Maybe it was the fact that only four Pac-10 recruits were in the game. Cory Larson who will gray shirt at Oregon, Bill Swancutt and Jake Pratt who are headed to OSU and Jordan Hunter who will be a Bear at Cal were the only Pac-10 players in the game. Notably missing was quarterback Nic Costa from Aloha High School who will be in contention for a starting position at Arizona this fall and John Rust the Lake Oswego receiver going to Cal. The two best prospects from the state along with Costa, Kellen Clemens a future Duck and Derick Anderson a new Beaver played in Class 3A and were ineligible to participate in the game.
There were some bright spots along the way though. Kevin Forman a quarterback from North Medford won the George Shaw Trophy as the game's most valuable player. Forman is not a big time quarterback but he ran the option well, and was consistent in his performance. Michael Harrington, Joey's brother had some good yardage in the losing effort, but should be a great steal for Idaho in the future. Cole Clasen from Lake Oswego High School was voted the top back for the game. Clasen caused me to wonder what all the hype about some of the defensive linemen was as Clasen repeatedly ran past them. The Pac-10 recruits who played in the game showed they have much work to do before they will make any contributions to their programs.
Most obvious to me this year was the lack of size all around on both the North and South squads. Last year, the South had offensive linemen Mike DeLaGrange and Robin Knebel. Both were over 6-5 and 300 pounds going into the game. This year there was no 300-pounders listed on the rosters. Next season, offensive lineman Hank Theiron from Cresent Valley High School, who should be the number one recruit coming out of the state of Oregon. Therion will bring some size back to the all-star game. Theiron is 6-7 300 pounds and at the recent Nike camp in Eugene he stood out among the participants.
One sleeper in the game though, was 6-4 245-pound defensive lineman Billy Holt from Jefferson High School in Portland. Holt is a good athlete, with good size and speed. He also played on the very talented Jefferson High Basketball team. Holt recorded two sacks early in the game and was a man among boys as he bullied the South offensive lineman. Apparently he was nicked up sometime during the first half, because as the game wore on his presence was less felt. Holt should have been given serious consideration to play Pac-10 football, but clearly he wasn't. Maybe there are some good explanations somewhere why he wasn't more strongly, but I haven't yet heard them if there are. I recently traveled to Birmingham, Alabama and met with Tom Culpepper who is an authority on Alabama High School recruiting. We compared what the state of Alabama will produce in Division I football athletes and what the state of Oregon will produce. The population for both states is similar. Next year the state of Oregon may produce 15 Division I football players. Culpepper figures Alabama will produce 90. Even if I threw in the Puget Sound area, there will not be 90 Division I athletes. That is three times the population base, and yet more Division I talent comes from Alabama.
There are some good reasons why Alabama produces more talent. High school football in the south is treated much differently than in the Pacific Northwest. A high school game in the south can have as much fevered pitch in the enthusiasm as a game at Autzen Stadium. A PIL game in Portland will be lucky to have more than a few parents and some friends of the players in attendance. The perception of the PIL is that the students are of poor quality, and undisciplined. Saturday night though, Holt caused me to wonder how wrong that perception may be.
Another player who stood out Saturday night in Portland was Niles Mittasch from Churchill High School in Eugene. Mittasch was named the South's outstanding running back for the contest. One other interesting note, the program noted that Matt Haliski from Sheldon High School in Eugene would attend Oregon next year on an academic scholarship. Matt carried a 4.0 GPA. I don't recall seeing Matt's number in the game, but he should be mentioned in this report for the fact he is a good student.
Overall, the Oregon Bowl was a nice night out, though I thought the producers of the game should give some thought about the propriety of having beer sales at a high school game. The Ducks don't allow beer sales at Autzen Stadium and having beer sales at a game such as the Oregon Bowl is inappropriate. PGE will make up the difference at those looming Portland Beaver and Portland Timber games. Well, maybe they won't but still it is inappropriate to serve beer at a high school all-star game.
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