On the big stage

Lateek Townsend likes the big stage. The Marlboro County High senior used one of high school football's biggest platforms in the area to showcase his talents last Saturday. Townsend's versatile skills on both offense and defense helped lead South Carolina to a 42-10 rout over North Carolina in the 74th annual Shrine Bowl all-star game in Spartanburg.

The Sandlappers spotted North Carolina a 10-0 lead in the first quarter before scoring 42 unanswered points in front of 7,000 fans at Wofford College's Gibbs Stadium.

"It was really fun to be around a good group of athletes," Lateek Townsend said. "I took this experience real serious because a lot of people were going to be watching and I wanted to do good for Marlboro County."

Townsend, who was named one of four team captains for South Carolina, was one of a few players that saw both sides of the ball.

He rushed for 71 yards on eight carries from the Wildcat formation. His longest run came on a 31-yard scamper past the Tarheels secondary. Townsend's defensive contributions didn't go unnoticed either against the Tarheels.

Playing at outside linebacker, he recorded two tackles, one sack and forced a fumble in the victory.

Townsend said he knew early in the week that he may have a big role for the Sandlappers.

"I was the first to get a big hit in the first practice Monday and it seemed like everything was going good," Townsend said. "The coaches saw that I was willing to play hard and it translated over into the game."

Townsend admitted he was a bit surprised that he would get the chance to shine at multiple positions.

"Everyone on the field was an all-star at their own position so I felt thankful to get to have that much playing time," said Townsend.

He didn't feel any extra pressure being named one of the captains, either.

"I felt like I was doing everything right from day 1," said Townsend. "Coaches and my teammates saw that I was mature and committed and was making sure everything went right all week." The spotlight will not fade off Townsend anytime soon.

On January 8, Townsend will have the elite opportunity to play on yet an even bigger stage. Townsend will join the nation's best high school football seniors at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be broadcast live nationally on NBC at 1:00 p.m.

The game pits the best football players from the East Coast against the top standouts from the West Coast.

With thousands of fans watching, the game also provides a perfect opportunity for players to announce college selections.

Townsend plans to commit during the game and as of Monday, says he has narrowed his list to three schools: South Carolina, Clemson and LSU.

All three universities have shown interest in Townsend and now it's a matter of picking the perfect match.

Townsend competed in Spartanburg with a number of prospects who will soon have to make the same decision including the nation's top player, South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.) defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

While nothing is set in stone, Townsend says he and Clowney are like brothers in that they connect on everything, and have discussed the possibility of playing at the same school.

Townsend said there isn't much any of the schools can do extra now to grab his attention.

"I've got to sit and write down the goods and bads of each school and go from there."

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