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17 posts from October 2008

October 18, 2008

Four Straight National Champions?

At a time when many across the country are beginning to question how tough the state of Florida is on the football field, with key losses by traditional state powers against nationally-rated competition, Friday night’s resounding win by St. Thomas Aquinas put the focus back on the Sunshine State.

If the rest of the nation needs to be reminded, the state of Florida has won the past three “mythical” national titles, and with the Raiders total dominance at home in front of a national audience, it’s safe to say that following Lakeland (2005 & 2006) and Northwestern (2007) as the best team in the country has to be strongly considered by those who vote for those sort of things.

George Smith had his team ready, realized that even though the Deerfield Beach Bucks are talented, they are thin at many positions, and St. Thomas Aquinas happens to be one of the deepest high school teams you will see.

The game was truly a showcase of how tremendous the talent is on both sides of the ball. Is there any team in the nation with a better Class of 2010 than STA? How could there be. They have two major college running backs in the backfield, a big time lineman and a linebacker who hits everything - all over the field.

Friday night had one of those Game 7 kind of atmospheres with star-quality people in attendance. At one end, you had Florida head coach Urban Meyer and his staff with starting safety Major Wright and Pahokee recruit Nu’Kese Richardson. Then you had Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tavares Gooden, who is injured and out for the year, with Notre Dame standout lineman Sam Young. At the other end, you had basketball standout Ron Harper and many other fans who had the place rocking all night.

The game was also attended by state website editors David Lake (Inside The U), Mike Langston (Florida Varsity), Robert Sumpter (Florida Prospects) and Luke Stampini (South Florida Prospects) as well as many other members of the media.


October 16, 2008

It's St. Thomas and Deerfield Beach

They are calling it the "game of the year" – No. 1 5A St. Thomas Aquinas vs. No. 1 6A Deerfield Beach.

Every year, no matter what team seems to have the upper hand, you can throw the records out of the window, and Friday's 8 p.m. meeting at St. Thomas that can be seen nationally, is certainly no exception.

On the surface, this is all St. Thomas, as coach George Smith has this team running on all cylinders, but coach Art Taylor and his Bucks always find a way to keep it close – like last year's thriller at Deerfield Beach.

While last year's game showcased so many talented players on both sides of the ball, this year will be no exception.

Over the next two days, the Miami Herald wants to know what you think about the game. Who is going to win? Give us a score and when the game is over, you could be right on target with your prediction!


October 06, 2008

O'Neill is off to Wisconsin

From the moment he raced for a touchdown in the 5A state championship game on a kickoff return against Kissimmee Osceola, St. Thomas Aquinas linebacker Conor O’Neill became a household name among recruiters.

This gifted athlete had become the heart and soul of this Raider program that reached the No. 1 spot in the country. His hard work and leadership became a trademark for a football team that continues to get better every week. On Monday, after talking things over with his family and coaches, the 6-1, 190-pounder made his decision.

“It’s Wisconsin, O’Neill said. “It came down to Clemson, Auburn and Wisconsin, and in the end, the Badgers were the right fit for me.”

O’Neill, who was also a first team Miami Herald baseball selection last spring, felt that with the direction that coach Brett Bilema and the Badgers were headed, he wanted to be a part of it. Wisconsin also hinted that O’Neill could come in and compete for playing time next year.

“The education, football program and environment all sold me,” O’Neill said. “This is a huge relief for me to get this selection done so I can focus fully on the season.”

October 04, 2008

Katy proves to be too much for Cypress Bay

The Battle at Rhodes Stadium in Katy was billed as an even contest between defending 5A Texas state champion Katy and Cypress Bay. By the end of Saturday’s nationally-televised contest, it was a bit one-sided.

Katy, which lost its first two games of the season, looked very impressive in a 31-6 victory over the Lightning, which failed to get things going offensively and will have to quickly regroup for next Saturday’s district opener at unbeaten Miramar.

Katy running back Michael Webber (143 yards) and quarterback Parker Ray operated behind an offensive line that blew open holes against a smaller Lightning defensive front.

You have to be impressed with this Katy team. They have everything needed to make another run in a state loaded with talent. They will host Cypress Bay again next year.

The trip to the Houston area was quite impressive. The region is loaded with talent.


October 03, 2008

A.J. Highsmith is 100 percent a Hurricane!

As he sat in the stands watching future opponent Missouri City Elkins play against Fort Bend Marshall, University of Miami commitment A.J. Highsmith and his impressive Fort Bend Hightower team felt pretty good about their chances this season.

