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!
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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’
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
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 EasternPAFootball.com, “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
The ‘08 squad is poised to make this year just as memorable as the last
few in Jeannette. Said Reitz to EasternPAFootball.com, “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)
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
Next up: Friday, September 19 vs. Colquitt County (State PR: 90.00, Ranking: 16).
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
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).