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High School Spotlight

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Spotlight on: Jackson Prep Patriots

Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi

Group: MPSA AAA

 

By Ryan Rohde

SportsPower Correspondent

 

On September 7, 2007, Ricky Black and his entire Jackson Prep football team knew that their 24-0 victory over Newton County wasn’t just another win.

 

It was historic.

 

Up until last season, the Mississippi Private School Association and the Mississippi High School Athletic Association did not permit teams to play against each other due to long-standing rules.

 

But, after years of tradition, the MHSAA finally approved the scheduling of MPSA teams.

 

Then on that Friday night last September, Newton County and Jackson Prep opened a new chapter in the Mississippi high school football history books.

 

It didn’t matter which team won the game, although Jackson Prep’s shutout certainly opened some eyes to the quality of play in the MPSA. Rather, it just mattered that they played.

 

And as many schools in the rival athletic association have noticed quite quickly, Jackson Prep happens to be an elite football team.

 

Located just off I-55, Jackson is the largest private school in the state, housing more than 500 students in the high school.

 

Athletic championships have been a staple of the Patriots athletic program, and not just for football.

 

The swim team has won 34-straight state championships, girls’ soccer has 10 state titles of their own, and just last year alone, softball, golf, boys’ and girls’ tennis, and the baseball team all captured state titles.

 

The football team has carried their weight, too. Since 1970, the football team has won 11 MPSA state titles, including the past two seasons. But there was still something missing from the record books of the Patriots and all other MPSA schools -- a win over an MHSAA team.

 

Jackson Prep rode the momentum of that historic win all the way to an undefeated season and the team’s second-straight MPSA title over archrival Jackson Academy. The rivalry has grown with each passing season and will likely only become stronger after the 17-10 overtime thriller in the championship game.

 

“I cannot imagine a football season without Jackson Prep on our schedule; I absolutely cannot,” said Peter Jernberg, president of Jackson Academy, in a recent YallvsUs.com feature article. “There would be a void in life and a void in our school year.”

 

It is evident that this rivalry will never fade, and perhaps it shouldn’t, as the chance for Jackson and similar schools to play against the MHSAA schools offers an opportunity for newer rivalries to evolve.

 

This season, Newton County exacted revenge on the Patriots with a 31-26 win.

 

Meanwhile, Jackson Prep is already off to a great start in ‘08. The Patriots are 8-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the MPSA polls.

 

But while the MPSA and MHSAA games are still few are far between, one can only hope that the recent changes will stay alive and give life to new rivalries in the generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check for Ryan's High School Spotlight each week at FootballPower.tv.

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Spotlight on: Farragut Admirals

Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee

Group: Class 5A

 

By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent

 

A first glance at Reese Browning and the Farragut Admirals and one might mistake the squad for the Dallas Cowboys.

 

The comparisons start with the blue star on the silver helmet and similar color patterns, but due to the team’s elite skill level this season, the Admirals have made fans double take nearly every Friday night, and often fueling questions over whether Farragut truly is “America’s Team” in disguise. 

 

Meanwhile, Browning has done his best Tony Romo impersonation this season in leading the way for the Admirals.  The junior quarterback has lifted his squad to a 7-0 overall record so far this season thanks to his strong, accurate passing ability and elite game management skills. In seven starts, he has thrown for a total of 1,627 yards while tossing 17 touchdowns; quite impressive for a junior signal-caller.

 

But while the ball flies long and high for the Admirals, it just might be the stable of game-changing running backs that ignites this squad. Junior D’Andre Purdy is the leader of the group and has already rushed for 749 yards this season with nine touchdowns.  Likewise, Chris Bass, Trevoris Bogan and Monte Hudson, among others, have seen frequent action and have made major contributions.  

 

And with four different running backs that can go the distance on any given down, as well as a capable tight end in Derek Harper, it’s no secret that Farragut’s offense is humming. Through seven games so far, the Admirals have averaged 39 points per contest, while holding opponents to just 11.4 total – good for a difference of nearly four touchdowns every game. 

 

Defensively, the Admirals are putting up impressive numbers to date. With a lofty 12 interceptions and six fumble recoveries, it’s apparent that this squad is made up of ball hawks. Seniors Jonathan Moskal and Bogan lead the way with three picks apiece. 

 

While the Admirals have been outstanding in all phases of the game thus far, the team’s next two games pose as major hurdles. Rival schools Ooltewah and Soddy Daisy still loom, and both have lost just once to date.

 

But with Farragut’s chameleon-like style of offense and nose for the ball on defense, the squad should look to enter as favorites in both of those games. 

 

It’s apparent so far -- just like the big boys down in “Big D,” -- that Farragut’s star is shining bright and will likely do so for the rest of the season.

 

Next: October 17, 2008 at Ooltewah (5-1 overall, State PR: 82.37, Rank: 9).

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Spotlight on: Smith Center

Hometown: Smith Center, KS

Group: 2-1A

 

 

By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent

 

It’s hard to believe that a school so small could produce such a constant, dominant force.

 

Set in a tiny town with just one stoplight, Smith Center is an institution with an enrollment of roughly 150 students (and just 116 between the 10th and 12th grades). There are 57 boys on the football roster this season -- which makes Smith Center’s (State PR: 82.44, Rank: 1) story all the more impressive. 

