As teenagers in neon cleats stutter-step between lines of orange cones on the sun-baked grass behind Norland Senior High, coach Daryle Heidelburg punctuates the sweltering afternoon with a booming outburst. "Damian, get on the ground, please!" he hollers to a receiver, who falls at once and starts doing pushups. "First ball they throw to you? Don't go first if you gonna drop it!"
Dominating the horizon just a mile and a half west, Sun Life Stadium looms over the practice like the distant hope of college and pro glory for the few kids big and fast enough to jump from the Norland Vikings to the next level. As South Florida's hothouse high school football season kicks into full swing this week, competition for playing time -- and eventually college scholarships and pro prospects -- has never been tougher.
See also: Tony Bosch and Biogenesis: MLB Steroids Scandal
That's why Coach "Burg" isn't shocked to hear about the mounting evidence that some teens have turned to back-alley steroid clinics like Tony Bosch's infamous Biogenesis operation in Coral Gables for an illicit leg up.
"It's gonna take something catastrophic, something major to happen, to make a difference," Heidelburg says, watching his players nab spiraled balls from the air. "Once a kid passes out or almost dies on the field or something because of the drugs, the first time that happens we'll finally get real change."
But that doesn't mean administrators aren't trying. This morning, Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the district would start a pilot program to test high school athletes for steroids during the upcoming season.
The change comes two days after Bosch and six associates were charged in federal court with illegally distributing steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to both professional athletes and dozens of minors -- including at least 18 kids in Miami-Dade.
"We're going to sensitize the parents, the students, the coaches to this issue very aggressively," Carvalho tells the Miami Herald.