John E. Lewis II…Following A Legend

If you say the name Aubrey Lewis to most people it would fall on deaf ears.  Similarly the name John Lewis II can be announced in the world of football recruiting and you get a regionalized pocket of hurrahs.  It’s the story behind John Lewis II that has brought some major division one coaches to the point of intrigue as well as optimism for the young Lewis.

john lewis II

Lewis decided to leave Paramus Catholic and transfer to Montclair High School this past summer and left one of the best linebacking units in the nation by doing so.  His former backer unit included Drew Singleton, Tyler Whipper, and Jordan Watson, all who are major college football recruits.  They all wished him well and understood why the sudden decision to transfer came about.  Lewis wanted to represent his grandfather, Aubrey C. Lewis at the school which has the elder Lewis’s number visibly displayed from the press box.  In fact the coaching staff thought it was only fitting that John Lewis wear his grandfather’s #17 jersey number and represent the great character and player that Aubrey Lewis name is famous for.  Why is this story so intriguing to college coaches?  Mainly because this transfer represents more than a player walking away from a team that may have coaching problems or that may not provide the type of opportunities that the said athlete is seeking.  John Lewis saw this as possibly his last chance to uphold the history behind the great things accomplished by his grandfather.  Aubrey Lewis was the first African American to be a team captain at Notre Dame.  In 1957-58 he was named captain of the Notre Dame track team.  He was also a star on the Fighting Irish football team.

aubrey lewis

Following his athletic career at Notre Dame, he would become one of the first black FBI agents.  The racial tensions at this time brought gray clouds over many parts of the country so those who made ripples in areas that were as fragile and explosive as race relations were a little more than heroic but no less than dauntless.  Big steps to follow for John Lewis but at 6’2 and a solid 210 pounds, he’s less apt to look over his shoulder but instead to the road ahead.  What awaits the outside linebacker and accurate kicker is the opportunity to play one of two positions at the next level.  The quick outside backer has the look of a college strong safety and the sure tackling ability of a future starter at any major division one program.  There’s an obvious hope in John Lewis’s heart to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and play for Notre Dame but in the end he is just extremely grateful that his football career will continue on the college level.  In the meanwhile Montclair is where he once again engraves the Lewis name into the school history books.  After that the young Lewis will work to pave a historical road similar to Aubrey C. Lewis.  Difficult but definitely attainable by this young recruit.  Stay tuned.

Nation’s Top Units Series ’16…Offensive Backfields

Scary is the term often used by defensive coordinators when they face offenses that are deemed unstoppable.  “Look upon with caution” is a new phrase that defensive players should hold to when playing some of the best backfields in high school during the 2016 season.  Quarterbacks with cannon-fire arms and thoroughbred style backs make up the following top backfields that clearly rank the best for this year’s high school football season.

5) Cedar Hill Longhorns (Cedar Hill, TX)

cedar hillThe schedule is not easy for Cedar Hill but then again neither is the planning of a defensive strategy for their high powered offense.  Stopping Kaegun Williams and Avery Davis is more of a notion than an actual deed.  Slowing them down is more realistic and such is the case with the Cedar Hill entire offense.  The Longhorns are anything but shy or timid when it comes to lighting up the stat sheets.  It would be outright rude for any high school fan or media source to leave the elephant sitting in the room which is the matchup between Cedar Hill and Bishop Gorman in week one.  This could easily be a national championship caliber game but as for now it will be a hard example of what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force.  While the Joker may have said this line a little better, it is a fact that there won’t be too many laughs when the Longhorns’ backfield starts familiarizing themselves with opponents’ endzones this fall.

4) St. Louis High Crusaders (Honolulu, HI)

stLouisHA.pngThe saying that great players make the guys around them better is a perfect fit for the St. Louis high backfield.  Not only is Tua Tagovailoa one  of the top duel threat quarterbacks to come out of high school football, he is also “highly unaverage” in his leadership abilities.  Those fellow backfield teammates that he leads are more system players than anything and will combine with Tua to devastate opponents. Jahred Silofau blazed back from injury and will share the back duties with Dylan-J Silva.  Both backs are keys to the Crusader’s midrange spread offense.  While most high school football fans think that 90% of St. Louis High’s offense will come from the arm and legs of Tagovailoa, they will not be so shell shocked when the entire backfield is to credit for the team’s offensive success.

