High school games don't get much bigger than this one (sorry, Texas, but this is the exception to the rule).
Fort Lauderdale, FL powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas started the 2016 season as the top prep program in the nation, but a stunning (and controversial) loss to Booker T. Washington to open the season knocked them out of the top spot.
Las Vegas program Bishop Gorman took over atop the prep ranks following that game, but you better believe that Aquinas is out to play spoiler in this one.
Both teams are nothing short of stacked, featuring countless future division one players at all levels, many of which are headed to championship-contending programs.
Here's a look at some of the key talent on each team and some of the keys to this game:
Each team revolves around quarterbacks who are committed to Urban Meyer's current and previous programs. Aquinas QB Jake Allen, who is committed the Florida Gators, leads his offense, while dual-threat and former Texas A&M commit now Ohio State commit Tate Martell spearheads the Gorman attack.
Both have their fair share of weapons to which they can distribute the ball, especially through the air.
The go-to receiver for Aquinas is 5-star pass-catcher Trevon Grimes (Ohio State). Grimes has the combination of size and speed that makes him a brutal matchup for opponents. Opposite Grimes most of the time is West Virginia pledge Michael Harley Jr. (Mike Harley).
For Gorman, big play slot receiver Tyjon Lindsey (Ohio State) gives Gorman a legit threat on every play. Lindsey almost left the Gorman program this past offseason, but returned for his senior year, something the Gaels are very grateful for.
Play from the secondary will be critical in order to slow down these top-tier receivers. Gorman is glad they have one of the top safeties in the country in 4-star prospect and top-75 recruit Bubba Bolden (Undecided). Bolden will have the task of not only providing run support against Aquinas, but also being the eraser over the top against guys like Grimes and Harley. Cornerback Alex Perry will have his hands full with the Aquinas receivers, too.
On Aquinas' side, the key to their pass defense might be up front. The Raiders have a talented defensive line, including seniors Kivon Bennett (Tennessee), Lashawn Paulino-Bell (Michigan State), and Kedonis Haslem (Undecided). But on the back end, the Raiders are just as talented with junior corners Asante Samuel Jr. and Alphonso Blades II to go with
Battle in the Trenches:
Both of these schools have produced some of the premier linemen of the last few years. Gorman has produced the likes of elite tackle Ronnie Stanley, while Aquinas is the alma mater of the Bosa brothers (Joey and Nick).
While the teams don't quite have a Stanley or Bosa anymore, there's still no shortage of talent between the hashes at the line of scrimmage.
Aquinas will have to key in on talented Ohio State defensive tackle commit Haskell Garrett as well as talented junior Adam Plant. On the Aquinas side, in addition to the DL mentioned above, they will look to get production from junior Nicholas Bonitto, a talented defensive end who is quickly racking up the offers.
Aquinas likely has the advantage on the offensive line, with a deep rotation of guys, several of which weigh in at 260 or higher, some even over 325.
Ground & Pound:
With so much talent at quarterback and receiver, the ground game could be an X-factor in this one. Aquinas has two talented backs in the senior class in Illini pledge Mike Epstein and South Carolina-bound Kyshaun Bryan. The Raiders also have 4-star sophomore Daniel Carter who can take some valuable snaps to keep the guys fresh and keep the pressure on the Gorman front.
Toting the rock for Gorman is mainly Cal pledge Biaggio Ali-Walsh. However, I would expect big playmakers like Lindsey and others to get carries in creative ways to keep the defense guessing.
This game is not only great on the field, but the immense number of D1 programs to which these players are committed is astounding. Here's a list of where these players have already pledged to so far:
- Ohio State
- Mississippi State
- Notre Dame
- South Carolina
- Michigan State
- Florida Atlantic
- Florida International
- Iowa State
- West Virginia
Oh wait, that's just from AQUINAS' SENIOR CLASS ALONE. Continuing on with Gorman's seniors merged into that list...
- San Diego State
Yes, of the senior classes alone, 21 different schools are accounted for, some of which hold multiple commits, led by Ohio State with four. Several more of these recruits hold numerous P5 Division One offers, and that list of schools is sure to grow before all is said and done.
Simply put, this game is L-O-A-D-E-D.
Want to watch? Grab some coffee this evening and tune into ESPNU at 7PM Western time (9PM Central). It's bound to be a real deal showdown. And, of course, be sure to follow up here at Illini Inquirer after the game for plenty of post-game content.