Four future Longhorns played the first football game of their senior season last week. The group collectively went 3-1, with the loss coming to a nationally-ranked foe. Jake Smith lit up the stat sheet (more on him in a minute), De’Gabriel Floyd made a key sack that helped save the game for his team, and Chris Adimora made three long runs down the field with the ball in his hands, although only one ended up counting.
Here’s a recap of those four games and the schedule for the six games this week involving UT’s football commits (one played on Thursday night). The listed game times are for their respective time zones.
WR Jake Smith (Notre Dame Prep - Scottsdale, Arizona)
Last week: Had 11 carries for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns, caught 5 passes for 130 yards and 2 TDs, made 1 tackle, and averaged 53.5 yards on two punts in a 41-32 win over Fairfax.
This week: Friday, August 24 at 7:00, vs. Phoenix Sunnyslope
Notes: Jake Smith did his best Christian McCaffrey impression last Friday in the first game of his senior season, scoring five touchdowns - all in the first half - and piling up 213 yards from scrimmage. He also did a pretty decent Michael Dickson impression while taking on punting duties; on a 4th-and-6 play from his own 29-yard line, Smith took the deep snap and moved a few steps to his right before launching a rugby-style punt that eventually rolled out of bounds at around the Fairfax 9-yard line.
Smith’s touchdowns came on an 8-yard run, a 70-yard reception, a 15-yard reception, a 26-yard run, and a 6-yard reception, the last of which staked Notre Dame to a 33-0 lead going into halftime. Fairfax made the game dramatic though, returning the 2nd half kickoff for a TD and also reaching the end zone on all four of its second-half possessions, but it got no points after each of its last three TDs due to a missed PAT and two failed two-point conversions. Thus, after Fairfax scored its final TD with 3:33 left in regulation, a missed PAT left them trailing 41-32, rather than the 41-37 the score might have otherwise been.
A melee following one second-half touchdown resulted in Notre Dame’s kicker getting ejected, and he will have to sit out this week’s game as well. So Smith may be called on to get his team some points on two-point conversions in their next game.
That next game will be Friday against a Phoenix Sunnyslope team that will be playing its first game of the season. Sunnyslope went 5-5 in the regular season in 2017 and qualified for the AIA 5A playoffs but lost 28-2 in the first round to eventual state champion Peoria Centennial, which beat Jake Smith’s Notre Dame Prep team 42-21 in that season’s state championship. Notre Dame and Sunnyslope last played each other in 2015, when Sunnyslope won 34-7 and went on to finish 11-2 and reach the Division III state semifinals.
Sunnyslope is coached by Damon Pieri, a former safety who played three seasons in the NFL after going undrafted out of San Diego State, where he was a teammate of future NFL Hall of Fame inductee Marshall Faulk in the early 1990s. Pieri is in his 8th season as head coach and the Vikings have a 45-12 record over the past five seasons. Sunnyslope graduated most of its top defensive contributors from last season but returns its starting QB and running back and nearly all of its top receivers from 2017.
Notre Dame Prep is Arizona’s 6th-ranked team in 5A and will very likely be the more talented team on Friday night but Sunnyslope’s players may have extra motivation due to this being the school’s first game following the early August death of a longtime former assistant coach.
TE Brayden Liebrock (Chandler, Arizona)
Last week: Caught 4 passes for 23 yards in a 35-13 loss to Corona (California) Centennial.
This week: Friday, August 24 at 7:00, vs. Queen Creek.
Notes: Mike Craven of the Austin American-Statesman attended Liebrock’s game last week and wrote a short article on him that’s worth reading.
Liebrock’s Chandler team, which was ranked 8th nationally by USA Today going into the season, never got on track offensively and couldn’t stop the potent passing game of 25th-ranked Corona Centennial in last week’s season opener for both teams. Liebrock had catches early in the game to convert on a pair of 3rd downs, but his team trailed 21-0 before finally getting on the scoreboard nearly ten minutes into the 3rd quarter. Centennial scored twice more in the first three minutes of the 4th quarter and led 35-7 when Chandler scored the final TD of the game on a 47-yard run with 1:18 left in regulation. Centennial gradually built its 21-0 lead on three long TD receptions by junior wide receiver Gary Bryant, a four-star 2020 recruit who caught 9 passes for 265 yards in the game, with his three scoring plays covering 184 yards alone. Chandler was forced to punt 10 times in the game.
As a result of the lopsided loss, Chandler dropped out of the USA Today Super 25 Expert rankings, while Centennial rose from 25 to 19. The loss didn’t drop the Wolves too far down the high school rankings in Arizona, though, as the Arizona Republic has Chandler at #2 among the state’s 6A schools (its top classification), and their next opponent is 6A’s #10 team, Queen Creek, which opened its season with a 61-0 thrashing of Mesa Westwood last week.
Queen Creek is now in 6A after previously competing in 5A (a Texas school with its enrollment would be classified in 5A Division I), and a year ago its Bulldogs had a 10-2 overall record and lost in the second round of the playoffs in overtime to Jake Smith’s Notre Dame Prep team.
LB De’Gabriel Floyd (Westlake - Westlake Village, California)
Last week: Team defeated Sierra Canyon 35-30
This week: Friday, August 24 at 7:00, at San Marcos (California) Mission Hills
Notes: In case you missed it, The Football Brainiacs published a nice piece two weeks ago about Floyd and his “Austin family”.