After speaking with the 6-1, 180-pound quarterback/safety, the son of one time University of Miami and Columbus High standout, Alonzo Highsmith, he is excited about the opportunity to become a ‘Cane next year.

Highsmith is a gifted talent who is still being looked at by other programs such as the University of Houston as a quarterback, but he said that his commitment to Miami is solid and he “has been a lifelong Hurricane fan”.

The Elkins squad is quite impressive with junior offensive lineman Jake Matthews (6-4, 290) and junior receiver Jordan Jolly (6-1, 170) expected to be among the nation’s best next season. Matthews is the son of former Houston Oiler Bruce Matthews.

Senior quarterback Dean Brantley (6-2, 175), defensive back Chauncey Williams (6-0, 170) and receiver Nick Harwell (6-0, 180) were also impressive.

Marshall defensive back Tony Hurd is a solid player and fellow junior Denzel Young is the nephew of quarterback Vince Young.

The other game I had the chance to check out on Thursday was a 4A contest between Sharpstown and Westbury. Sharpstown is where Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Adai played. The Appolos have a tremendous junior quarterback in Sam Carter and freshman safety John Gibson.

Westbury featured University of Houston running back commit Charles Sims, who had 155 yards on his first 7 carries. Defensive tackle DeAnthony Sims is also one of the top seniors in Texas.

Saturday’s matchup between Cypress Bay and Katy is receiving plenty of attention as the contest will be the feature game locally at 3:30 EDT. Katy is 3-2, but has been playing much better after two losses to open the season.


October 02, 2008

Houston area has plenty of talent

After traveling to just about every corner of the country, following high school football through the years, there are many talented areas for football.

As you know, I feel that South Florida – Miami Dade County in particular – is unmatched when it comes to churning out top-flight talent, but having watched football in Texas, especially the Houston area, this is certainly a region that gets your attention. Great players, tremendous coaches and that passion.

Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Dallas….you can name the best areas and feel hey belong with Miami and Houston, but numbers do not lie. This year. Miami-Dade (44) and Houston (37) were the top two areas in the country for putting players into the NFL.

Being here for Saturday’s game between nationally-rated Katy and Florida’s Cypress Bay, I am getting the chance to watch 10 schools and some five games over the next two days. The passion for the game is much like Dallas and north Texas, where I had the pleasure of visiting last year. The talent far exceeds what many believe when thinking of this area.

The Houston area has great teams such as Hightower (A.J. Highsmith), North Shore, Westfield, Cy Ridge, Katy, Lufkin, Marshall, Lamar, Eisenhower (Craig Loston), Pearland and Westbrook who would stack up against any school in the country.

Remember last week’s Oregon State win over USC? Freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers (5-7, 180) is a product of Lamar Consolidated, where he finished his career with 8,200 yards and 136 touchdowns. Best ever in the state!

Katy may be 3-2, but this is a program that is what Houston area football is all about. They have a flowing pipeline to the next level with Terrance Frederick (Texas A&M), Trent Hunter (Texas A&M), quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell (SMU) and Aundre Dean (UCLA) from last year’s squad.

The region is also home to such standouts as Cypress Ridge quarterback Russell Shepard, defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland (Lufkin), defensive back Marcus Davis (Clear Creek), receiver Josh Gordon (Lamar), offensive lineman Clint Naron (Klein Oak) and defensive end Alex Okafor (Pflugerville).

I will have more over the next few days.


October 01, 2008

South Florida High School Football on ESPNU this weekend

What's up prep bloggers,

Just a reminder if you own DirecTV or you want to catch some high school football at a local sports bar, ESPNU has two big games invlolving South Florida teams on the menu Friday and Saturday.

Friday at 8 p.m., Pahokee takes on national championship contender Byrnes of South Carolina.

If you follow football in 'The Muck' you remember that Byrnes beat Glades Central a couple of years ago up there in a game that was televised on ESPN.

Then, Saturday at 3:30 p.m., coach Mark Guandolo takes Cypress Bay to Texas to take on Katy High. It's the Lightning's first game outside of Florida.

Over in Miami-Dade, you also have NMB taking on 22-time Louisiana state champion John Curtis in a 1 p.m. kickoff on CBS College Sports TV, which can also be found on DirectTV.

I'll likely be in Lakeland to cover Killian as they try to become the first Miami team since....well, a long time to win a game in Lakeland, when they play the Dreadnaughts at 7 Friday.