(A shorter version of this story was published in the Miami Herald on Jan. 3)
ST. PETERSBURG — South Florida, once again, shined bright on one of the biggest stages in high school football.
Davie University School quarterback and Auburn commitment Sean White completed 10 of 12 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns to win MVP honors for his respective team, leading Team Highlight to a 31-21 victory over Team Nitro in the Under Armour All-America game at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
Along with White, Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook and West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman wide receiver Travis Randolph also scored touchdowns, giving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, respectively, a touchdown in the boxscore.
“Just coming with a chip on my shoulder, and I’ve always felt like I’ve been underrated,” White said. “It was an awesome opportunity to come out and make the most of it, and I think I did.”
Added Cook, a Florida State commitment as of Tuesday: “I put on for 305. Florida – that’s it. I think we got the best talent.”
Cook’s decision to decommit from the University of Florida and join Florida State was all business, as Florida’s lackluster offense played a major role. Cook said he knew since October he wanted to become a Seminole, and is now relieved to have his recruitment over so he can start school on Monday as an early enrollee.
“I’m relieved right now,” said Cook, who had eight carries for 78 yards. “I’m glad I got it off my chest and running out here [Thursday], I’m free.”
Cook also had a strong conviction regarding the five-year, $21 million extension FSU coach Jimbo Fisher signed Tuesday, and possibilities Fisher could take the Texas coaching job.
“I doubt there’s going to be a coaching change,” Cook said. “I enroll Sunday or Saturday so I doubt there’s going to be a coaching change.”
Randolph, a former UM commit who once had UF as his leader, committed to FSU during the game. He also performed a Deion Sanders dance when he reached the end zone in the third quarter.
Homestead receiver and UF commit Ermon Lane, a close friend of Cook’s, said after the game he’s going to wait until National Signing Day on Feb. 5 to make a final decision on a school. Lane plans on taking an official visit to FSU on Jan. 31 — his only official visit.
Florida commit Quincy Wilson from University School tried throughout Under Armour’s five days of practices and festivities to keep his peers on board with the Gators, but to no avail.
“Dalvin, he’s going to do what best for him,” Wilson said. “I mean, his reason is pretty legit on why he went to FSU so I’m not mad.”
As for Lane, Wilson said: “I think he’s just playing games. He likes the attention but I think he’s coming to Florida.”
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Corey Holmes and Planation American Heritage receiver/return man Isaiah McKenzie were among seven Notre Dame commits participating. McKenzie finished with 127 total yards, while Holmes had two catches for 20 yards.
For University of Miami fans, Thursday was the first time many saw slot receiver recruit Braxton Berrios on a national stage.
Berrios — rated a four-star recruit by several media outlets — had a 26-yard catch in the first quarter, injured his foot on a reverse handoff in the second quarter, and then caught a 6-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The up-and-down game for Berrios culminated with his touchdown celebration, as he threw the football up in the air and motioned a baseball swing — appropriate for the Tampa Bay Rays’ home field — and then signaled the U with his hands.
“I was sitting in the locker room before the game,” Berrios said, “and if there’s a chance I score, what am I going to do? I have to have something. They let you celebrate and it’s on ESPN so it kind of came to me.”
Berrios said he made great connections with fellow UM commits Chad Thomas (Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end), Kc McDermott (Palm Beach Central offensive tackle) and Trevor Darling (Miami Central offensive lineman). St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Nick Linder also played in the game while Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby was selected as a participant for the game, but not in attendance because of his injured left foot.
Thomas, who roomed with Berrios, said he and his future teammates were “down a little bit” because of UM’s loss to Louisville on Saturday in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
“In our minds, we said we’ll do what we got to do to make a better program,” Thomas said.
Added Berrios: “We want to win. We want to bring back that tradition to winning 10, 11, 12 games a season is normal.”