De’Gabriel Floyd transferred to Westlake (not to be confused with Austin Westlake) in January after spending the first half of his junior year at Golden Valley, and with Westlake being his fourth high school in three years his eligibility for the 2018 football season was far from assured at the time. In fact, his earlier transfer to Golden Valley in 2017 reportedly got him a lengthy ineligibility ruling from the California Interscholastic Federation’s Los Angeles City Section before he was eventually granted eligibility and starred for Golden Valley that season.
Just two days before Westlake’s 2018 season-opener, Floyd was ruled eligible by the CIF. He made an impact in his first game in a Westlake uniform, making a big defensive play late in the game to help preserve a narrow lead. With Westlake holding a 35-30 lead, Sierra Canyon drove deep into Westlake territory, getting as close as the 3-yard line. On 2nd-and-3, Floyd sacked Sierra Canyon’s QB to back them up to the 9-yard line. Two plays later, Sierra Canyon faced 4th-and-goal from the 20, and when its pass to the end zone fell incomplete, Westlake took over possession and iced the game.
Westlake’s next game is against Mission Hills, a San Diego Section team that lost last week to a good Paramount team, 26-18. Mission Hills won its first 12 games in the 2017 season before ending its season with a loss in the championship game of the CIF San Diego Section’s Open Division.
LB Marcus Tillman (Jones - Orlando, Florida)
This week: Friday, August 24 at 7:00, at Apopka Wekiva
Notes: Marcus Tillman and his Jones Fightin’ Tigers team finished 9-2 a season ago and return only a handful of starters, but they are still a highly regarded squad and will begin the 2018 season as Florida’s fifth-ranked team in Class 5A (Jones has the enrollment of a mid-sized 5A Division II school in Texas). They’ll have the toughest of challenges to begin their season, however, as they’ll open their season on the road against a Wekiva team that the preseason AP Poll ranks #1 in Class 8A, the state’s largest classification. Wekiva reached the 8A state semifinals in 2017 before losing to eventual state champion Orlando Dr. Phillips, a team Wekiva had beaten two months earlier.
Wekiva’s defense alone boasts four seniors committed to P5-level schools, plus an uncommitted four-star defensive lineman with several major offers. 247Sports’ Composite rankings of 2019 Florida recruits includes four Wekiva players among the top 72 prospects (Tillman is currently #54 on that list).
Suffice it to say, Jones has its work cut out for it if it wants to start the 2018 season in the win column. The Orlando Sentinel published a story on Thursday previewing the game.
DB Chris Adimora (Mayfair - Lakewood, California)
Last week: Caught one pass for a 58-yard TD, made one tackle and intercepted one pass in a 50-14 win over Long Beach Woodrow Wilson.
This week: Team beat California High (Whittier, California) 39-21 on Thursday, August 23.
Notes: Adimora’s overall stat line in his team’s season-opening drubbing of Woodrow Wilson wasn’t exactly spectacular, but he had more of an impact than those numbers will show.
From the Long Beach Press-Telegram’s recap of the game: “Adimora, an All-CIF safety who has committed to Texas, scored three touchdowns — a 62-yard punt return a minute and a half into the game, a 96-yard interception return at the end of the first half, and a 58-yard tally from Calvin on his only reception to make it 32-0 14 seconds into the second half — but only the last one counted. Penalties wiped out the first two.”
Woodrow Wilson’s coaches will be glad not to have to face Chris Adimora again after this season. He intercepted three Woodrow Wilson passes and returned two for touchdowns when his Mayfair team faced the Bruins in the 2017 season.
Mayfair played its second game of the season last night, beating California High of Whittier by a score of 39-21. Adimora scored on a 2nd quarter TD reception in that game. I’ll have a more full recap in next week’s post. While in California to watch Brayden Liebrock’s first game last week, Mike Craven also visited with Adimora and wrote an article on him and how he became enamored with the Texas program before committing in July. I have a feeling that the recaps of his games are going to be a frequent highlight of these posts this season.
DB Kenyatta Watson (Grayson - Loganville, Georgia)
This week: Saturday August 25 at 6:00, vs. Tucker
Notes: Kenyatta Watson and his Grayson teammates finished the 2017 season with a 10-2 overall record and lost 35-28 in the second round of the 7A playoffs to eventual state champion North Gwinnett. Expectations for this year’s team are a bit higher, to say the least. The Grayson Rams are Georgia’s top-ranked team in 7A (the state’s largest classification) as they begin their 2018 campaign, and more impressively, the USA Today Super 25 Expert rankings have Grayson slotted at #5 nationally.
The Rams certainly have the roster talent to back up such a lofty ranking, as they currently boast 13 seniors who are committed to FBS programs! Kenyatta Watson is a composite four-star prospect and the 20th-rated recruit in Georgia, but he’s just the fourth-highest rated recruit on his own team!
Needless to say, Grayson should be the favorite in all of its games this season, but they’ll start off 2018 with a quality opponent in Tucker, a team coming off a 6A state semifinal appearance and which opens the season as 6A’s 6th-ranked team. Grayson will be looking to add a third state championship trophy to its display case this fall. The school previously won a 7A title in 2016 and took home the 5A (the state’s largest classification at the time) crown in 2011.
One more week and all of the Longhorns’ in-state commits plus Oklahoma City WR Demariyon Houston will start their seasons.