Winning Is Everything

In Miami there's one sure way to build a championship high school sports team: Throw out the rule book and cheat like hell

Ten different Northwestern players provided the school district with addresses that differ from those on their driver licenses. An additional eleven provided addresses outside Northwestern's boundaries. Athletic director Gregory Killings did not respond to queries seeking an explanation as to how those eleven football players could be enrolled at Northwestern.

"Look at that penetration! Isn't that beautiful? I tell you, that is football!" shouts Frank Gachelin as he leads his Jackson players through a film session the morning of the Soul Bowl, in early November. He is in the living room of his home on NW Tenth Avenue and 75th Street, watching videos on a big-screen television. "That is what football is all about. We control the line of scrimmage, we win the game."

Weightlifting equipment is a major component of Gachelin's operation
Weightlifting equipment is a major component of Gachelin's operation
Significantly more equipment has been added recently
Significantly more equipment has been added recently

He is speaking to seven very large young men, all of whom say they live at this address. Although the house is located close enough to Northwestern that the rival school can be seen from the front yard, all the students attend and play for Jackson. "It's all about heart, about how bad you want it," Gachelin chants. "We have size, speed, and strength over Northwestern. That's how we'll beat them tonight."

The video is an old NFL propaganda film called Magnificent Elevens, a "crunch course" in great defensive teams of the past. Gachelin's big screen showcases Art Donovan, Gino Marchetti, and other former Baltimore Colts. "See how you play the run?" he asks, pointing at Jackson senior defensive end Quincy Brown. "If you know it's a run, you cannot go upfield." Brown, resting his stockinged feet on a coffee table, nods silently. Gachelin rewinds to show the play again. "Now watch this again," he says. "Wait to watch what the man does. This is going to happen to you tonight. I guarantee you'll see that play at least three times tonight. I guarantee."

Three players squeeze onto a green-leather couch. Sophomore linebacker Elvis Dumervil swivels in an old office chair. Dave Bernard, known as Little Sapp for his resemblance to former University of Miami linebacker Warren Sapp, lounges behind the coffee table, which is littered with football recruiting brochures from the University of Maryland and Boston College. All stare silently at the screen. No one talks. No one smiles.

"Look at that sack!" roars Gachelin as Art Donovan throws down a quarterback. Gachelin hits the rewind button. "Watch it again, Quincy, watch it again. He tilted like he was going to go inside but he goes outside. Did you see that, Quincy? I want to see that play tonight. That exact play."

Gachelin is a 39-year-old former Marine whose family hails from Haiti. He is compact and athletic looking in green shorts and a gray T-shirt featuring the Jackson Generals logo. He describes himself as a volunteer coach of the school's football team. And though he says he isn't paid a penny by the school, since 1997 the training of Jackson's best athletes has been his full-time occupation.

A rush by Gino Marchetti catches his eyes. He rewinds the tape so defensive tackle Tirolia Brechenair can study the play again. "I want to see that tonight, Tirolia," he says excitedly. "Hey, you get $50 if I see that play. You do that play for me one, no two times, and you get $50. I promise you."

Gachelin delivers this comment in the presence of a New Times reporter he has invited into the house to witness the film session. If he is aware that FHSAA rules prohibit giving a student athlete anything of value, much less cash, he acts unconcerned. Maybe that's because a cash handout would be among the least of his violations.

"I think of this as a boarding school," he says when the tape ends and his players scurry into the kitchen for a breakfast of oatmeal and bananas. "The whole defensive line lives here in a [guest cottage]. I've also got a couple of rooms in the main house, so there are five rooms altogether arranged for the guys. This is a place where we can train them, keep them out of trouble, and coach them away from school [after regular team practices have concluded]."

A tour of his operation commences at a large outdoor gymnasium located beside the main house, covered by an aluminum awning. His hand glides over a metal bar, part of a jungle of weight benches, pulldown machines, Smith squat machines, and rows of dumbbells in seriously high poundage. Beyond the benches red lights blink on a StairMaster machine. A chart taped to an outdoor wall lists some of the players who worked out here over the summer: James, Kool, Nappo, and Dave, and three Jackson players who graduated last year: his son Louis Gachelin, Curry Burns, and Carl Pierre. (All three are attending Division I colleges on football scholarships.) Each player's goals are posted. Louis Gachelin, for example, aimed to bench-press 405 pounds ten times and squat 500 pounds fifteen times -- extraordinarily ambitious targets. A nearby calendar breaks down the workout schedule by date: 28: Legs, Pool; 29: Back; 30: Chest; 1: Legs, Biceps and Stairs; 2: Basketball. "We mix it up," Gachelin explains. "There is no point in getting big and strong if you can't run."

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