Rare opportunity for CAHS players today in Puerto Rico

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BAYAMÓN, Puerto Rico - Minutes before boarding a charter bus to the team hotel, 12 sleepy-eyed Charlotte Amalie High School football players sat cramped in a seaplane taxiing around Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

Most of the players zoned out during the half-hour flight from St. Thomas, opting for headphones, shut eye and maybe even a quick dream of beating the University Gardens Dolphins. The two teams meet at 10 a.m. today in Cataño.

The earbuds popped out as they hopped on the bus and ran their fingers over the soft upholstery on the aisle seats. The air conditioner cooled their faces and the excitement began to spill out.

"This is perfect. This is just perfect," CAHS senior Avery Wells Jr. said.

"I can get used to this life," senior Jose Ives said.

The chatter revealed that the program's first trip to play in Puerto Rico since 2004 was about much more than football.

As players comfortably plopped down around him, well-traveled assistant coach Glen Maduro - a 1999 CAHS graduate - marveled at the team's opportunity.

"I wouldn't believe we'd ever come to Puerto Rico," Maduro said. "I'm as excited as these guys."

Maduro, who served in the U.S. Air Force, played flag football in high school before joining the military. He now splits time between coaching, social work with teenagers and work at a post office.

"One thing I say is enjoy life," Maduro said. "See as much as you can. I've been all over the world through the military and sports."

CAHS senior Von Webster listened intently while Maduro shared stories of his time at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. Maduro explained the difference between real estate prices in the states and what the players will face on St. Thomas. He discussed the importance of the players using football as an opportunity to further their education.

"You can't go back and get these experiences," Maduro said. "We've put 13 or 14 kids in college. I don't care if it's Juco, Division II or Division III. That's how we need to look at things. ... St. Thomas, for young people, it's a trap."

Webster and Ives hope today's game will provide a few more highlights to add to tapes they will send to college coaches. Both players are eyeing colleges in Florida. Webster would like to study criminal justice and work for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"When I was younger, I wanted to be actually a federal marshal," Webster said. "Just dealing with drugs, getting drugs off the street."

Ives expects to be the first member of his family to attend college and wants to follow his father, who helps operate a small carpentry business.

"I want to be a young entrepreneur and start my own business," Ives said. "Basically, I just like to be in charge, and I like to help people."

No college scouts are expected at today's game, but players expressed gratitude toward CAHS coach Francisco Jarvis and athletic director Myron Corbett for finding an unfamiliar opponent to test their skills.

University Gardens is a club team that draws students from 10 high schools. Tackle football isn't sanctioned by Puerto Rican high schools.

CAHS tried unsuccessfully for three years to set up a game with a Puerto Rican opponent and many players doubted today's matchup even after it was announced early in the season.

"This is history" players repeated throughout Friday evening.

The boys want similar games to happen every year, giving future players hope for more college opportunities and chances to improve the history and perception of the Virgin Islands and the territory's athletes.

For Ives, this trip to Puerto Rico is another step to avoiding what he described as a "complacent" mentality among many peers on St. Thomas.

"Me, I want to get out," Ives said. "I want to explore to see what the world has to offer. Other colleges, other people, just different habitat, different society, everything. There really can be a triumph for young people, especially."

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