While the average football fan can recite every player on both sides of the Miami Central football team, many could never tell you about the special teams the Rockets have.
The two-time defending state champions have been impressive the past two years on the way to the state championships – and while quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, linebackers, defensive backs and linemen – on both sides of the ball – get plenty of attention and headlines – the kicker and punter hardly gets a mention, but that is changing.
What senior Jayden John has brought to the Rockets the past few years is someone who can kick, punt and give this powerhouse yet another building block on the way to a title.
By finishing among the best kickers in the country this past weekend at the Kornblue Kicking & Long Snapping Showcase at Florida International University, the talented senior standout put himself in some elite company – with nationally-rated competition at every turn.
John is not your typical kicker, this is someone who is athletic and respected by head coach Roland Smith and his entire staff for the work he has put in.
On a day where specialists flocked to south Florida from Michigan, California, Kansas, Georgia, Kentucky and everywhere in the state of Florida, there were indeed some quality performers – many from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, John held his own, competing in every kicking/punting category and facing off against some major talent from all over on a hot and humid day.
There were indeed so many quality performers in a showcase that never disappoints.
PEREZ LEADS THE WAY
Somerset Academy South Homestead sophomore Gabriel Perez made a huge impact at home with his win in the 2024 Kicking Competition.
Perez beat out Miami Christopher Columbus prospect Robert Czeremcha and Kristian Hobbs from Western.
Hobbs also came back to place second in punting, showcasing his many skills on the special teams.
As much focus on the nationally-rated prospects from all over, there were some solid area performers as well.
Plantation American Heritage Class of 2023 Long Snapper Aiden Arias took home first place in his class – and Monsignor Pace standout Dominic Diaz took second.
Christopher Columbus, which has the deepest special teams unit in south Florida, picked up another first place – when Jonathan Zarut captured the 2024 Class Long Snapping title.
Miami Belen Jesuit freshman (2025) Lucas Avino showed why he is going to be special – placing third in a crowded field of kickers.
Other locals to take part – include Caleb Carlson (K/P, Miami Ransom Everglades) and Richie Maston (K, Coral Springs Charter) in the Class of 2022, Rowe Allen (K, Miami Christopher Columbus) and Aidan Martinez (K, Miami Norland) and Class of 2024 Long Snapper Andrew Abu Akel (Miami Killian).
“Every year, when you see a kicker, punter or long snapper succeed, you fully understand the commitment it takes to get that far,” Brandon Kornblue said. “There is no secret to success – other than hard work and dedication to what you are doing. This year’s event produced young men who are serious about their future on the football field.”
NATIONAL STARS SHINE
In addition to the local performers, the event also attracted some of the best in the nation – many who have already committed to attend colleges.
Here is a look at those impressive performers:
JUCO/College Transfer Kicking 1st Place – Jose Romo (Delaware State).
JUCO/College Transfer Kicking 2nd Place – Austin Hurler (FL)
JUCO/College Transfer Kicking 3rd Place – Nicholas Bigelow (Bradenton, FL)
JUCO/College Transfer Punting 1st Place – Jose Romo (Delaware State)
JUCO/College Transfer Punting 2nd Place – Nicholas Bigelow (Bradenton, FL)
2022 Kicking Champion– Drew Clark (Lakewood Ranch HS, FL)
2022 Kicking 2nd Place – Colton Corrao (Cypress Creek HS, FL)
2022 Kicking 3rd Place – Dylan Hertzberg (Grand Blanc HS, MI)
2022 Punting Champion– Colton Boomer (Lake Mary HS, FL)
2022 Punting 2nd Place – Dylan Hertzberg (Grand Blanc HS, MI)
2022 Punting 3rd Place – Nathan Dibert (Hartland HS, MI)
2022 Long Snapping Champion – Aidan Fedigan (Deland HS, FL)
2022 Long Snapping 2nd Place – Bo Blanchard (Fort Myers HS, FL)
2023 Kicking Champion – Kirill Kotov (Venice HS, FL)
2023 Kicking 2nd Place – Robert Hammond III (Seminole Ridge HS, FL)
2023 Kicking 3rd Place – Stone Springman (FL)
2023 Punting Champion – Jonathan Walker (Melbourne HS, FL)
2023 Punting 2nd Place – Alex Davis (Timber Creek HS, FL)
2023 Punting 3rd Place – Robert Hammond III (Seminole Ridge HS, FL)
2023 Long Snapping 3rd Place – Christian Gerhardt (Steinbrenner HS, FL)
2024 Punting Champion– JJ Poole (North Oconee HS, GA)
2024 Punting 3rd Place – Cooper Holman (Gulf Coast HS, FL)
2024 Long Snapping 2nd Place – David McDermott (South Fork HS, FL)
2024 Long Snapping 3rd Place – Ethan Hatton (Treasure Coast HS, FL)
2025 Kicking Champion– Vaughn Lennon (Fort Myers HS, FL)
2025 Kicking 2nd Place – Joseph Collins (Harmony HS, FL)
2025 Punting Champion– Joseph Collins (Harmony HS, FL)
2025 Punting 2nd Place – Vaughn Lennon (Fort Myers HS, FL)
2025 Long Snapping Champion – Nick Hatton (Treasure Coast HS, FL)
2026 Long Snapping Champion – Alex Glin (St Albert HS, KY)