 

Not only is there a limited pool to form a team from, but head coach Roger Barta is doing more with less, and it’s paying giant dividends.

 

So far in 2008, the Redmen have outscored opponents 203 to 57 in just five games, including a shutout of Ellis this past weekend by a 40-0 margin.

 

Pretty astounding, indeed, but this is nothing different than what Smith Center has been posting – and raising eyebrows with -- for decades.

 

Just last season, the Redmen tallied 72 points in the first quarter against Plainville en route to a national record for the most points in a single period. Even more astonishing, Smith Center allowed just 20 points all season in 13 games while producing 844 on the scoreboard en route to a state title.

 

Meanwhile, the program owns seven state championships, starting in ’82 and then following up in ’86, ’99, ’04, ’05, ’06, and ’07.

 

And the team is not just about winning games and championships, either. Barta sees the program as a tool to help his players further down the road in life. 

 

“I don’t know if winning or losing is what our program is about,” said Barta in a recent interview during his squad's impressive '07 title run. “Maybe something we did will help them (the players) five, 10, 20 years from now and help them be successful in life.”

 

And this is where the philosophy of the program comes into play, as well. The high school athletes are taught that Smith Center is “Where tradition starts” and “Where tradition never graduates.” Indeed, it's important to strive for as many victories as you can, but it's the intangibles learned along the way that make the biggest difference in one's life.

 

Last week, the Redmen played a then 4-1 Colby team that came in very capable of putting up points. The Eagles had been averaging 23 points per game while holding opponents to just over 10 per outing. At the time, it appeared that this midseason matchup could have shaped up to be one of the biggest challenges of the regular season for Smith Center, but the Redmen made quick work of their counterparts en route to a 40-0 romp.

 

Up Next: October 17 at Washington (State PR: 38.38, Rank: 33).

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Spotlight On: Bessemer Academy

Hometown: Bessemer, Alabama

Group: AISA AAA

 

By Ryan Rohde

SportsPower Correspondent

 

After opening its doors in 1970, Bessemer Academy was just one of the many new private schools across Alabama designed for white students who wanted to segregate from black students.

 

After all, the town of Bessemer hails just 10 miles southwest of Birmingham, where racism was ever-present during that period.

 

Fast-forward almost thirty years to 1997 and the town of Bessemer had changed. The steel industry was gone, the formerly majority caucasian town was now 70 percent black, and Bessemer Academy was struggling to keep its head above water.

 

With more and more whites leaving Bessemer, and enrollment plummeting at the school, academy officials needed to make a change in order for the school to get back in good standing with the community.

 

 

Ultimately, they decided the best way to make a difference was to build a football powerhouse.

 

“A great debate team is not going to bring in students. But a great football team will," said Ben Allison, a former member of Bessemer's board of directors, in a 2005 New Orleans Times-Picayune article by Josh Peter.    

 

The plan the school followed was simple. First, the initial step in building a formidable, respectable program was to hire a new coach.

 

Bessemer was not known for its football prowess, so there weren’t any established coach knocking on the door. Soon, however, the school decided to hire Mark Freeman, a car salesman and local Pee-Wee football coach.

 

Next, Freeman and the school understood that in order to build a quality team, they would need the best athletes, black or white. And this was going to be no easy task at a school with an openly racist past and inclusion in the Alabama Independent School Association, a league formed for teams that wouldn’t play against teams with black players. 

 

Meanwhile, Freeman’s first year at Bessemer resulted in a 4-7 campaign, while the second season showed marked improvement by going 6-4. Clearly, the team was improving, but there was still something missing.

 

Then, LaRon Yow enrolled at Bessemer during the ’00-‘01 school year. His mother sent him to Bessemer because she was worried about the learning environment at Jess Lanier, the town’s only public high school.

 

Yow was the team’s only black player that season. He started out playing receiver, but Freeman moved him to defensive line and watched the talented athlete finish his senior year with 19 sacks.

 

Additionally, Freeman also raised eyebrows when he hired a black assistant coach without the school board’s approval. Roderick Foster was a standout player at Alabama-Birmingham and the school’s first black employee outside of the maintenance or janitorial staff.

 

In the Times-Picayune article by Peter, Foster said he took the job to “open the doors to the community of Bessemer and to whoever thought it was a white school.”

 

Other black players followed in Yow’s footsteps. By 2001, the Rebels went 9-2 and made reached the AISA state championship before falling to Monroe Academy. The following season, Bessemer went undefeated while winning the school’s first championship.

 

Today, Bessemer’s enrollment today stands at almost 500 students, 43 of them being black and 12 of them members of the football team. After clearing that hurdle in ’02, the Rebels also won state championships in ‘04, ‘06 and ‘07.

 

And so while Freeman no longer coaches at Bessemer, the former head coach was certainly a vital part of the school’s success and has clearly left his mark on Alabama high school football history.

 

Indeed, Bessemer succeeded where other Alabama private schools did not over the years. 

 

They learned acceptance and inclusion, and it has made all the difference in the world.

 

Next up: October 10 vs. Morgan Academy (State PR: 55.39, Rank: 37).

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: Saint John Bosco

Hometown: Bellflower, California

Group: California Southern Section

 

 

 

By Brett Manney

SportsPower Correspondent

 

The school motto at Saint John Bosco comes from the Latin phrase, “Ad Deum Qui Laetificat Juventutem Meam," which stands for, “To God, who gives joy to my youth.”

