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High School Spotlight

September 17, 2008

Team Spotlight: Lowndes (Ga.)

Posted by adam_sp Sep 17, 2008

Southern Region



Spotlight on:         Lowndes

Hometown:           Valdosta, Georgia

Group:                 GA Class AAAAA


By Adam C. Warner


After a sound 22-7 victory over Georgia power Peachtree Ridge (State PR: 41.00, Rank: 43) on September 5, the Lowndes Vikings passed their first major test of the season and appear poised to capture their fourth state championship in five years in 2008.


The Vikings have come a long way since their first year as a program in 1966 when the squad finished 1-8-1 (Lowndes would go 26-66-3 during its first 10 seasons).


But in 1976, head coach Joe Wilson ushered in a new era in Vikings football and guided the team to a 95-49 overall mark in his 13 years at the helm – all while steering the team to two regional titles and one state championship.


And ever since, the Vikings (currently ranked No. 2 in our latest Mega Division Top Ten Poll) have earned the distinction by media and coaches alike as a state and national juggernaut.


Most recently, with head coach Randy McPherson at the reigns, the Vikings have never enjoyed more success. The squad is 68-12 over the last six plus seasons with four regional titles and three state

championships. Meanwhile, with an assembly line of talent coming through – including Randall Godfrey, Vincent Burns and Jay Ratliff in recent seasons -- Lowndes hasn’t even endured a losing campaign since 1994.


Lately, the team has garnered national attention when ESPN named Lowndes’ hometown of Valdosta, Georgia as TitleTown USA (beating out Boston, New York and Columbus in the process). During the spring, fans across the nation nominated towns and cities across the country based on their championship pedigree and a panel reviewed the nominees, culminating in a fan vote to determine the winner.


Meanwhile this season, Lowndes continues to make headlines as ESPNRise’s No. 2 team in the nation and PrepNation’s No. 4 squad. Already at 3-0 this year after impressive wins with playmakers Greg

Reid and Gerald Demps leading the way, one can be sure that the Vikings will make another run at a state title – all while turning heads along the way.


Next up: Friday, September 19 vs. Colquitt County (State PR: 90.00, Ranking: 16).

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Team Spotlight: Deshler (Ala.)

Posted by adam_sp Sep 17, 2008

Midwest Region



Spotlight on:    Deshler

Hometown:     Tuscumbia, Alabama

Group:              4 A Region 8


By Jimmy Oliver


Visions of a championship are 20/20 for the Deshler Tigers in 2008.


The Alabama Class 4A squad is already off to a 2-1 start following a convincing victory over region foe Lawrence County this past Friday night (Sept. 12). The 56-7 pouncing proved that nothing has changed for the #1 ranked team in the preseason according to the Alabama Sports Writers Association.


Despite an early season loss to 5A power Russellville (State PR: 93.00, Rank: 7), 26-14, the Tigers (State PR: 64.00, Rank: 25) are back on track towards another run at the Super Six – Alabama’s state championship for each six classes in the state. And this is nothing new for a program that has become accustomed to being on top.


“Everybody says, ‘well, the bull’s eye is on your back’, but it’s on our backs every year,” said head coach John Mothershed in a recent interview with the Times Daily. Mothershed is the 14th coach in program history.


And it’s easy to see why this is one marked team. Since the squad’s inaugural season in 1923, Deshler has amassed an astounding record of 569-304-33, good for fourth all-time in Alabama history. Meanwhile, the Tigers have amassed 21 regional titles and three state championships (1990, 1998, 1999) along the way while producing 64 winning seasons. In his 14 years at Deshler, Coach Mothershed has compiled a record of 142-36.


Ever since that first season 85 years ago, Deshler has repeatedly proved that when its defense is on track, the team simply wins. That

first group of Tigers had an amazing seven shutouts in their nine victories. Flash forward to ’07 and Deshler held opponents to 14 points or less five times and seven points or fewer a total of four occasions. It’s pretty clear that not much has changed since 1923. Defense wins for Deshler.


Now, the Tigers are looking to avenge their loss in the 2007 title game to Central Tuscaloosa by a score of 34-7. But with a lethal offense featuring running back J. Gardner and quarterback Chase Blackburn and a potent defense that gets after the quarterback and regularly forces turnovers, the Tigers may very well be back in the pinnacle contest.


But for the time being, Deshler has its eyes cast for its next opponent in Region 8 foe Rogers (2-1 overall) on Friday.


Next up: Friday, September 19 vs. Rogers (State PR: 62.00, Rank: 29).

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Team Spotlight: Jeannette

Posted by adam_sp Sep 17, 2008

Northeast Region



Spotlight on:         Jeannette

Hometown:           Jeannette, Pennsylvania

Group:                    PA Class AA


By Andre Coles


Any doubts concerning a fall from grace by Jeannette this year were fully erased this past weekend as the Jayhawks (State PR: 91.00, Rank: 4) continued their dominance with a convincing 45-0 win against South Allegheny (State PR: 55.00, Rank: 72). The Jayhawks have cruised through the first third of their 2008 slate, posting an impressive 129 points on the scoreboard.