3) IMG Academy Ascenders (Bradenton, FL)

imgLogoFullReminders of a single loss from the 2015 season is more devastating to the IMG team since that single loss kept them from a state title.  Saying that the offensive players will be playing with a chip on their shoulder would be putting it lightly.  With Kellen Mond at quarterback and Jordan Anthony handling the majority of running back duties, the IMG backfield will light up scoreboards during its coast to coast travels.  With so much talent at other areas of the team, the Ascenders offensive juggernaut may have an off the radar presentation but this will soon turn into a  “bullhorn” style announcement of respect.  Respect that will of course be given to this multi-talented bunch by the opponents they will soon face.

2) Bishop Gorman Gaels (Las Vegas, NV)

bishopGornman_logoThe universal thought amongst opposing defenses and defensive coordinators that face Bishop Gorman is that lack of offseason preparation sums up to insanity.  Why insanity?  Because the Gaels are known for throwing the kitchen sink at their opponents from the first snap.  With Tate Martel running and passing his way to offensive national player of the year, it’s hard to think that this talented squad will average under 21 points per game.  And Biaggio Walsh carrying the responsibilities  at running back heightens the burden on their opponents.  Bishop Gorman will stay aggressive by setting up the run with their quick strike pass attack. And their use of misdirection is coveted by at least half of the west coast.  Plenty of shoulder shrugs will be handed out between defensive coordinators that would otherwise try to figure out a way to stop the explosive offense that has spent a decade in the top 20 national rankings.

1) Archbishop Hoban Knights (Akron, OH)

hobanAnd now comes an offensive backfield that at best is frighteningly impressive and at worst regularly intimidating.  At quarterback Danny Clark is a heard man with imposing size.  Accuracy is what his craft is built on and Clark is arguably the best passer in his class with the ability to spread the ball around.  If Danny Clark is the composer of a finely orchestrated offense, Todd Sibley would hold first chair and hold the responsibility of carrying the ball.  A balanced attack is what opponents of the Knights can adjust to. What these same opponents will have a hard time with is the fact that once Clark and Sibley get hot defensive coordinators will be forced to pick their poison of stopping the run or pass.  Asking a defense to stop both would be a challenge that teams on Archbishop’s schedule are hesitant to accept.

Nation’s Top Units Series ’16…Defensive Secondary

The defensive backfield is considered the last line of defense.  A great secondary is built around speed, coverage skill, and sure tackling.  Some of the best high school secondaries in the past have had the perfect mix of all of these components and this year’s group did not fall short in any of these categories. The following teams clearly have some of the best units in high school football for the 2016 season.

5) IMG Academy Ascenders (Bradenton, FL)

imgLogoFullThe talent pool continues at IMG Academy with a defensive backfield that features two all state picks and one pre-season All-American.  Isaiah Pryor is a stud and gets coverage help from Marcus Williamson.  And recently Houston Griffith, who is one of the best cover guys in the class of 2018, transferred in from Chicago’s Mt. Caramel.  Griffith has been slated the most versatile player in his class.  This leads to the exact reason for IMG’s dominance which stands on the fact that each member of its secondary can play both corner and safety at an all-star level.  Hard to imagine IMG’s pass defense not ranking in the top five nationally at season’s end. After meshing their skill sets, the Ascenders’ secondary will have a unit of the most advanced skilled ball hawks in the country.



4) American Heritage Patriots (Plantation, FL)

americanHeritage_LogoCovering top ranked receivers is nothing new to American Heritage’s secondary.  In the past five years they have faced a total of 18 receivers who went on to play division one college football.  Little will change in 2016 in terms of schedule difficulty nor will American Heritage’s secondary dominance decline.  Add the fact that you have NFL All-Pro Patrick Surtain leading the mighty Patriots, and you have a crew of defenders with pro-style discipline and budding knowledge.  The players.  Will Allen III, Patrick Surtain Jr., and Marco Wilson lead the group.  When these players walk onto the field this fall it will be to the dismay of opposing offensive coordinators.

3) Bishop Gorman Gaels (Las Vegas, NV)

bishopGornman_logoExpectations for the Bishop Gorman Gaels’ defense are always high.  Their defensive backs have had the luxury of facing one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in practice.  This has been to the advantage of the secondary for the past two years.  Alex Perry has some of the best cover skills in high school football and is one of several defensive backs in his class who is already considered college game day ready.  The reality of the Gaels’ national schedule can’t be ignored.  It would be extremely difficult to end the season as the number one team in the country.  But if they are able to get through the first four games unscathed you can credit a lot of it to awesome secondary play.