 

The Saint John Bosco (5-0 overall, FP.tv State PR: 95.35, Rank: 5) football team has plenty to be joyful about so far in the 2008 season after a disappointing ’07 campaign in which they finished with a 3-6 record. Already this season, the Braves have eclipsed those three wins en route to a perfect campaign so far.

 

For a squad that plays in one of the toughest football conferences in the country (California Southern Section), the Braves have not advanced to the Southern Section playoffs since ‘04, when they fell to[ Long Beach Poly|http://fp.tv/teams/hs/10222] in the Div. 1 second round.

 

Head coach Kiki Mendoza’s team is on a mission to avenge last season’s losing record, and so far, his squad is heading down the right path.

 

And there has been plenty of joy so far on a Braves team that's laden with veterans. The senior-heavy Braves are led by star quarterback Keith Price and wide receiver Will Shamburger.

 

Price, a three-sport star and dynamic signal-caller, is a University of Washington recruit while his favorite target, Shamburger, is a Boise State recruit. The duo provides John Bosco a dynamic one-two punch and has given defenses headaches all season.

 

Meanwhile, the Braves are ranked fifth in FootballPower’s California state rankings by putting up huge wins. Bosco has scored 202 points through five games and has allowed only 58 points. For a team which such dominating victories, it finally appears – along with their unblemished record -- that the squad is gaining respect in ‘08.

 

Says Frank Bullison of the Long Beach Press Telegram, “They dominated two pretty good teams (Loyola and St. Paul) the past couple of Friday nights, and were more impressive on the nights I watched them play - against Cabrillo and St. Paul - than were Mater Dei (vs. Carson) and Los Alamitos (against Mayfair) when I saw those teams play up close.”

 

The next matchup for the Braves comes not until October 17th in their league opener at home against Santa Margarita Catholic (2-3, State PR: 56.41, Rank: 143).

 

The best has yet to come for Bosco as they anxiously await the arrival of dynamic running back Alex Fletcher. The Lakewood transfer could play very soon if he meets the necessary academic requirements.

 

As told to the Los Angeles Times by Mendoza, “He’s as good as any football player we have.”

 

Indeed, adding Fletcher to an already explosive offense should continue the Braves’ dominance in 2008.

 

And for a team that has suffered misery in the recent past, it’s apparent that they been resurrected with youthful joy.

 

Next up: October 17 vs. Santa Margarita Catholic.

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Spotlight on: Gateway Gators

Hometown: Monroeville, Pennsylvania

Group: PA AAAA

 

 

 

By Andre Coles

SportsPower Correspondent

 

The Gateway Gators refuse to settle for anything less than a state championship in 2008. After coming within one point of the title game last season, this year’s squad is poised to finish the task.

 

The Gators continue to use last year’s second place finish against state champ Pittsburgh Central Catholic as motivation in every game this campaign.

 

Meanwhile, in a recent interview with Michael Love of YourSouthHills.com, head coach Terry Smith echoed those sentiments and explained his team’s passion for a championship this season.

 

“The kids are focused on it right now. This is an experienced group who is working hard. Having that bad taste in their mouth makes them work even harder.”

 

As a result, the ‘08 squad has been leaving a bad taste in the mouths of every opponent so far this season. The Gators are already off to a 6-0 start and have outscored opponents 278-38.

 

The Gators' success this season has been no fluke either, as the squad has a more than capable leader in Smith, along with a talented cast of players that carry out his philosophies and passion on the field.

 

Smith, who is a former Gator and Penn State University receiver himself, has never endured a losing season at Gateway. Overall, in his seven years at the helm, Smith is 59-18.

 

And leading with his experience as a coach and a player, Smith feels like this season’s squad might be his best in some time.

 

In an interview with Dave Mackall of the Tribune-Review, Smith said, “Potentially, this is the best team. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of valuable experience here. And we work hard.”

 

Smith’s message is certainly saying a lot for a program that has sent over 45 student-athletes to compete collegiately since he took over in ‘02, including this year’s group of impressive seniors of which four have already made Div. I commitments.

 

Big name seniors Dorian Bell and Corey Brown have already committed to Ohio State University, while Colin Rodkey and B.J. Stevens have chosen Indiana University and Miami of Ohio, respectively.

 

These players provide the experience and leadership Smith speaks of. 

 

“The returning starters are leading by example and leading verbally. They’re doing everything we’ve asked of them.”

 

With that being said, as the second-ranked team in Pennsylvania according to FootballPower’s most recent poll, the Gators will face their toughest challenge of the season this upcoming week. 

 

For the first time in its history, Gateway will face a formidable Trojans squad of Erie McDowell High (State PR: 69.90, Rank: 37).

 

As long as the Gators continue to use last year’s loss in the WPIAL championship as motivation, while continuing to follow Smith’s lead and ride their experienced and big name seniors, this squad should be wearing medals around their necks when the season comes to a close.

 

Next up: October 10 at Erie McDowell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the Gateway Gators own team Website here!

