As the calendar approaches the heart of recruiting season, the past weekend provided plenty of interesting action on and off the field. While the top teams in America fought for precious spots in championship games across the nation, prospects who have already finished their senior seasons spread out for official visits. As Stanford played Notre Dame in the game following Thanksgiving, a handful of important prospects took the holiday opportunity to travel out to Palo Alto for visits. Stanford hosted a number of prospects, including Utah stars Austin Holt and Sausan Shakerin, heralded two-sport recruit Xavier Avery, punter commit Matt Zubyk, and a "stealth" recruit. With recruitments racing to their end and a host of Stanford admissions decisions due by the end of December, expect recruiting developments to come fast and furious from here on out. Meanwhile, Stanford continues to make a strong effort at an early start on 2009 recruiting. The past weekend's action on the field:
* Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier secured a spot in the Ohio Division I state championship game with a 10-7 semifinal win. Stanford commit Fred Craig, playing on a sprained ankle, kept St. X's hopes of state and national titles alive when he tackled Syracuse commit Trey Fairchild inbounds on the 8-yard line as time expired in the game. "It's the biggest tackle of my career," Craig said. "He was trying to get out of bounds, and I was trying to stop him from doing it." In the game, the St. X defense only gave up 48 yards rushing and also had 3 interceptions. Craig and St. X will now play on Saturday for their second state championship in three years.
* Houston (Tex.) Stratford made it to the Class 5A Division II Region III semifinals with a 43-34 second round playoff win. Stanford quarterback commit Andrew Luck starred with another strong passing effort as he completed 19 of his 33 passing attempts for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown. While Stratford typically relies on Luck's passing proficiency, they were also aided in this game by 169 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries by junior running back Rodney Anderson.
* Newhall (Calif.) Hart kept rolling with a 35-7 win in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs. Stanford commit Delano Howell carried the ball 23 times for 124 yards. He also caught 2 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. While Howell usually stars for Hart, the second round win instead featured a big game by senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook, who threw for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 192 yards and 3 more touchdowns. Hart now advances to a semifinal game against Newbury Park on Friday.
* Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian won their quarterfinal game in the Southern Section's Northwest Division with a 44-7 rout. Stanford commit Chris Owusu played his second game since coming back from a knee injury and caught 3 passes for 72 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. Star sophomore Malcolm Jones had 194 yards and 2 touchdowns on 27 carries.
* Southlake (Tex.) Carroll advanced to the third round of the playoffs with a 37-18 win. Running behind Stanford commit Sam Schwartzstein and in place of injured Texas commit Tre Newton, sophomore running back Tommy Avers rushed for a team-high 96 yards. The game pitted the two teams that won 5A Texas state championships last year. Southlake Carroll still has not lost to a fellow Texas team since the 2003 state championship game.
* Stanford commit David DeCastro had his senior season with Bellevue (Wash.) come to an end with a 27-17 loss to O'Dea in the Tacoma Dome. The Class 3A semifinal loss was the first for Bellevue since an opening week loss to begin the season. This season is only the second time in the last seven years that Bellevue has not played for the championship. DeCastro reflected on the end of his high school career: ""I won't ever play with my best friends ever again. It will be something I remember for the rest of my life. We'll know each other forever. With Bellevue, it's not just football, it's family. They're guys you'll be friends with when you're 40. Your little kids will be friends with their little kids. It's why you play Bellevue football."
* Jonathan Martin and his North Hollywood (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake team had a chance to set up a semifinal clash with Owusu's Oaks Christian team but fell 20-3 to Oak Park. "Moose" Martin will now wait on the status of his admissions application to Stanford and will commit to the Cardinal if accepted.
* Pittsburgh (Pa.) Central Catholic won the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League Class AAAA championship with a 35-34 overtime win at Heinz Field over fellow power Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway. Central Catholic won in overtime because their kicker made an extra point whereas the opposing kicker did not, but the game only went to overtime because Gateway scored an amazing 15 points in 31 seconds to send the game to overtime. Quentin Williams caught a touchdown pass for Central Catholic. Central Catholic's coach, Terry Totten, left the field immediately after the game without speaking to his players or reporters. Williams said, "He is an emotional man and I can see where this game could overcome someone. He has poured his entire self into us and he probably had nothing left."
* Lemont (Ill.) came up just short in their improbable quest for a state championship, falling 49-7 in the Class 6A Illinois state championship. After a string of upset victories in the playoffs, Lemont could not replicate the magic against Joliet Catholic, the top program in Illinois and now winner of 13 state championships. Quarterback Brett Nagel, who is being heavily recruited by Stanford as either a tight end or linebacker, and running back Bobby Earnest have comprised a devastating running attack all year for Lemont. In the championship game, however, the dynamic duo was held to a combined 95 yards rushing and a single touchdown by Earnest. On the game, Nagel threw for 169 yards and ran for 53 yards.
