Riverside Military Academy football coach Nick Garrett has always made up nicknames for his top players, and his most recent creation is a bit of a throwback.
Juniors Shad Dabney and Adriel Clark — the Eagles’ prolific quarterback/wide receiver duo that has connected for 11 touchdowns so far this season — have come to be known as Miami Vice on campus, a moniker that took a little while to get used to.
“Coach (Garrett) kept saying it, and we were confused,” Dabney said. “We didn’t understand what it was.”
Even those familiar with the 80s TV show would have some reason for confusion. After all, what similarities could playing football have with fighting crime?
But Garrett’s reasoning was sound.
“When you think of Miami Vice from back in the day, they’re a combination of options that always got the job done, and they did it in style,” he said. “And so that’s what I think Shad and Clark are.”
Whatever the task may be at any point in the game or in practice, they know they can count on one another to make a big play. It’s just a matter of when. It’s going to happen.”
After doing a little research of his own, Dabney decided he was on board.
Before long, he and Clark were starting to use the nickname themselves. Clark remembers the first instance coming during a defensive drill on the practice field.
“(Dabney) was like ‘Come on, Miami. Let’s go,’” he said. “And then it just stuck.”
Dabney and Clark’s friendship began on the basketball court, where Dabney’s dribbling and passing skills meshed well with Clark’s size (6-foot-4) and athleticism. Watching the basketball tape, Garrett was certain the combination would translate to the football field.
It didn’t take him long to be proven right.
When asked when their on-field chemistry first started producing results, Clark and Dabney instantly and simultaneously responded with “Johnson.”
The Week 4 matchup between Eagles and Knights was Dabney’s first opportunity to start at quarterback, and he made the most of it. He connected with Clark for a long touchdown in the first quarter to get the scoring started, leading to Riverside Military’s first win over Johnson in school history.
“It was just kind of like, ‘Oh yeah, this is for real,’” Dabney said. “This is us.’”
Things snowballed from there, as the Eagles’ offensive outputs have soared ever since.
The duo’s unique athletic traits are what make them so difficult to defend. Clark’s height and jumping ability makes him difficult to cover 1-on-1, but shading a safety to his side of the field leaves more running room for the mobile Dabney to keep the ball himself.
“Sometimes they’ll double team me, and then Shad will just take it on the go and I’ll go block for him and we’ll make plays,” Clark said. “It’s just how we go. And then it’s good that he can throw it to me. He’ll put it where I need to go get it.”
“If I’m going to throw the ball, I’m going to look at him first,” Dabney added. “Just throw it up and he’ll get it. I take my chances with him on any 50/50 ball.”
It’s a connection that has been bolstered by an equally strong off-the-field friendship. Dabney and Clark have similar interests, similar tastes in music. Dabney went as far as to call he and his friend “kind of like the same person.”
The two have even had a chance to bond over the college recruitment process, with both drawing interest from multiple Division I programs. Dabney and Clark would be ecstatic to play for the same team after graduation.
“If it happens, that would be dope,” Dabney said.
Simply playing in the same conference would be enough though, as the pair has aspirations of competing against each other. But for now, the focus remains on this high school season and making a permanent mark on Riverside Military football.
For Eagles fans, watching the offense being powered by a mobile quarterback and a tall, athletic wide receiver seems like déjà vu after last year’s senior duo of Isaac Teasley and Khalid Duke spent the season lighting up the scoreboard at Maginnis Field.
But Dabney and Clark aren’t interested in comparisons to players of the past. Riverside Military’s current pairing is simply concerned with living up to the qualities that have earned them the Miami Vice title — getting the job done and doing it with style.
“We’re not really trying to be like nobody else,” Dabney said. “We just do us and let the numbers speak for themselves.”