 

 

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Spotlight on: William Floyd Colonials

Hometown: Mastic Beach, New York

Group: Section 11, Division

 

 

 

 

 

By Jimmy Oliver

FootballPower.tv Correspondent

 

Like the Atlantic Ocean waves that continually batter the nearby shores of Mastic Beach, N.Y., William Floyd (State PR: 75.38, Rank: 15) has been pounding opponents into the turf time and time again.

 

Just in the past decade alone, the Colonials have quickly proven themselves to be one of the top teams on Long Island – and perhaps the state – and the proof is there for all to see. 

 

Since 2004, the Colonials have produced a whopping 44-1 overall record, which includes three consecutive Long Island Championships. The mark is one of the most impressive stretches by any football team in Long Island history.

 

Currently, William Floyd is in the midst of a 34-game winning streak, 38-straight home victories and 41 consecutive Suffolk Div. I regular season wins.

 

The streaks truly are unprecedented in Long Island high school football history.

 

And it’s apparent that the Colonials are already a dynasty still looking to change the record books. And so far this season, Floyd has shown no signs of a regime change.

 

Thus far in ‘08, the squad is off to a 3-0 start after giant wins over Lindenhurst, Longwood and Sachem East -- by a combined score of 80-34.

 

Meanwhile, the reigning champions are keeping the streak alive this season thanks to a multi-faceted attack. The Colonials are winning games both in the air and on the ground, despite a relatively inexperienced core due to heavy losses from graduation and injuries.

 

Steven Murphy leads the way as a first-year starter at quarterback and is proving to be capable of leading the team into the endzone.  Helping to unload the burden on Murphy is highly touted running back Vaughn Magee. The senior has been dynamic early on and has put up consistent, superior play, including a 100-yard performance last week against Sachem East and a 100-yard second half effort versus Longwood.

 

And while the ’08 version of the Colonials may not be as dominating as the ’07 squad (which produced an average margin of victory of 35 points per game), the team is still finding a way to earn victories, even in a tough and balanced division. 

 

It’s also evident that head coach Paul Longo is not afraid to go with what works and play to the strengths of his players. 

 

The Colonials are currently one of many teams that have instilled the spread offense, and have done so to great success. But Floyd and company have shown the ability to adapt when adversity strikes.

 

During the squad’s recent 24-15 win over Longwood, many of the team’s passes were contained early and not gaining much offensively. So, instead, the squad implemented a power running game and quickly rattled off 154 yards on the ground in the second half en route to the win.

 

Meanwhile, the Colonials were up to their old tricks this past weekend against Sachem East, as the squad put up 42 points in convincing fashion, with 20 of those points coming in the second quarter to put the game out of reach. Magee accounted for three touchdowns in the game to help the Colonials clinch their 34th victory in a row.

 

And so while this may be a different Colonial team compared to the last three undefeated squads, one thing remains certain. The Colonials continue to put up wins, add to their unprecedented total and then plan on being part of the Long Island championship game for the fourth time in four years.

 

Next up: Friday, October 3 at Patchogue-Medford (State PR: 49.00, Rank: 62).

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: Summerville Green Wave

Hometown: Summerville, South Carolina

Group: SC Class 4A

 

 

 

 

By Ryan Rohde

FootballPower Correspondent

 

 

 

His name is legendary around the Palmetto state. South Carolina named a day after him in 1977 and Harry Truman was even president when he began his current profession.

 

One might wonder who might warrant such an impressive resume: perhaps a politician, an actor or humanitarian? Actually, it's Summerville (State PR: 65.88, Rank: 21) head football coach John McKissick.

 

558 wins, 10 state titles, and 30 regional championships later, McKissick still patrols the sidelines for the Summerville Green Wave. Now embarking in his 57th season at Summerville, McKissick is the winningest football coach at any level.

 

McKissick’s coaching career actually commenced in Clarkton, North Carolina, where he was hired as the head football coach not knowing it was a 6-man program. In reality, he knew very little about 6-man football, so he read a book about it and soon lead his team to a 7-2 record – all while coaching the boys and girls basketball teams and the baseball squad.

 

Understandably, he only stayed at Clarkton for one year.

 

Then in the summer of 1952, McKissick applied for head coaching position at Summerville. The job was open after the Green Wave won two state titles and the previous coach moved up to the college ranks. McKissick won the job over some highly qualified coaching candidates and clearly, the decision paid off, and not just on the football field.

 

The 82-year-old is known as a father and even grandfather figure around the South Carolina city of around 30,000.

 

"I think the most important element of coaching is teaching the kids how to be successful; that it takes hard work; that it takes perseverance; to keep trying,” said McKissick in a recent article by Alan Ross of AmericanProfile.com. “In football, you get knocked down a lot; in life, you get knocked down, but you’ve got to get back up."

 

The Summerville athletic program has honored the long-time coach by naming a college scholarship after him. This scholarship is awarded to the football player who does not receive an athletic scholarship, but exemplifies what John McKissick preaches in the classroom and on the field.

 

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 players have heard his message during his 56 years of coaching.

 

"John McKissick is a life-lesson coach," said Billy G. Baker, who has known the Summerville coach for 35 years and is the co-author of two books with McKissick, Called to Coach and Called to Coach II.

 

What may be even more amazing than his records or accomplishments is that all 3,000 plus athletes that came out for the Green Wave earned a jersey. The living legend has never cut a player that has come out for the team in all of his years of coaching.

