As Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood played Terry Parker Friday night in a lop-sided victory that was 42-6 at halftime, I came to the game wearing my scarlet and gray sunglasses to watch the highly-touted Maurice Wells.
Sandalwood, now 6-1 on the season, looked as if they were clicking on all cylinders after their first loss to Wolfson last week. Wells ran effortlessly for 145 yards on just 11 carries and a touchdown. He also had three additional carries called back because of holding that totaled 118 yards, including a 72-yard sprint down the left sideline.
I spoke to Wells after the game and asked about a hip-pointer injury that has plagued him the last couple of weeks.
"Oh yeah, the injury is great, its feeling one hundred percent. I've been feeling good today and have been doing it all week, getting it done in practice. I am feeling good for next week's game. I'm definitely good right now," he replied.
Wells seemed hesitant at the beginning, making a couple cut-back runs slower than usual. As the game progressed, though, it was certain that a nagging injury nor an opposing defense really had a chance to stop Wells despite his limited opportunities in the game. His offensive line provided huge holes to run through. It was obvious that given space to work with, Wells can be an extremely dangerous runner.
Perhaps his most impressive run came in the second quarter where he broke a tackle in the backfield, ran it up the middle, then cut it back up field for a 29-yard gain. In the 4th quarter, he carried the ball out of the shotgun formation. His initial burst once the quarterback received the snap is part of what makes him such a valued back. He is a cork-popping running back, with a burst everyone just marvels at. Out of the shotgun formation he hit the hole in a blink of an eye, ran left, then cut back to the right for 28 yards. Make no bones about it, Wells was built with one thing in mind -- speed.
The Sandalwood fans seemed accustomed to Wells potentially taking every carry to the house. His #34 jersey was seen throughout stands as he is definitely a crowd-favorite.
While I left wishing I could have seen him tested more in-between the tackles, where some have questioned Wells due to his size (5-9 180), I still came away confident that wherever this man chooses to go to college he presence could be felt early.
I asked Wells if he thought he could come into college and contribute in his first year.
"I am going to work hard in the off-season to prepare myself for the season to be in the best fit that I can. Work hard once I get into school during the season. Hopefully once the season starts, if the coach thinks I can jump-start an offense, great. If the coach thinks I can contribute at some point in the season, then I am going to do that. So it's basically whatever the coach thinks," he said.
It has been a wild ride as for as recruiting goes for Wells. He seemed jovial in describing the future as his recruitment comes to an end.
"It's going good (the recruiting process)," Wells described. "I've just been trying to narrow it down. I've got really my top three schools: Ohio state, USC, and Georgia Tech. I've actually got an official visit set for the 20th to Ohio State for the Michigan game."
I asked Wells if he had ever been to an OSU-Michigan game.
"I've never been there for a game, period," he said. "So I'm really looking forward to that. I hear it's pretty crazy (during the Michigan weekend). Hopefully, once I find a school that's right for me I'll make my decision. So that's basically it."
The next game for Wells is a homecoming game versus Mandarin. Wells is also a
finalist for homecoming king next weekend. After seeing him play Friday night,
he gets my vote.