RECRUITING: Boca Raton Has Talent To Go A Long Way

The first highlighted team of Gator Country's first look at the recruiting for the Class of 2006 has been Boca Raton, coached by former Buchholz and Gainesville High Coach Rick Swain. His Boca Raton team will return 27 seniors from last year's playoff team so they're expected to be one of the best teams in the state and a definite contender for a state championship.

The last three years for Boca Raton have seen the football season end in the first round of the state playoffs. That figures to change this year. Only three senior starters are gone from a team that was known for Palm Beach County's most prolific offense.

The offense starts with its trigger man, Cody Clinton. The 6-2, 210-pound quarterback was Palm Beach County's leading passer with 98 completions in 140 attempts 1368 yards in a hurricane shortened eight-game season. Clinton threw for 19 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He also ran for 243 yards and two scores.

"He is a pretty incredible athlete," Coach Swain told Gator Country. "He never gets rattled. He could get his teeth knocked out and would pop up and head back to the huddle and call a play. He never gets sick, he never gets high and he never gets low. He is a unique kid."

One of Clinton's big targets on Friday nights will be wide receiver Cameron Abdullah. The 6-0, 175-pound wide receiver was second on the team in receiving last year with 389 yards on 17 receptions. The Bobcats leading receiver from last season, wideout Sherman Lang, may return to Boca Raton, but that has not been finalized yet. Lang led Palm Beach County in receptions.

Providing the protection up front is a solid offensive line led by Rob Balkunas. The 6-1, 290 pound two-way player is a beast on the field.

"Offensively, I am pretty much the co-leader on the field," Balkunas said. "If someone screws up or speaks out with an attitude, I put them back in their place. I just make sure every one is in line on offense. I have been starting since I was a sophomore with one of the other linemen. I am more of a vocal leader on the offense."

The Bobcats have a new addition to the offense that they are expecting a lot from. Tight end John Lubischer transferred in from Cardinal Gibbons HS and will be a force to reckon with. The 6-4 250-pound Jeremy Shockey fan has garnered a lot of interest from some big time schools already. Coach Swain calls Lubischer a "relentless worker" and says that the films of Lubischer from 2004 leave little doubt that he is a high Division I talent. He is expected to be an asset as a receiver and as a blocker up front. Lubischer also plays defense and is expected to get a look at middle linebacker.

On defense, the Bobcats are led by three big bodies up front. Balkunas brings his nasty attitude to the defensive tackle position. Kendall Mason also brings some beef up front. The 6-1, 270-pound Mason is a transplant from Brazil who has only been in the United States for 2.5 years. He's already on the interest list for a number of big-time schools. His quick step off of the snap and strength are what set him apart. Joining them up front are defensive linemen Fred Alexander and Lonnie Baker. How many times do you see a defensive lineman that plays point guard on the basketball team? That is the kind of skill you get from the 6-0, 240-pound Alexander. He was in on 46 tackles last year and forced three fumbles, had two fumble recoveries, five sacks, and six tackles for loss. Baker is a 6-2, 215-pound defensive end that plays aggressive and also played a little linebacker last year for the Bobcats. He was in on 50 tackles, had six knockdowns, two fumble recoveries, and six sacks last season. He is also garnering major college interest.

The Bobcat secondary will be led by strong safety Al Gibbs. At 5-11,175, Gibbs started last year at cornerback but was moved to strong safety because of his sure tackling skills. He was in on 34 tackles last season and won the Bobcat's head hunter award or special teams. Coach Swain says of Gibbs, "He is very coachable and should have a banner senior year."

Boca Raton has the talent to make a deep run in the state playoffs in 2005. The top players on the team will be high on a lot of recruiting lists so signing day will be an exciting time around the south Florida school. Coach Swain coached in Gainesville for 19 years. He's excited about the possibilities he has with this team.

Next, Gator Country will take a look at some of the excellent football talent and the team at Union County High School in Lake Butler, Florida.

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