In fact, the defense was so dominant that Pressley and Thatch didn't have a chance to accumulate statistics illustrative of their talent levels. Pressley, an unstoppable force on the interior defensive line at 6-4 and 290 pounds, tallied four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a pass deflection that nearly led to an interception. While a solid game statistically, the impact of his near disdainful penetration of double teams kept the highly regarded Page passing attack, led by mid-major recruit Kevin Marshall, in check.
Thatch, who had three tackles, one forced fumble, and a tackle for loss, is a bruising tackler whose 4.4 speed and size (6-2, 185) allow him to shine in multiple aspects of the game. In coverage, Thatch didn't give up a reception -- and while his statistics don't show it, he gets up well to support the run.
Special teams are no exception to his developed game, and his coverage of the opening kickoff of the second half was spectacular. Avoiding blockers through a combination of pure speed and a hard-nosed willingness to roll with glancing blocks, Thatch beat his teammates down the field and simply crushed the Page return man. While the ensuing fumble wasn't recovered, the play electrified the crowd and set up yet another three and out.
Jamaal Edwards, a Florida State commitment at running back, was the lone bright spot for Dudley on offense. He gained 174 total yards, and his 82-yard touchdown run was the feature play of the evening. The quickness to the hole and blazing speed demonstrated on the play made abundantly clear the reasons why he is so prized. Edwards also showed soft hands and a crisp route running skills as a receiver, with 35 yards on two catches.
Thatch, who has not yet qualified but expects to do so soon, cited the coaching staff and the proximity to his family and friends as primary reasons for choosing Carolina.
"The main factors for me were the coaches and that it is close to home," a despondent Thatch said after the loss. "I'm just looking to learn and have fun at school."
While Thatch is undeniably a prized player in the 2004 recruiting class, Pressley is the No. 1 player in the state of North Carolina -- and from many perspectives, the best lineman in the entire country. With a visit to Notre Dame and Tyrone Willingham (who shares a grandparent with Pressley) looming, where does UNC fit into the picture?
"They are in the running for the top five," Pressley said. "I'm considering them."
While the media-savvy Pressley remained intractable in his refusal to go into detail about specific schools, multiple sources close to the situation indicate that Carolina is going to have to make up serious ground in order to earn his signature come February.