Like countries in a Middle East arms race, Miami-area high school football teams have spent the last nine months developing top-secret weapons to unload on their unsuspecting opponents.
Trick plays, revamped offenses, and last-minute transfer students will all be on display tonight as the high school football season begins.
For local title-hopeful Miami Central, their newest Friday-night firearm is a bit of a surprise: a tiny, barely 15-year-old Hispanic named Emilio Nadelman.
Who is he? Did he fall off of a top-secret government supply truck?
Nadelman is Central's new field goal kicker, something the school sorely missed last year as it lost close games to Northwestern and state champ Miramar.
And what a kicker Nadelman is.
After failing to attempt a single 3-pointer last season, the Rockets now have in their possession a 5'6" cannon of a human being: despite his height, Nadelman has Popeye legs capable of knocking down a personal best 64-yard field goal. That's NFL range.
Riptide can attest to seeing Nadelman spank the pigskin through the uprights with ease from 50 yards at a recent practice.
"He's pretty damn accurate," says father and kicking coach Emilio Nadelman, Sr. "He can even hit them from 45 yards with his left foot, in case he injures his right leg."
Nadelman transferred from 3A Doral Academy to 6A Central over the summer, joining an already potent offense that has the Rockets ranked #2 in the nation in some polls. So potent, in fact, that he fears he may not get to show off his skills right away.
"I feel like there's a lot of weapons here," he says while watching QB Rakeem Cato lead a march down the practice field. "But in the end, I make it easier for them. And they make it easier for me."
"I think I'll get to kick once we run up the score," he adds. "Hopefully, they'll give me the chance then, if not before."
Central opens its season tonight in the Kickoff Classic against 5A powerhouse Blanche Ely. The game starts at 7 pm at Lockhart Stadium in Pompano Beach. Ely is led by tall, fast junior wide receiver Avery Johnson, one of the top prospects for his position in the state.
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In the meantime, Nadelman is already a folk hero to the team he just joined. When a photographer recently tried to take his photo, a chorus of angry shouts broke out from the sidelines: "That's our secret weapon, man!"
How did Nadelman, an avid soccer player, end up on the Rockets as they seek their first state title? He was at a local All-Star game when rappers Trick Daddy, Snoop Dogg, and a Central assistant coach spotted him. When he moved around the corner from the school this summer, he became eligible to lace up his neon yellow Nikes for the Rockets.
"There's always going to be a kicker out there who's better than me," Nadelman says humbly.
But the Rockets are betting against that. And considering that their opponents only attempted five field goals all last year -- making three -- that wager is looking long, straight, and good so far.