Delvon Doggett and Javon Strong are part of the largest contingent to ever be invited to play in the annual Sunshine Football Classic.
The two 2019 Ewing High School graduates know all about the all-star game that will allow local players to showcase their talent July 2 at 7 p.m. at Notre Dame High, and they’re looking forward to their chance to play in it.
“I went to it last year,” Strong said. “It’s a great game. There’s a lot of hitting and over the top moments. It’s going to be so exciting playing in it.”
Doggett has an even more personal connection to the game. Two years ago, his older brother Edamiyon Doggett was named the Player of the Game after leading the West to a 24-7 win.
Ewing has had the last two Player of the Game honorees. Last year, EHS grad Elijah-Blu Wilmott after helping the West to its fourth straight win in the series.
Ewing has another strong group going this year, its largest ever, with Doggett and Strong being joined by Caleb Stokes, Rich Ross, Tywayne Reed and Obifunna Eziegbo. Tony Wynn was also named to the team but is away for the game.
Strong was a three-year starter at middle linebacker. He was top three in tackles for Ewing in all three of his years.
Strong is looking forward to playing another high school game before he continues his career at Becker College in Massachusetts.
“It feels amazing,” Strong said. “High school is one experience you have and you like to continue and play one more last game with your boys.”
He’s looking forward to trying to help the West all-star team continue its recent dominance. Ewing figures to have a say in the outcome with such a deep group.
“In a game like this, all the talent that wasn’t let out during the season, I want to see let out,” Strong said. “Everyone didn’t meet up to expectations and show their talent all the time. Since we got selected to the all-star game we want to show all of it and prove ourselves.”
Doggett also is looking forward to one final game with his Ewing teammates. He will continue his career at Valley Forge Military Academy.
“We get to play one more time together before we go off to college,” Doggett said. “This will be my starting point to see where I am before I go to college.”
Doggett started for three years for the Blue Devils at strong safety. He was another of the team’s top tacklers and a dependable presence for the team.
Doggett’s brother will be at the Sunshine game to support him. The brothers are tight and have a younger brother that they hope will be a good athlete when he moves up to EHS in another year. Doggett is going to do his part to set the bar high again with his last appearance representing Ewing.
“First I’m going to set the tone,” Doggett said. “My safety coach, he always tells me set the tone, make a big hit, make an interception, make a big play and let them know Delvon Doggett is here.”
Doggett and Strong tried to be good influences on the less experienced members of the Ewing team. They helped to bring along a group that will be the future leaders.
“Towards midseason, we started to get it together,” Doggett said. “We showed by our actions for the younger people how it’s supposed to be done and how you’re supposed to be a team.”
They relied on their own experiences to help. They had seen good leadership before them, and grew into their roles after stepping into the varsity lineup three years ago.
“When I first started I was scared and nervous,” Strong said. “I was a sophomore starting varsity. You learn a lot more skills and you’re not worried about what people think of you. There was a progression and the coaching helped a lot get me to senior year.”
Strong got a later start to his career, but made up time quickly. He didn’t start playing football until eighth grade.
“I stayed in the weight room and trained and got better as the years went on,” Strong said. “I proved myself when I went to high school.”
He always kept the goal of playing college football in the back of his mind. It motivated him to continue to develop as a player, and he will live out his dream following the Sunshine game.
“I want to go to the next level and I’m excited to prove to my teammates what sort of player I am,” Strong said. “I want to help the team out when I come in as a freshman.”
Doggett feels ready to take another step forward in his career as well. The ups and downs of the football and basketball seasons matured him into a solid leader.
“The experience helped me a lot,” Doggett said. “When it comes down to football or basketball, you need mental toughness. When you’re mental toughness goes away, your skill goes away and you start losing it and don’t know what to do. Sophomore year, I watched the older kids. Junior year, I knew what to do and my confidence was up. And then senior year, it was my year to lead the team and show the younger kids below us how things are to be done to be a winning team.”
Doggett tried to ask questions that younger players were afraid to. He showed what to look for and how to play, and proved to be one of the seniors that pushed the program to maintain a high standard.
“Our coaches always told us this Class of 2019 is special,” Doggett said. “It meant a lot of things. It was (Besler’s) last year at Ewing as a coach. We all grew up together playing Pop Warner and playing with each other. He’s seen us develop as a group.
“All of us had a tight bond. Coming from freshman to JV to varsity, he’s seen us grow not just as athletes but as young men. We always taught each other new things. And we stuck by each other’s sides through thick and thin.”
The Sunshine Classic is another chance to add to their legacy. The Ewing players are looking to be leaders as they push for one last win together.
“It’s a lot of competition we played against,” Strong said. “If we all come together, I think we’re unstoppable.”