* Khaled Holmes saw his high school career come to a disappointing end as Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei lost to Crespi 48-26 in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs. The game was never close after Crespi opened the game with 24 unanswered points. Although standout Mater Dei junior quarterback Matt Barkley was only sacked a couple of times all season, this game began with a sack on the first play. On the game, Barkley completed 21 of his 43 pass attempts for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. Crespi won behind 167 rushing yards from Austin Shanks and 133 rushing yards from E.J. Woods. After coming into the season with hopes of a mythical national title, Mater Dei finished the year 9-2 with a loss in the quarterfinals.
* Bowling Green (Ky.) edged out a 27-23 win in the Class 5A quarterfinals. Ryan Wallace contributed a big first down catch on a fourth down attempt on the winning drive. He ended up with 6 catches for 62 yards. On defense, he had 8 tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery.
* Marietta (Ga.) Walton won their second round playoff game 37-28. Chase Thomas contributed a tackle, a sack, a pass break up, and a quarterback hurry. The sack gives Thomas 15 sacks in 12 games. The next most on the surging Walton team is 4. After the game, Thomas headed to Auburn for an official visit. Thomas has now officially visited his two favorites, Stanford and Auburn, and will likely announce a decision in the coming weeks.
* Travis Golia, who has committed to Stanford as a walk-on, ended his high school career with a playoff loss as his La Jolla (Calif.) Country Day team could not keep up with San Diego (Calif.) Francis Parker, who won 38-7. Golia made his one extra point attempt and had 6 punts for a 36-yard average. Stanford punter commit Matt Zubyk continued to sit out for Francis Parker with an injury. Parker now advances to the San Diego Section Division V semifinals next weekend.
* Houston (Tex.) Cypress Ridge advanced to the Class 5A Division I Region III semifinals with a thrilling 35-28 win in the second round of the playoffs. The game ended in exciting fashion as Cypress Ridge tackled the opposing team's quarterback at the 1-yard line as time expired. Cypress Ridge star junior quarterback Russell Shepard, the new recipient of a Stanford offer, is primarily a running quarterback and this weekend's playoff triumph was no exception. On the game, Shepard rushed 30 times for 191 yards and 2 touchdowns. Throwing the ball Shepard was 0-2 with an interception.
* Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney continued their year-long pattern of mirroring Craig's St. Xavier team as an Ohio powerhouse ranked near the top of national rankings that has stayed undefeated on the strength of stellar defense. Cardinal Mooney kept rolling toward a repeat Division IV state championship with a 28-0 semifinal win. They have now won 28 straight games and have played in the Ohio state championships for their division for four straight years. Junior defensive tackle Johnny Simon and the Cardinal Mooney defense held their opponent to only 75 yards rushing and 34 yards passing in the dominant shutout effort. They are making another title run despite missing player of the year Dan McCarthy, a Notre Dame commit who is out with a season-ending neck injury.
* San Diego (Calif.) Scripps Ranch ended their season with a 42-14 loss in the San Diego Section II quarterfinals against formidable Oceanside. Scripps Ranch junior quarterback Tate Forcier threw a 27-yard pass but was otherwise kept out of the end zone in the losing effort.
* Junior Levine Toilolo's La Mesa (Calif.) Helix team improved to 8-1-1 on the season with a 35-7 win in the San Diego Section Division II quarterfinals. Helix scored three goal-line touchdown runs and two longer passing touchdowns. They play on Friday in the semifinals.
Games of Interest:
Hart-Newbury Park (Delano Howell) – Friday
Oaks Christian-Oak Park (Chris Owusu) – Friday
Francis Parker-Christian (Matt Zubyk) – Friday
Helix-Mission Hills (Levine Toilolo) – Friday
Stratford-Clements (Andrew Luck) – Friday
Southlake Carroll-Abilene (Sam Schwartzstein) – Friday
Cypress Ridge-Hightower (Russell Shepard) – Friday
St. Xavier-Mentor (Fred Craig) – Saturday
Cardinal Mooney-Coldwater (Johnny Simon) – Saturday
Central Catholic-Erie Cathedral (Quentin Williams) – Friday
Walton-King (Chase Thomas) – Friday
Bowling Green-Owensboro (Ryan Wallace) – Friday
Season Over: Mater Dei (Khaled Holmes and Matt Barkley), Mission Viejo (Warren Reuland and Allan Bridgford), Bellevue (David DeCastro), Harvard-Westlake (Jonathan Martin), Chandler (Harold Bernard), Basha (Quinn Evans), Cabrillo (Marcus Turner), La Jolla Country Day (Travis Golia), Lemont (Brett Nagel), Nimitz (Michael Thomas), Memphis University School (DeAndre Jones), Bingham (Austin Holt), Canyon Springs (Devonte Christopher), Gonzaga (Johnson Bademosi), San Clemente (Kevin Murphy), Wilson (Jemari Roberts), Scripps Ranch (Tate Forcier), Our Lady of Good Counsel (Jelani Jenkins), Cambridge Rindge & Latin (Joshua Adams), Punahou (Manti Te'o), Friendswood (Jacob Karam), Penn Charter (Justin Renfrow)
Champions: Alta (Sausan Shakerin), Trinity-Pawling (Shayne Skov)
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