MOORE HAVEN — In recent years, the Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, on the Brighton Reservation, has served as a feeder of sorts for the Moore Haven High School football program.
A big reason – or three big reasons – Moore Haven surged to prominence in recent seasons as one of Florida’s best small school success stories were three massive Native American linemen who came out of PECS. But the days of the offensive line being filled by giants Conner Thomas and Andrew Fish, both of whom graduated two years ago, and Robert Harris, who graduated in the spring, are gone. They took a lot of size – about a combined 1,000 pounds – with them.
PECS is still well represented on this year’s edition of the Terriers with five graduates on the squad, including the Seminole Tribe’s Ramone Baker, Pherian Baker and Jaytron Baker, Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s Donovan Harris, and Wyatt Hines, the son of Seminole tribal member and former Moore Haven player Marvin Hines.
Most of the group saw varsity time last season, but now they’re a year older and with plenty of holes to fill due to graduation, they’ll be counted on even more so this season.
In the season opener, versatile Ramone Baker saw the most playing time of the group. An agile 6-foot-1, Baker possesses the foot speed and size that can help on both sides of the ball. He played outside linebacker all night, saw action at fullback and played on special teams. He helped pave the way on rushes and even took a handful of handoffs, which included a few strong runs on the team’s only scoring drive of the night in the third quarter.
Moore Haven coach Brent Burnside described Baker as a “a naturally bigger, physical kid. Still raw with football talent. Will be able to help us in multiple ways.”
At 6-foot, 305 pounds, Baker’s younger brother Pherian brings size to the line. He didn’t see a lot of playing time against Okeechobee, but he’s only a sophomore.
“He has the tools to help us on both the offensive and defensive lines and gives us depth at those positions,” Burnside said.
Although not a brother of Ramone and Pherian, Jaytron Baker also brings much needed size to the team. He’s a solid 6-foot-2, 230 pound tight end and outside linebacker who provided blocking that paved the way for the team’s only touchdown. He also adds toughness that he’s garnered from years of competition in another physically-demanding sport: bull riding.
“Another big, physical kid,” Burnside said. “He has the ability to play some effective tight end for us and will be a factor on the defensive side once he gets more experience.”
Donovan Harris, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior linebacker, wasn’t in uniform against Okeechobee. He’s a force on the basketball court for the Terriers and has the potential to do the same on the football field, likely in a defensive role.
“He has a genuine passion for the game [and] is another one that will help us at multiple spots,” Burnside said.
After spending his freshman season in a backup role last year, Wyatt Hines had his first career start at quarterback against Okeechobee. The offense didn’t take to the air too often as it tried to establish a running attack. Hines encountered several high snaps – some he snagged and some went over his head.
Burnside said the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Hines, who also handled punting duties, is still developing and has plenty of potential.
“We’re hoping to bring him along to have a successful future with us,” he said.
As for the entire squad, Burnside will be looking for improvement throughout the season. The team is coming off yet another winning season – its fifth in a row – having gone 7-6 with a pair of playoff victories in 2019. The Terriers have reached regional finals two of the past three years.
“Expectations will always remain the same,” Burnside said. “It may take us a bit longer to get going as we were out a spring and got started late this year. We lost 16 seniors from last year’s team and a bunch of holes will need to be filled by some younger guys who will need to step up.”
Due to the upheaval in high school athletics caused by the pandemic, the Terriers are looking at an abbreviated scheduled. As of late September, the team only had five games on its schedule, but Burnside anticipates adjustments will be made along the way.
In the past few years, some PECS students have played for Moore Haven’s middle school team, but due to low numbers there is no team this year.
“We are hoping to have enough next season and are looking into possibly joining a conference,” Burnside said. “We have pulled up a couple of eighth-graders and are allowing our middle schoolers to practice with the varsity. We have the luxury of being able to do so because the middle and high school’s share a building.”