2) Cass Tech Technicians (Detroit, MI)

cassTech_logoCass Tech has been consistently competitive on defense for the past decade.  For two years the Technicians have had dominance up front but this year their secondary will receive the respect that it has earned.  It features two All-American types in Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Donovan Johnson.  They both have the skill level to shut down the fastest of aerial attacks.  Very physical and aggressive in press coverage, Cass Tech won’t have problems pushing opposing receivers around.  By year end it won’t be a surprise to see this crew of talented defensive backs with the number one pass defense in high school football.

1) Rancho Cucamonga Cougars (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)

rancho_logoThe top cornerback tandem comes out of Rancho Cucamonga with Jaylen Redd and Thomas Graham.  It’s never a bad thing to have shut down corners that are both sub 4.5 40 yard guys.  And with the come-uppance of Darren Hall you have arguably the best secondary in the nation.  Hall works as a sort of big brother to the shadow-like corners and as a unit they have zero tolerance for the deep ball.  Reliance on speed is not necessarily a bad thing but is indeed a necessity when it comes to Rancho Cucamonga’s overall pass defense.  It’s neither careful nor courteous to claim that the Cougars secondary can shutdown any receiving corps in the nation.

Next Up…Offensive Backfields.  Stay tuned.

Michael Norman, Noah Lyles, Candace Hill…Time To Re-Evaluate

The name Justin Gatlin is synonymous with the world of sprinting.  Call it time for a changing of the baton (pun intended) but Michael Norman’s performance in the semifinals of the 200 made the eyebrows of the track world raise for a moment.  Norman defeated Gatlin but would later lose in the finals with a fifth place finish.  Norman is one of three high schoolers in US track and field that are in a prime position to take over the sport for years to come.

michael norman

Candace Hill and Noah Lyles are the other young guns that have gained respect on the track scene. Noah Lyles set a new high school record by running a 20.09 in his  200 meter heat taking down a 31 year old mark.  Michael Norman is a USC commit and will join Adoree Jackson to form an Olympic ready roster.  Noah Lyles will attend Florida while Candace Hill is sitting pretty with a new ASICS endorsement contract because of her dominance of high school sprinting.

noah lyles          candacehill100m44

What’s next for these three stars is pretty simple.  Expect to see them move to the headlines of track and field.  And although they all missed the Rio olympics, they will make more than temporary splashes on the college track scene while steadily pulling in wins and working their way to more records on the international level.  There is also a door quickly opening for high school athletes to cash in quicker than past high profile athletes.  If they have the talent and are better than other experienced professionals, why not be compensated for their talent?  Stay tuned.


Nation’s Top Units Series ’16…Linebackers

Linebackers are the turning point of a defense. A great defensive line and secondary without a good pair of linebackers is like having an expensive watch that doesn't tick. Looks good but is rendered useless during crunch time. For the 2016 season, the best linebacking units are combined with old school toughness and modern day athleticism. Overall this group is collectively as strong as last year's and would rank up with any star studded group from the past decade.

5) Lanier High School (TN)

Known as “the territory,” Lanier High School sits at number five as one of the top linebacking units in high school football. Led by Juwuan Jones and Tyler Taylor, the Lanier defense will again confuse opponents with its dynamic 3-5 defensive set. Unlike most defenses that hold stats as its main key to success, Lanier has a “fire at will” mentality and accordingly will blitz from every gap. Opponents of the Longhorns have had to face the punishment of seven and eight man pass rushes that have kept offensive coordinators exhausted and have given Lanier one of its best defensive years in school history


4) Paramus Catholic (NJ)

Pure athletic talent precedes the Paramus Catholic Paladins’ defense this year. 2015 proved to be a breakout year for the versatile Drew Singleton. Currently he leads a group of linebackers that pursue to the ball better than any other group in high school football. Consider Tyler Wipper as the hitter while Jordan Watson comes flush out of the 4-3 as the hybrid backer/end position. “Redzone denial” is the main course that the black and gold Paladin contingent plan to serve up in 2016 and so far they show a linebacker unit that will deliver.




