grandparents whose grandkids graduated years ago, but they still come to the games. It's a school of 2,000, but we regularly have 15,000 at our games."

Now, Srock knows some of that community will get the opportunity to see how high school football is played in south Florida.

His time here taught him a few things - namely that this, too, is a high school football hotbed and that St. Thomas is one of the epicenters.

Srock knows all about the Raiders' tradition and history. He is familiar with coach George Smith's tenure and the players that have come through the St. Thomas program.

"They're good, solid kids we're playing against. They're well-coached and well-schooled," Srock said. "I've told people that this will be the best team Byrnes has ever played in its history."

To prepare, Srock has used his south Florida ties to, well, try and get a little bit of an edge.

Family and friends have been dispatched to Lockhart Stadium to report back on the stadium and field's condition.

No doubt, they've also reported back on St. Thomas and its potent offense that has totaled 1,022 yards in three games, while giving up just 509 to opponents.

But that's all about Friday night.

Srock and his wife Judy are hoping for a little bit more before and after kickoff.

Like quality time with daughter Teresa Reis and grandsons Raven, 10 and Ryo, 8.

"They're Byrnes' biggest fans and they love coming to our stadium," Srock said. "Now we're coming to them. I get goose bumps just thinking about it."

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