In a game that featured three high-profile South Floridian Ohio State football prospects, it was the play of Ely running back Devan James that boosted his team to victory in the 14-0 defeat of rival Dillard.
The popular "Soul Bowl," played at Miami Fusion soccer stadium, was at an offensive standstill in the first half with the score being 0-0. In the third quarter though, James took over with runs of 37 yards and 64 yards, both ending in touchdowns.
Ely (7-2) ended the season with six consecutive wins while Dillard (4-5) lost for just the second time in six games.
"There was just a lot of poor tackling," Dillard linebacker Elijah Hodge said of James' second half explosion.
The running attack by Ely came despite quarterback Carlton Jackson Jr. completing just 5 of 14 passes for 30 yards. It was not pretty, but Jackson was void of costly mistakes as he improved his overall record against Dillard to 3-0.
"I thank the o-line for blocking well and the running backs for running hard," said Jackson. "The defense really took pressure off of the offense, making it easier for us to do our thing."
Later, a proud Jackson reflected on the rivalry: " I never lost to Dillard in football, basketball, anything. It feels good."
Ronnie "Taz" Wilson:
Unfortunately, Wilson broke his right foot a couple weeks ago in practice, sidelining him for the remainder of the season. It should be noted, though, that his spirits are still high as he followed every possession up and down the field. In even better news, his crutches held up the larger than life Wilson throughout the game as he participated in huddles and shouted instructions for the duration of the game.
"The injury is going alright," said a soft-spoken Wilson after the game. "I'll always be with the team whether I'm injured or not."
Wilson has been up to Columbus on two different occasions. What is the reason Wilson traveled all that way on two separate occasions unofficially?
"Both visits went pretty good, I liked it," Wilson said. "I've got family up their and just have a good time when I go up there. I'll be going up to the Michigan game with Carlton Jackson."
How is Wilson doing in the classroom this year?
"I got straight A's on my last report card," said Wilson. "I took the SAT's last year and passed."
Even though Jackson's numbers were not great -- 5 of 14 passing -- he got the job done. Jackson was featured in a variety of ways to display his athleticism. He ran draws and options several times but was never able to bust a long play, either through the air or on the ground. On a fake handoff, Jackson bounced outside for an 11-yard touchdown run that was called back because of holding.
Jackson is being recruited as an "athlete" prospect and I agree with that label. In warm-ups he threw a pretty ball, while in the game he missed a couple slants that could have been big gains, even touchdowns. His legs are lively, though, and he seems to have an athletic mind to go with his athletic body.
I spoke to Jackson about how the recruiting process is going.
"I'm going up to Michigan State for the Wisconsin game," Jackson said. "It's not quite official for the Ohio State-Michigan game but I'm pretty sure I'll be there."
"Right now, I've been keeping in contact with North Carolina State, Michigan State, Ohio State, UCF, Clemson, Syracuse, and Akron," said Jackson. "Ohio State and Michigan State lead."
"I've got a 3.0 GPA and scored a 16 on my ACT," Jackson added. "I took the SAT's today."
Dillard was not void of big name prospects as Hodge proved to be a one-man wrecking crew. In the first quarter, I counted, unofficially, Hodge recording five straight tackles. He stands over six feet tall and seems to have a real nose for the ball, complemented by excellent lateral speed.
In the first half, he seemed very tough. The second half brought a continued pounding of the Ely running attack, eventually wearing down Hodge as well as the whole Dillard defense. The Ely attack seemed focused on taking him out of plays. On one particular play, a pulling guard knocked him flat on his back.
I spoke to Hodge briefly after the game about his visit to Columbus last weekend.
"It was a good experience," Hodge said. "I got to see more of the community at Ohio State. It was more than I thought it was going to be."
"No teams are leading at this time, but if I had to list schools, they would be NC State, Ohio State, and Miami," Hodge said, discussing the recruiting process. "I'm going NC-State on December 3rd and Iowa on December 10th. I never know when I'll commit, just as soon as I feel comfortable with a place." (Hodge's brother plays for Iowa)
Hodge scored a 980 on his SAT's and has a 3.2 core GPA.
So, Elijah, have the Buckeyes offered?
"Well, Coach Fickell and Coach Hazell are recruiting me as a linebacker. They have not offered yet, but it's coming," said an assured Hodge.
Other Notables- Chris McClover is a wide out from Dillard who made a name for himself at summer camps. He was held to just one irrelevant fourth quarter catch.
Devan James, a junior, is listed as a 216-pound fullback. I'm calling him a 205-pound tailback with excellent speed and the ability to break tackles.