3) Katy High School (TX)

When opponents visit the “Hit Pit” it would be advised to be prepared to go hard in the paint. Yes this is a famous basketball cliche but definitely appropriate for the Katy Tiger defense. Ball carriers have come to the realization of being hit four and sometimes five times within a second of taking a handoff. Receivers dare not roam across the middle of the Tiger defense lest they learn exactly why opponents have deemed Katy Tiger football Stadium as the “Hit Pit.” Between Breydon Boyd, Ryder Anderson, and Raymond Randle it’s hard to imagine Katy getting snubbed for a top three national ranking at year’s end. Meanwhile somewhere Dick Butkus, Chris Spielman, and Mike Singletary are sitting and quietly saying to themselves, “Attaboy Katy Tigers, Attaboy indeed!”




2) St. Thomas Aquinas (FL)

There’s probably not a better set of defensive players that compliment each other like Tyler Dunning and Drew White do as they push St. Thomas Aquinas to the number two spot. The Raiders’ tandem find success in moving the versatile Dunning around while staking Drew White at the weak side spot. For lack of a better phrase the St. Thomas Aquinas backer unit are known to bracket ball carriers in before unleashing bone jarring hits. What may be missed by football experts is the fact that the Raiders’ backers are absolutely phenomenal in pass coverage. This is just extra icing on the cake for a defense that is already strong enough up front and in the secondary. Although they have a difficult schedule, St. Thomas Aquinas will have much success and a lot of it will be due to this high octane group of backers.

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Tyler Dunning (BeSQUAD LB co’17)

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Drew White (BeSQUAD LB co’17)

1) IMG Academy

Running backs who face the IMG linebacker unit this coming season should consider the following checklist. Wear a mouthpiece. Strap your helmet on tight. Say a pre-handoff prayer. Spot Dylan Moses and run the other way. But maybe the latter would only be settling for a more painful outcome seeing as Jordan Anthony, Christian Pluchino, Marchiol Santino are waiting to put an exclamation point on the statement of IMG having the number one linebacker core in the nation. And just in case there are running backs out there who would otherwise see the transfer of Will Ignont as a reason to doubt the legitamacy of the IMG linebacker corp, consider the whole of the situation. As a complete healthy unit, the Ascenders’ linebackers will definitely lay down smacks that will break non-believers’ backs.


dylan moses

Dylan Moses (BeSquad LB co’17)

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Jordan Anthony co’17


christian pluchino

Christian Pluchino co’17

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Santino Marchiol co’17 (middle)


Candace Hill…The Rookie Versus Everyone Else

After signing with Asics back in late 2015, Candace Hill is eyeing the more important task of bringing another era of women’s track dominance back to the U.S. Hill has taken down two of the primary records in youth track and field by running 10.98 and 22.43 in the 100 and 200 respectively.  Hill has come to the horizon of the professional track scene and has not showed any signs of being intimidated as the newest young gun sees a powerful Jaimaican national track machine.  But they are of course one of many opponents in a strong list that are not too eager to make room for Hill in the overall rankings for professional sprinters.  As the 2016 Olympic Games get closer and closer, the top international stars surely won’t give more than necessary attention to the new Asics star representative. But as any high caliber athlete knows, there’s always someone somewhere coming for your crown. While Candace Hill prepares for the Olympic trials there is a ready blend of hoopla and record breaking expectations from her fans and peers.   Hill knows she is currently on the outside looking in but nevertheless aggressively competing for a place at the track legends’ table.  Stay tuned.


For the Olympic Team Trials Schedule:

USA Track and Field Olympic Team Trials 

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Thon Maker…Re-Opening Pandora’s Box

With Thon Maker skipping college and heading straight to the NBA, sports enthusiasts are questioning if this will indeed re-open the Pandora’s Box of too early, too young. This subject has been sort of taboo and has been a close cousin to the conversation of paying college athletes. Cause and effect to a lower degree if you will; players with pro-level talent should surely go straight to the league right?

A controversial question that comes down to several factors. Is the player mentally and physically ready? And can the player endure a season that is at the least four times longer than his previous high school term? The upside of going straight to the NBA is the obvious financial boost in one 18 year old’s life. The downside is that players who are not ready tend to run out of gas in the middle of their first season and face the threat of being out of the league by the end of their second season. The highly skilled Thon Maker potentially can be a huge success story in the NBA. His game film is testament to why he was advised by his circle of confidants to make this bold move. But in the rearview mirror it is an obvious chatter among the elite players in high school’s class of 2017 and even ’18 that if this works for Thon Maker, what says it can’t work for the next man with those type of skills. Stay tuned.

Continue the story with SBNation: “Thon Maker will become the first player to jump from high school to the NBA in a decade.”