 

And he has kept that mentality since day one.

 

Perhaps the reason the athletes keep coming out is that he keeps the game as easy as possible.

 

“The game is so simple - all it is tackling, running and blocking,” said McKissick in a recent NFLHS.com article by David Krider.

 

And that is exactly what McKissick does these days; he keeps everything simple.

 

After the Friday night games, he and his wife head straight to their beach house for the weekend, travel back home on Sunday and then starts preparing for the next week’s game. That is the legend’s routine.

 

If you ask any regional experts or coaches, they too would say that his routine works just fine.

 

Next up: October 3, 2008 vs. West Ashley (State PR: 53.02, Rank: 30). 

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: John Curtis Patriots

Hometown: River Ridge, Louisiana

Group: LA Class 2A

 

 

By Omar Muhammad

FootballPower Correspondent

 

 

There are thousands of high school football programs across the nation that likely dream about having one legendary coach during their tenure.

 

But for the John Curtis Patriots, they’ve actually had two, and believe it or not, they’re father and son. 

 

John T. Curtis, Sr. started his own dream in 1962 when he erected John Curtis Christian School from the ground floor in tiny River Ridge, Louisiana. 

 

With five children and a loving and devoted wife, he soon became the “father” of many students that walked through his doors of his school.  After Curtis Sr. stepped down as head coach of the Patriots in 1969, his oldest son John T. Curtis II took the reins and kept the winning tradition alive and moving forward. 

 

Since he commenced coaching several decades ago, Curtis II has earned extraordinary honors by winning 424 games. He trails only Summerville (S.C.) head coach John McKissick, who has tallied 529 victories in his brilliant football career.

 

Perhaps even more amazing is that Curtis has accumulated those numbers with just a student body total of 305.

 

Meanwhile, the achievements attained have been nothing short of incredible. Curtis has won nearly 90 percent of his games, coached 21 state championship teams, sent 160 players to college on scholarships and 11 have entered into professional football.  

 

Today, Patriots football is still a family affair.

 

Curtis’ brother Leon is currently the defensive coordinator has been a key assistant since 1971. The staff also includes two of John’s sons (John III and Jeff) and three of Leon’s sons (Steve, Preston and Matt).

 

The only non-relative is Mike Robertson, who has been offensive coordinator since 1976.

 

Altogether, the Curtis family coaching timeline has extended over 40 years, and looks to extend into the fourth generation with John III’s six-year-old son John T. Curtis IV.

 

During the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, as Curtis’ coaching career began to take off along with his state and national powerhouse, many parents in the region even started sending their children to play for Curtis due to his resume and his terrific rapport with his athletes.

 

Now, Curtis is just the second coach in high school football history to reach over 400 wins.

 

But not only has Curtis been a tremendous coach and teacher, but in some cases, a one-of-a-kind mentor off the field. 

 

Recently, Curtis came to the aid of one of his players Joe McKnight and his entire family when Hurricane Katrina forced him along with his mother and his brother from their home.

 

Curtis invited McKnight and his family – in addition to two other displaced players in Darryl Brister and Jonathan English -- to live with him and his wife. 

 

And in the Curtis household, everyone carried responsibilities.  As reported in the 2006 November issue of Sports Illustrated, Curtis gave the players chores, including garbage duty, dishwashing and laundry.

 

"It's been an adjustment for the guys," Curtis said. "They don't want to make it look like they're the teacher's pet."  McKnight, who has a nonexistent relationship with his father, said Curtis "put me in a stable household; he's made a really big difference in my life." 

 

Since the program’s inception, it’s clear that the main ingredient towards success is that family comes first.

 

There is no doubt that without a family affair being present at John Curtis, this storied program would look vastly different than it does today.

 

Next Up: Saturday, October 4 against North Miami Beach (State PR: 68.82, Rank: 25).

 

 

 

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Spotlight On: St. Xavier Bombers

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Group: Ohio Division I

 

 

 

 

 

By Andre Coles

FootballPower.tv Correspondent

 

 

Saint Xavier Athletic Director John Sullivan believes that Bombers Football is more than just accolades and achievements. 

 

“At St. Xavier, we believe the goal of games is to win, while the goal of athletics is to grow," says Sullivan.

 

 

Clearly, Sullivan understands the true meaning of athletics for the young adults at St. Xavier.

 

“Our program’s mission is very simple: Strive for the magis (for the greater glory of God) in everything we do,” Sullivan said. “Our goal is to produce championship caliber young men that understand that winning is more than who scored the most points at the end of the 4th quarter. Ultimately, we want our young men to be better people when they leave the St. Xavier football program than when they arrived.”

 

With those ideals in place, the Bombers football program, headed by a superior head coach in Steve Specht, has undoubtedly produced productive members of society, and at the same time, top-notch athletes who have risen to the elite ranks in sports.

 

Currently there are 38 former Bombers on college football rosters with 14 of those individuals being from Specht's undefeated state championship squad of 2007.

 

Meanwhile, Rocky Boiman and Lamar Marshall also represent the Bombers in the National Football League.

 

And with a coaching staff that believes in the school mission and preaches it every day, it’s no wonder that the Bombers have been at the top of an elite list in Ohio football.

 

The program also has a very capable leader in Specht. The former Bomber is in his 14th season with the team and his 5th as the head coach.

