Takeaways from Louisiana state championships
NEW ORLEANS -- High school football season in The Boot came to an end with a two-day, six-game championship weekend in the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday night.
Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Sam Spiegelman was on location for games that featured several of the nation's best Class of 2022 recruits, including five-star safety Jacoby Mathews and Cincinnati tight end commitment Danny Lewis, as well as elite juniors like Texas A&M quarterback commitment Eli Holstein and other notable names in the Rivals250 like Kylin Jackson, Trey Holly and Derek Williams.
Here are six takeaways from the championship games in Louisiana:
SUITORS PILING UP FOR THE DINOSAUR AHEAD OF FEBRUARY
Three-star New Iberia (La.) Westgate tight end Danny Lewis walked away with 4A Most Outstanding Player honors after a thrilling down-to-finish battle against Easton. Lewis, a Cincinnati pledge, came down with a game-high six receptions for 179 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown. Lewis also saw action along the defensive line and made a third-down tackle for loss on the game-sealing goal-line stand.
Lewis brings flex-tight end potential to an offense with the ability to create mismatches at a variety of positions on the field. He shined with a handful of contested grabs and the ability to operate in the middle of the field and extend plays.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound tight end is a multi-sport standout that also bats .300 and averages 25 points per game on the hardwood. He's excited about the future of Cincinnati, especially with a College Football Playoff spot clinched and Luke Fickell staying put. Florida offered Lewis on Saturday and Billy Napier recruited Lewis when he was the coach nearby at Louisiana-Lafayette. Lewis also visited LSU on Saturday and the Tigers -- who are looking to restock the tight end position on the roster -- could be a team to watch over the next few weeks.
TOP OF THE 2024 CLASS TAKING SHAPE
The Boot is well-known for its history of producing top recruits and future NFL standouts at the skill positions. Two of the best in-state for the Class of 2024, unsurprisingly, are defensive backs.
Many (La.) four-star Tylen Singleton is a swoll 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds and easily covers ground on the back end. The sophomore came away with a pair of pass breakups in the red zone and closes with authority. He was also a force slowing down the running game in a physical title game bout against Amite. LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State have already offered Singleton.
New Orleans Warren Easton cornerback Wallace Foster saw action on offense and defense in the 4A tilt. Foster managed three passes defended and darted to the ball on passes underneath. He's turned in a sensational sophomore season.
TEXAS A&M COMMIT HOLSTEIN CLUTCH ON THE BIG STAGE
The Saturday night finale featuring Class 5A favorite Zachary and unbeaten Ponchatoula was not only thrilling but featured a bevy of recruits on both sides of the ball for both teams. Rivals100 quarterback Eli Holstein came away with MOP honors.
The Texas A&M commitment was 13-of-30 for 257 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Holstein added another 19 yards and a third score rushing and engineered three consecutive scoring drives for Zachary to end the game. When the moment was biggest, Holstein came up with timely throws and found holes in a swarming Ponchatoula defense.
Holstein was 7-of-15 for 144 yards with two touchdowns in the second half, converting an interception into points with a 1-yard scamper and quickly capitalizing on a turnover on downs with a 41-yard pass to take the lead.
Gaudy statistics are great on a resume, but Holstein wowed with his effort and execution against a defense featuring a senior-laden secondary, including one of the nation's best defensive backs, and size in the trenches. Holstein evaded pressure with his legs and kept plays alive with the ability to stand up and deliver downfield. He reminds me a ton of Bills QB Josh Allen.
The Aggies are on track to sign two of the program's best two quarterback prospects under Jimbo Fisher in 2022 and 2023 with Conner Weigman and Holstein, who finished the season with 3,230 yards passing, 30 touchdowns on 323 attempts compared to six interceptions and a 65-percent completion percentage (204-of-323). He added another 518 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
RIVALS250 RB HOLLY SHOWS OFF THE ENTIRE ARSENAL
A top-five back in the country, Trey Holly continues to etch his name among the best backs to ever play in Louisiana and nearly helped Farmerville (La.) Union Parish over the hump in the 3A title game for the second year in a row.