All the while, the Pennsylvania power has seen a new star emerge from the pack in Ohio State commit Jordan Hall. With the speedster lining up in the backfield and making opponents miss left and right, the Jayhawks look to be well on their way to their third straight WPIAL AA championship game.


Many prognosticators and football fans alike falsely accused the ‘07 Jayhawks of being a one-man team with standout Terrelle Pryor making national headlines and racking up state records left and right. Indeed, the current Buckeye was the nation’s top recruit last season and is the only player in PIAA history to pass and run for over 4,000 yards in a career.


But despite the void left in his absence this year, the Jayhawks have remained on top in Pennsylvania AA football thanks to a well-rounded team filled with playmakers and a coaching staff that plays to players’ strengths.


The Jayhawks, led by third year head coach Ray Reitz, are 57-3 since the ‘03 season, and are an astounding 38-4 since ‘05 when Reitz took over the program. Reitz also boasts an impressive .904 winning percentage and is one of only eight coaches in the state to have an undefeated season.


And while the ‘07 Jayhawks set a state record with 860 points scored, it has been evident that this year’s squad has had no problems putting points on the board despite a shift in focus as team.


Said Reitz in a recent interview with, “We returned most of our offensive line from last year, and our defense might be quicker than last year’s group.”


Reitz couldn’t be more on target. The Jayhawk defense has yet to even surrender a touchdown this season in three blowout victories.


It has become increasingly clear that Jeannette may be currently one of the best small school teams in the nation, let alone Pennsylvania. But it’s also evident that this is one program that is built on more than its star players -- as evidenced by the team’s overall success this decade.


The ‘08 squad is poised to make this year just as memorable as the last few in Jeannette. Said Reitz to, “We have the potential to be a very good team.”


If the first three games are any indication, Reitz has hit the nail right on the head.


Next Up: Friday, September 19 @ Waynesburg Central(State PR: 27.00, Rank 114)


Talk about dedicated fans. Check out how Jayhawks fans follow and support their hometown squad! See Jeannette’s fans and followers.

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FootballPower Regional Team Spotlights


Every Wednesday, FootballPower will highlight one team from each region in the country and provide insight into the school’s background, history, current season and other interesting stories regarding the

program. Stay tuned each week and follow along with us. Who knows – your team may be selected at any given time!


Southeast Region 




Spotlight On:     St. Thomas Aquinas

Hometown:           Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Group:                     Florida Class 5A


By Ryan Rohde and Matt Forman


He owns 31 years of experience at the same school, more than 300 wins as head coach, four championships and one perfect season.


If one guessed the previous resume as belonging to Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden, they would be wrong.


Rather, St. Thomas Aquinas head coach George Smith has compiled a 321-65 record while leading the Raiders to 23 district titles, 18 region championships and posting nine

undefeated regular seasons. Not to mention being named to the Florida High School Athletic Association All-Century coaching staff.


What may be even more impressive than his bio is Smith’s ability to produce top-flight talent. Throughout his tenure at St. Thomas Aquinas, the 60-year old has produced 36 NFL players, including Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, and over 20 current Div. I players.


This years’ team is no different. There are least 15 Div. I prospects on the current roster. The ‘08 Raiders (ranked #3 in our Mega Top Ten Poll) are led by Ohio State-bound wideout Duron Carter, son of NFL Hall of Fame wideout Cris Carter, who coincidently signed on to be a wide receivers coach at Aquinas.


"He makes defenders miss in the open field and gets the important yards after the catch,” Smith said to Jim Halley of USA Today on his senior receiver. “He has a knack for making the big play and moving the chains."


Carter has developed a solid report with his quarterback Ryan Decker, a dual-threat playmaker. The 6-foot 175-pound signal-caller is considering offers from Wake Forest, NC State, Vanderbilt and South Florida. The other two pass catchers for Aquinas are Dwayne Difton and tight end Gabe Holmes.


Although the Aquinas passing attack scorched defenses for nearly 2,000 yards last season, it also features a stout, dual-headed rushing attack. The Raiders backfield is spearheaded by two junior running backs, Giovanni Bernard and James White.


Surprisingly, Aquinas grew increasingly familiar with being number two. The Raiders lost five straight championship games since 2000 before winning the elusive crown last season. With a stockpile of talent,

Aquinas becomes the hunted instead of the hunter. And so come the pre-season rankings and accolades, even if Aquinas returns only six starters from last year’s squad.


"This is our most inexperienced team we've had in four years,” Smith said to Halley earlier this month. “I can't understand how we can be rated as high as we are. It's ridiculous. You return two starters on offense and four or five on defense. I don't know. That's the way it is."


Despite the new influx of talent, a program like Aquinas doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. The Raiders, 2-0, have started the 2008 campaign with wins over Cincinnati Elder (OH), 35-24, and Cardinal Gibbons (NC),



And while Bowden, 78, has named his predecessor in Jimbo Fisher, Smith has no intentions of stepping aside. Smith is just 19 wins away from topping Florida's all-time wins record at 340.


Next up: Thursday, September 18 vs. Everglades (State PR: 75.00, Rank: 24).

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