Wednesday, September 3, 2008; 6:00 PM PST
TV: Live on ESPN2
Site: Veterans Memorial Stadium, Long Beach
Two USC commits are set to square off against one another this Wednesday night from Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach, as Mater Dei of Santa Ana faces a dangerous opening opponent, the Carson Colts. Mater Dei QB Matt Barkley, the consensus #1 recruit in the nation leads his team against TE Morrell Presley of Carson, Scout's top-rated TE.
Barkley will be doing something no other high school athlete has ever done when he takes the opening snap Wednesday night, returning to high school as Gatorade National Player of the Year. Never before given to a non-senior, the Gatorade honor was awarded after he threw for 3,576 yards and 35 touchdowns and guided his team to a 9-2 record, all the while maintaining a 3.77 GPA in the classroom.
Barkley's efforts outside of the classroom and football field include generously donating his time to the Monarchs for Marines (M4M) initiative. M4M is a community service project that lends support to troops by spending quality time with Camp Pendleton Marines and Sailors awaiting trips to Iraq and other military locations in the Middle East. Monarch players have refurbished youth centers, painted murals, landscaped and participated in recreational activities with kids living on base. M4M has helped raise more than $100,000 for charity benefiting the families of wounded and fallen Marine soldiers. As a result, Mater Dei has become the unofficial "home team" of Camp Pendleton.
Barkley is coached by Bruce Rollinson, who enters his 20th season as head coach at Mater Dei. Having played running back at USC under coaching legend John McKay, Rollinson took over as head coach of Mater Dei in 1989. Consequently, his teams have never missed the playoffs 19 years in a row, winning 13 league titles and five CIF Southern Section championships. His teams in 1994 and 1996 both had perfect records of 14-0. With nine additional wins this season, Rollinson will join the exclusive 200-win club (191-51-2), having won 79% of the games he has coached.
Morrell Presley is the focal point of the Carson offense. Presley stands 6'4", 215 pounds and runs a 4.52 40. His scholarship offer came during the USC Skills Camp in June of 2007, after coaches witnessed him making several incredible catches and showcasing his athleticism all over the field. The talented tight end had a tremendous showing at Scout/UA Los Angles Combine this summer and proved that he is indeed the top tight end in the 2009 recruiting class.
Once he enrolls at USC, Barkley will join another Gatorade National High School Football Players of the Year on the roster: QB Mitch Mustain (2005-2006)
Past recipients of the prestigious award, given to the best high school football player in the nation, include: Lorenzo Booker (2001-2002, Current Miami Dolphins RB), Joe Maur (2000-2001, Current Minnesota Twins Catcher, MLB All-Star and Florida State QB Signee), Chris Lewis (Long Beach Poly HS, 1999-2000, former Stanford QB), Ronald Curry (1997-1998, Current Oakland Raiders WR and two sport star at University of North Carolina), Tim Couch (1995-1996), Peyton Manning (1993-1994), Ron Powlus (1992-1993 and former Notre Dame QB), Robert Smith (1989-1990, Former NFL rushing leader with the Minnesota Vikings), Emmitt Smith (1986-1987) and Jeff George (1985-1986). Overall, three former winners have gone on to be the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft (George, Manning, Couch). Smith and Manning have won NFL MVP awards, Super Bowl MVP awards, and are considered locks to be first ballot Hall of Famers.
The opening kick-off is set for 6:00 PM PST and will be broadcasted live on ESPN2.