Future Cougars in spotlight this weekend

THE NEW CLASS OF football recruits Paul Wulff is putting together is shaping up to be one of the most talented collections on the Palouse in a decade. The class also looks to be one that knows how to win games. Five of the 11 high school players who have verbally committed to play college ball at Washington State will be in action this weekend with visions of championships dancing in their heads.

Locally, undefeated Bellevue High, which features future Cougar Jamal Atofau will take on Union High of Camas for the state's Class 3A title.

Bellevue (13-0) is coming off a 28-6 win over Capital in which Atofau -- an All-Area defensive back -- rushed for two TDs. The game was played on Monday –- four days later than scheduled -- because Bellevue's team bus rolled over on I-5 last Thursday morning. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

The state of Washington's Class 4A championship game -- Skyline vs. Issaquah -- also features a Cougar verbal commitment (albeit a soft one) in the form of Gino Simone, the state's top-rated prospect. He stars at receiver, safety and kick returner. Skyline is 13-0 and rated among the top 10 high schools in the nation by USA Today.


In California this weekend, three future Cougs will be in action. Quarterback Jeff Tuel (Clovis West High/Fresno) and defensive tackle Justin Clayton (Justin-Siena High/Napa) will be playing for sectional championships. And running back Arthur Burns will lead the No. 18-rank team in the nation -- 12-0 Centennial High of Corona -- into a sectional semi-final game.

Burns is averaging 128 rushing yards per game this season for the defending champions.

Tuel, a signal caller with both wheels and an arm, put an exclamation point on Clovis West's late-season surge last weekend when he passed for 175 yards and rushed for another 80 in a dramatic 24-21 Central Section Division 1 semi-final win over Bullard. Tuel fired a 37-yard TD pass late in the fourth quarter to secure CW its fifth-straight win. The Golden Eagles are now 9-3 and will take on rival Clovis East this weekend.

Andre Barrington's Federal Way High team was bounced from the 4A playoffs in a quarter-final loss to Simone's Skyline team. Barrington this week was named to the Seattle Times' All-Area team at linebacker.

• Offensive lineman Quayshawn Buckley of Colony High in Ontario, Calif., saw his hopes for a third straight Southern Section Central Division championship dashed when Colony was upset in a first-round playoff game.

• Linebacker Darren Markle of Mountain View High in Meridian, Idaho, helped guide his school to its first-ever state playoff win before going down in the 5A semifinals. Mountain View finished 8-2, with Markle earning All-Area plaudits and team defensive MVP honors.

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