 

In an interview with Danny Hotochin of USAFootball.com, Specht outlined his passion for coaching and the mentors who helped teach him valuable lessons along the way. That passion merged with the positive influences in his life, and the mantra of the athletics department, has a direct effect on the program today. 

 

“I know I wanted to coach when I was in high school,” Specht said. “I had the good fortune of playing under some great coaches. My coaches had a direct impact on my passion for the game.”

 

Among those coaches is current Florida head coach Urban Meyer, who was once Specht’s secondary coach.

 

All the while, Specht is quick to point out that perhaps his biggest influence came from former Bomber head Steve Rasso, who is a current member of the Ohio High School Football Hall of Fame. 

 

Says Specht, “I learned an awful lot from him about football and an awful lot about life. When I talk about my football philosophy as far as teaching, these kids about football and life -- that’s what Rasso did for me.”

 

Specht appears to have taken what he has learned and kept the tradition of Bombers football in full stride.  Overall, Specht owns a 43-5 overall record and boasts two undefeated state championship teams and back-to-back appearances in the highly competitive Ohio vs. USA Challenge.

 

Meanwhile, this year’s squad is off to a tough start in comparison to seasons past.  The ‘08 Bombers are currently 3-3 with losses to three of the toughest teams in the country: Colerain (OH), Trinity (KY) and Elder (OH). 

 

It should be noted that the Bombers play one of the nation’s toughest schedules, with opponents spanning across five states and wins already against three very difficult opponents in Prattville (AL), Indianapolis Cathedral (IN) and Don Bosco Prep (NJ).

 

Indeed, St. Xavier is still among the Greater Catholic League's elite. There is no doubt that Specht and the Bombers – with four games left in the regular season to earn a playoff berth – will seek to do their best, all while striving for magis along the way.

 

Next up: October 3, 2008 at La Salle (State PR: 50.92, Rank: 70).

 

 

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Spotlight: Valdosta Wildcats

Hometown: Valdosta, GA

Group: GA Class AAAAA

 

 

By Ryan Rohde

 

The numbers are staggering: a national record 838 wins (and counting), an 80% overall winning percentage, 23 state championships and six national titles.

 

This is Valdosta Wildcat football.

 

The backbone of the success on the field is two-fold. It starts with great tradition but also includes elite coaches who understand that tradition. Wright Bazemore began coaching at Valdosta in 1942, winning 14 state titles in three decades at the helm, all while establishing the Wildcat tradition that continues today.

 

Bazemore stepped down in 1971, but his successor was fired for not winning a region championship after just two seasons. That’s one example of the pressure that comes with being the head coach of the winningest team in high school football history. Bazmore then hand picked Nick Hyder to be the next head coach. Hyder died tragically in 1996, but not before cementing himself in Wildcat history by winning seven state titles.

 

And with great coaches comes great players. The people of Valdosta have passed the tradition of playing for the black and gold from generation to generation, which is a major reason for the team’s sustained success. The citizens fully invest themselves in high school football. The diners and coffee shops are filled with former players who have sons or grandsons on the team. The talk is all Valdosta football, present, past and future.

 

The southern Georgia city of 45,000 is dubbed “Winnersville” in the world of high school football, and more recently crowned as “TitleTown USA” by ESPN. With a history and tradition like Valdosta, and a penchant for spending money, it is hard not to garner comparisons on a grand scale.

 

Said former head coach Rick Darlington in an article by Steve Weiberg of USA Today, “I've heard us called the Yankees of high school football.”

 

When taking one look at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium on the campus of Valdosta High, it’s easy to see why.

 

This is not your ordinary high school football stadium. For instance, the new $7.5 million Sprinturf field, the reserved armchair seats for season ticket holders and the new press box are all lit by the same high caliber lights used at Daytona National Speedway.

 

Meanwhile, located in the southeast corner of the stadium is the “Wildcat Walk of Pride.” The brick walkway is lined with the names of Wildcat alumni and fans and leads to the “[Wildcat Museum|http://www.valdostafootball.com/facilities/museum/].”

 

The museum embodies all that is Valdosta football. The walls are lined with memorabilia from seasons past, in addition to countless championship trophies reminding fans what it means to be a Wildcat.

 

And that pride is shown on Friday nights. Bazemore-Hyder Stadium draws regularly 7,500 fans for each game, which is almost twice the amount as two-time Division II national champion Valdosta State. The seats are packed with individuals of all walks -- from infants to students and to lifelong season ticket holders.

 

The fans and school also understand that running a powerhouse program does not come without a price. The annual budget for the program is upwards of $300,000 and the 1,500 member booster club chips in an additional 80-90 grand.

 

When asked in a recent Sports Illustrated article about coming to Valdosta from his former job at Washington County, current head coach Rick Tomberlin said, “…This is a bigger stage. It's like being at the Fox Theater in Atlanta and then going to Carnegie Hall.”

 

With a resume like Valdosta’s, most would agree that those comparisons are spot on.

 

Next up: Friday, September 26 vs. Warner Robins (State PR: 67.00, Rank: 32).

 

 

 

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Team Spotlight: Everett Crimson Tide

Location: Everett, Massachusetts

Group: Massachusetts Eastern Mass

 

 

By Andre Coles

 

Michael Matarazzo, web administrator for the Everett High football team, understands exactly what high school football means to the community of Everett, Massachusetts. It’s bigger than touchdowns and tackles and Matarazzo displays the message loud and clear and for everyone to see on the team’s homepage.