Defenses are privy to the fact that Holly is the driving force of this offense, but the 5-foot-9, 200-pounder runs tough between the tackles. He has breakaway speed in the open field and is an explosive downhill runner in space. He's an excellent receiver with big-play ability. All-purpose back might be a more fitting position label for Holly's skill-set. He also wasn't shy about being physical defending the run from his safety spot.
Holly turned 26 touches into 266 yards and two touchdowns. His two biggest scoring plays came via a 66-yard run and 75-yard catch, and Holly also added seven tackles and a tackle for loss playing safety most of the game. Entering his senior year, he is 877 yards away from surpassing former LSU running back Nick Brossette as the state's all-time career rusher. Holly finished his junior campaign with 2,634 with 34 touchdowns and is up to 7,830 yards on the ground over the past three seasons.
AGGIES HAVE MOMENTUM WITH ONE OF THE BOOT'S BEST
Rivals250 safety Kylin Jackson garnered strong consideration at the Class 5A Most Outstanding Player and for good reason. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound do-it-all defensive back piled up the line in the box score: 9 tackles, 1 PBU and two blocks. Jackson swatted down a PAT attempt and blocked a 27-yard field goal try.
Jackson has size, length and range and is a tackle-accumulating machine back dep for Zachary. He quarterbacks the defense as a movable Chess piece and showcased the ability to make game-deciding plays off the edge on special teams, too. As physical as Jackson is defending the run, he's equally as dynamic on the back end in coverage and closed quickly in coverage on a few occasions.
LSU recently offered the in-state four-star recruit, but that was before the coaching change. Jackson has yet to make contact with Brian Kelly. He's planning a return trip to Texas A&M now that the season is in the books. His teammate, Holstein, and other elite recruits in the area like Jordan Matthews and Shelton Sampson Jr. are also high on Texas A&M.
Just as we witnessed a week earlier in the 4A state semifinal vs. Edna Karr, Williams flies to the football and roams sideline to sideline with a knack for making plays close to the line of scrimmage. Williams also protects the middle of the field in coverage and can set the tone on offense, defense and special teams. LSU, Texas and Alabama are established contenders and he has a long-awaited visit to Michigan scheduled for next month.
The five-star defensive back made his presence felt in all three phases -- quietly piling up five receptions for 42 yards; jumping a pass and setting his offense up with a red-zone possession, and nearly housing a punt return down the sideline. Mathews, one of the nation's best-uncommitted players, won't make a decision until February. This one will come down to the Aggies and Tigers.
Gilmore has length to create mismatches on offense and decent-enough ball skills to play on that side of the ball in college. However, he shines off the edge and while he is long and agile enough to drop back in coverage, Gilmore -- with added strength -- could be a high-upside edge-defender down the road. He'll ink with State on Wednesday.
The Class 5A Most Outstanding Player for runner-up Ponchatoula, Walker scored the game's first touchdown as he broke loose downfield, which is a major part of his skill-set. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound speedster also shined as a route-runner able to get free outside the numbers and capped his season with eight catches for 143 yards (17.9 YPC) and a score.
It's impressive to see any recruit play both ways at such a high level. Amite's defense slowed Curtis down on offense, but playing a roaming safety Curtis covers a ton of ground and flies to the ball. He covers sideline to sideline and hits with authority. Wisconsin and Michigan are two contenders, but with coaching changes at LSU and Oklahoma it's a development worth monitoring.
The future Longhorn defensive back has size to match up with bigger pass-catchers and versatility to see action all across the secondary. Lewis had ups and downs and added another pick to his season. He has a knack for that.
The younger brother of Auburn quarterback TJ Finley, Kody rocked Auburn gloves and had a strong outing in the 5A title game. The 6-foot-4, 185-pounder quietly piled up six catches for 76 yards as a massive target able to matriculate in the middle of the field. The big-framed receiver could be a late target for teams in February.