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Christian David…Representing More Than Self

Now attending Vermont academy, located in Saxtons River, Vermont,  Christian David began to capture headlines during his tenure in Canada while attending Bishop Reding Catholic as a sophmore.

David is a 6’5 guard who is yet another budding star with a unique story.  After ending the 2015-16 season with a better than double-double average in points and assists, David proved to be a more than average team player.  Coaches from the B1G Ten and ACC conferences have concluded that David will be more valuable as a combo guard because of his ability to score, rebound, and handle the ball.  While Canada is not the hotbed for basketball talent, David’s Canadian as well as Filipino roots has caused a certain hoopla in both respective locations.

There are few to none Filipino basketball stars that are currently holding a meaningful place in the game.  Christian David possesses high caliber skill, but also walks around Canada knowing that thousands of Canadians as well as extended family in Philippines are holding him to high standards.  As David gains fanfare for his sharp shooting ability and higher than normal court IQ, the heroic buzz from two national locations has become a constant in his ear.  The fun part about being a sort of national hero is knowing that you have the opportunity to capture the approval of the masses with your skill.  The hard part about being a national hero is knowing that failure is not an option.  While all this is a small pocket of game fuel for the young prospect, playing as a young dual national hero may indeed be the role Christian David has taken on.  Stay tuned.

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Hawaii…A New Pipeline For The Bigs

With recent news of dual threat quarterback Tua Tagovailoa committing to the Alabama Crimson Tide, the college football world is now openly recognizing the island of Hawaii as a great source for top prospects.

Tagovailoa is leading the pack for a host of top tier talent that many sports media outlets are saying will continue for the upcoming years.  Some other names that have made it to the top of recruiting lists are class of 2018’s Samson Reed of Kahuku High and Jacob Isaia.  Reed’s claim to high school football fame is that he is one of 10 defensive linemen in his class with the ability to play every position on the defensive line.  Jacob Isaia has transferred to powerhouse Bishop Gorman but it is fair to say that he started his climb into the top prospect list during his tenure at Iolani.  He takes a similar headline to the state of Nevada as being a versatile lineman, who is equally effective on both sides of the ball.  And now comes Stephen Barber Jr. whose being held as another insanely accurate quarterback coming out of the class of 2018. (photo courtesy of




In terms of accuracy, Barber Jr. has been compared to Tim Couch, the former University of Kentucky star.  Scouts will definitely keep the young prospect under a microscope with such a high caliber comparison.  In terms of star power, Barber may come out of Hawaii as the best offensive threat in the past decade.  Not to take away from what his athletic peers, mainly Tagovailoa, have accomplished, but the development of a young Barber will make for exciting prospect news for the months to come.  If the poised quarterback is anything near the talent of Tim Couch, he will undoubtedly be considered not only one of the top prospects to come out of Hawaii, but one of the top overall passers all states combined.  As more and more of the big time programs begin to make the trek for scouting (and some vacation time) in the beautiful island location, plan on more top prospects to continue to surface.  Stay tuned.

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Gary Trent Jr. …Lay Ups From The Perimeter

A quick basketball journey back to the future has left a smile on the faces of old school basketball fans.   It involves the play of Gary Trent Jr. and a nameless legend otherwise known as Lamar Mundane.  At a recent travel league game the highly rated Trent pulled up from the perimeter and amongst the crowd noise, “laaaayyyyyy uuuupppp” was yelled.  Now to the media soaked sports fans and twitter-dependant basketball experts this legendary sound merely bounced off unlearned ears.  But for anyone who truly knows their basketball and collects all parts of the game in their minds like an avid historian, that proverb-esque phrase instantly captured your attention.


And of course without a chance of touching any rim, Trent’s shot hit all net.  That still could not keep those of us who knew the origins of that catchphrase from thinking that Gary Trent Jr. does indeed have pieces in his game that at the least places him on the court with the legendary Lamar Mundane, and at best gives sharp shooters like Trent a true predecessor.  Today’s sports scene has plenty of mesmerizing stories that catch the eyes of fans and athletes.  Take note of some in your face stories; the historical run of the 2016 Golden State Warriors, a quarterback famous for his own obscurity that ends up being the second pick of the NFL draft, and even the miseducation of prospects doing dumb things that potentially ruin careers.  This is a positive yet very behind the scenes story that provides at least old school basketball followers with a “snack-like” moment of joy.  Chalk it up as a signature moment on Gary Trent Jr.’s road to success.  Stay tuned.