 

“The history of Everett High School’s Crimson Tide Football Team is the story of more than just football. It is the story of a working-class community and its pride in the achievements of its youth. It is the story of the sons and grandsons of immigrants who rose to levels of prominence in the world of high school football and in life.”

 

On the field, those achievements have been felt for multiple generations as the Everett football program has attained an elite status in the state of Massachusetts – and around the nation – for more than a century. It’s easy to see why the Everett community takes such great pride in its football team.

 

Not only has the Crimson Tide won a multitude of Suburban League titles and Greater Boston league Championships, but the historic program has produced seven Eastern Massachusetts Super Bowl winners in the past eleven seasons, including the last two.

 

Adding to the history of Everett is the great talent the program has produced from working class roots. Perhaps most familiar is the late Dan Ross, an eight-year veteran of the National Football League, who is best known for his record setting performance in Super Bowl XVI with the Cincinnati Bengals. The former tight end set a record with 11 receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns, which was the most for a tight end in Super Bowl history.

 

Ross and fellow Everett alum Swede Oberlander are members of the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

The program has also produced arguably one of the best high school teams in history.  The 1914 squad not only finished the season undefeated at 13-0, but no opponent found a way to score on the team either. The state and National Champions outscored opponents 600-0.

 

Meanwhile, Everett’s history and success strongly correlates with its togetherness as a community. In a city with 36,000 people Everett boasts two Pop Warner football programs. These youth programs have been integral in building the foundation for the Everett High teams of today. 

 

The Crimson Tide won three straight Super Bowls from ‘01-‘03, with the members of these teams all playing together on the Pop Warner Squads.

 

The success of Everett’s past is still prevalent today. The ’08 version of the Crimson Tide is already off to a 3-0 start with its recent 48-26 win over Dracut (State PR: 85.00). All the while, the Tide is currently the top rated school in the SportsPower Massachusetts rankings with a mark of 95.00. 

 

Indeed, for over 100 years, Everett has produced winners on and off the football field. If the past is any indication, they will likely do so for another century.

 

Now, that’s certainly something for a community to get behind.

 

Next Up: Friday, September 26 vs. St. John's Prep (State PR: 91.00, Rank: 11).

 

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Spotlight on: Centennial Coyotes

Hometown: Peoria, Arizona

Group: 5A Division II

 

 

By Jimmy Oliver

 

Each season at Centennial may end differently than the one before, but no matter what, the expectations remain the same.  When the players don those navy blue helmets with the interlocking “CC” symbols along with the navy blue uniforms, they immediately understand the prospect of winning a state championship is inherent upon them.

 

Those expectations were instilled earlier this decade as the program grew in skill and prominence.  The year 2002 marked the beginning of a new era in Centennial Football as a new wave of talent fueled the team’s first playoff berth since ’95.

 

After two more years of playoff success, the Coyotes lost to North Canyon in the Arizona 5A-II state final in ’05.  The following year, Centennial broke through and triumphed over Tucson Sunnyside to take home its first title.  And then last year, the Coyotes won it all again thanks to a hard fought victory over Westview.

 

In ’08, Centennial has its eyes on landing a berth into the state title game for the fourth straight time.

 

From that first season in ’92, when the squad put up a record of just 2-8, Centennial has been building the foundation for perennial championship teams in the Grand Canyon state.

 

So far, the Coyotes are once again proving themselves a contender with a 3-0 record thanks to big wins over Desert Ridge, Hamilton (one of Centennial’s tougher opponents on the schedule) and Rincon.  Next up for Centennial is North. Currently, the Coyotes are ranked 1st in the state of Arizona in the latest Mega Division ratings.

 

In the coming weeks, the offense will look to stay hot.  North has put up 61 points in three games but has also let up 78.  Therefore, junior quarterback Daine McFarland and running back John Hughes will have ample opportunity to continue the pace they have set so far.  Along with those playmakers, the Coyotes sport a young offensive line that appears to be already starting to come together.

 

Head coach Richard Taylor is starting to see that happen.

 

“I cam home after a practice during the Hamilton week and told my wife (who is a music teacher at Centennial) that we were not practicing well and how concerned I was.  She told me ‘bad practice…good performance’”

 

Meanwhile, Centennial beat Hamilton that week 35-16.  Bravo Mrs. Taylor.

 

Perhaps Taylor’s uneasiness is starting to move in the other direction because of the belief he has in his kids.

 

“This group is very bright and are hard workers,” Taylor said.  “They know what they want and what they need to do.”

 

And it’s likely that the athletes know the exact task at hand because of the expectations that have been instilled.  From the starting quarterback to the third string linebacker, each member of the squad shares the common goal of winning a state title.  And because of that tradition, an established coaching staff and a program producing primal talent in the state, Centennial breeds success ever year.

 

Said Taylor, “We want to excel at all phases of the game.”

 

So far, as is the norm around Peoria now, the Coyotes are doing just that.

 

Next up: Friday, September 26 at North (State PR: 52.00, Rank: 34).

 

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Spotlight on: Jenks Trojans

Hometown: Jenks, Oklahoma

Group: OK Class 6A

 

 

By Omar Muhammad

 

The Jenks Trojans define success on the gridiron in Oklahoma. The Tulsa-area squad has dominated the Class 6A competition for decades and has accumulated a dozen state titles since 1976. 

 

But while the Trojans are renowned for their victories and state championships, they may be better known for their bitter rivalry game each year with the Union Redskins dubbed the “Backyard Bowl Game.” 

 

The Jenks-Union rivalry goes back to 1949 thanks to both schools being only 10 miles apart. Says Barry Lewis, prep sports writer at the Tulsa World, one has to factor in the friends, family and teachers that have embraced the feud as well. 

 

Meanwhile, both teams are in the same conference in every sport except for football. And while in football they may not be in the same district, the two rivals are still in the same classification. 

 

Seeing that these two 6A football teams have combined for the last 12 state titles in Oklahoma also fuels the rivalry. And it probably helps that the competition has featured many incredible finishes, including a nail-biter on September 12 when Jenks rallied from 14 points down in the 4th quarter to send the game into overtime, only before Union clinched it, 24-17, in the extra session.

 

In that contest, Union held a 17-3 lead heading to the fourth quarter before a quick pair of touchdown passes from Beau Marsaln to Tramaine Thompson helped the Trojans tie the score and send the game to overtime.

 

In the extra period, Union received the ball first and went to tailback Jeremy Smith, who scored on a one-yard run to give the Redskins a 24-17 lead. Then, Jenks moved the ball inside the five-yard line during its overtime possession, but on a fourth and goal, Marsaln was sacked to end the game.

 

While the Trojans certainly wanted the victory for bragging rights and pride, perhaps the team shouldn’t look into the loss too much. Historically, according to Lewis, the loser of the regular season rivalry game in four of the last five years has actually gone on to win the state title. 

 

All the while, the Backyard Bowl game spreads through the locals with their spirit and traditions. 

 

The contest is easily the most highly anticipated by Tulsa-area fans all season long. One perfect example of that is the 20,000 plus supporters that annually attend the contest. The game has the atmosphere of a college bowl game, complete with a trophy, and due to its popularity, is now played at Chapman Stadium on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

 

Being the two best teams in Oklahoma, and being the biggest rivalry in the state, these teams have compiled some great stories for the history books.

 

In both 2000 and 2005, Union scored last-minute touchdowns to take the lead, only to have Jenks score in the last seconds on a long passes to win the game.

 

Then in ‘07, Jenks scored with 90 seconds left to take the lead, only to see Union score with 17 seconds remaining and then go on to win in overtime

 

But perhaps the biggest high scoring affair came in ‘97, when Union beat Jenks 55-45 in a back and forth shootout. 

 

It’s easy to see why the Jenks football program has opened up the eyes of many national and local fans. From the numerous accolades, to the traditions passed down and to the one of a kind rivalry with Union that has produced incredible finishes and achievements, the Trojans also define what high school football is all about.

 

Next up: Friday, September 26 at Claremore (State PR: 82.00, Rank: 7).

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Midwest Region

 

Spotlight on: Trinity

Hometown: Euless, Texas

Group: Texas 5A

 

By Omar Muhammad

 

The Trinity High football program has risen to the national spotlight thanks to a winning tradition and a little help from the team’s intimidating dance called the Haka.

 

Long before the ceremonial war dance started at Trinity, football commenced in Euless in 1976 under head coach John Reddell and the team quickly gained respect across the state. Flash-forward through nine district titles and 13 playoff appearances, Reddell is now among the winningest coaches in Texas high school football history after piling up a record of 260-131-12 and 17 coach of the year honors by the Texas Football Coaches Association.

 

The head coach and Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District Hall of Fame inductee brought a winner’s attitude to Trinity and it has stuck due to a knowledgable coaching staff and a steady stream of athletic, dynamic and coachable football players. Since the program was initiated 31 years ago, Trinity has produced five players to the National Football League – most recently Ryan McBean, who was drafted in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Head coach Steve Lineweaver, who came aboard in 2000, heads today’s Trojans. Lineweaver has kept the Trojans on the winning course by chalking up 89 wins while losing just 16 in his eight-year career.

 

Meanwhile, the Trojans have become one of the most recognizable teams around the nation, but it isn’t necessarily because of their success.

 

In their championship year of ’05, the team initiated a war dance from New Zealand called the Haka. Trinity first performed the dance three years after one of the team’s Tongan players saw a video on the Internet of New Zealand's All Blacks rugby team doing the war dance before one of their games.

 

The ritual is more than 200 years old and originated with New Zealand's Maori people. Since then, it has been adopted by a number of Polynesian cultures, including Tonga.

 

Today, the Haka is performed by the Trojans before each game and has even fueled nationwide coverage by YouTube, Gatorade, and the CBS Evening News.

 

While the Haka can be intimidating for opposing teams before a contest, it’s quite clear that with top-notch coaching and a steady stream of athletic talent coming into the program, Trinity will likely stay high in the Texas and national rankings for years to come.

 

So far this season, the Trojans are ranked #1 by FootballPower in its latest Mega Division Top Ten Football Poll and will look to stay there through season’s end.

 

Next up: Thursday, September 18 at Allen (State PR: 96.00, Rank: 6).

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