NASHVILLE - While Tuesday's 2004 Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Clinic Bowl AA and AAA championships for Division II were played between some of the state’s smaller teams, the games still showcased big-time stars.
The Division II-AA game saw Briarcrest Christian Academy (Memphis), led by four-star offensive lineman Michael Oher, defeat Evangelical Christian School, 24-0. Oher, the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country and No. 2 overall prospect in Tennessee, had a stellar performance to pave the way for a powerful Eagles running game.
“This feels really great,” Oher said after the victory. “It’s a real dream come true. In the playoffs, they’ve been trying to take out my knees and really come at me all the time. But we won and we’re the state champions.”
Oher has yet to pick a school, but speculation has him landing at one of a number of SEC schools. After the biggest win of his career, the 6-foot-5, 330-pound lineman was ready to divulge where he’ll take his final two visits.
“I’m going to take my last two visits to Memphis and LSU,” he said. “I’ll probably take those pretty soon. All my schools are about even because they’re all great schools. I’ll just finish my visits and think about the decision. Coach Frieze (Briarcrest head coach Hugh) did a great job of making sure that everything calmed down during the playoffs, so recruiting and coaches calling and things didn’t get in the way.”
Oher did say that the Saints' playoff run caused him to miss a couple of official school visits. He missed his LSU trip, which had been scheduled for October 30, and missed a trip to another undisclosed school. Those visits are the ones he will make up when going to Memphis and LSU.
While Oher and teammate Justin Sparks, a two-star place kicker committed to Ole Miss, celebrated, two other top recruits sat on the short end of a tough loss. Evangelical Christian wide receiver Casey Hill and running back Hall Simmons were left to contemplate the disappointing end to a long season.
“We felt like we had a special team,” Hill said. “We fought through a lot, and we really went as far as we could. It’s been a great season, and it’s disappointing it had to end this way.”
Hill has said he is torn between scholarship offers from Stanford, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and is intrigued by the recent success that Coach Urban Meyer has had at Utah. Still, he was in no mood to reflect on his recruiting at game’s end.
Class AAA also showcases talent
The Division II-AAA game provided a more dynamic battle, with Memphis University School rallying for a 35-21 win against Brentwood Academy. The game highlighted a matchup between three-star Brentwood defensive end Barry Turner and MUS wide receiver J.D. Lawhorn, who already has committed to Mississippi.
“I haven’t really focused on schools at all lately, because I really just wanted to keep the attention on my senior season and the playoffs,” Turner said. “I’ll start to think about college again, and I’ll probably start to set up some of my visits at the beginning of January. There’s no real cutoff except the February signing day, so I don’t feel very much pressure.”
The 6-3, 230-pound Turner, who's been clocked at 4.6 in the 40, made an official visit to Nebraska last month and has scholarship offers from Miami, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Colorado. He has yet to announce where he will make the rest of his official visits.
While Turner’s defensive helped limit the Owls running game, Lawhorn torched the BA secondary all night. He finished with two touchdown catches and a number of jaw-dropping receptions, leading MUS to the state title. Afterward, he said rallying from an early Eagles touchdown was emblematic of his season and the team’s.
“After the first play, (a BA kickoff return for a touchdown) I knew that we had the kind of team that wouldn’t let up from that. We just came back and knew we had to overcome. I couldn’t be any more proud of this team or the coaches, or anyone who’s worked with this team,” Lawhorn said
The 6-1, 175-pound wideout chose Ole Miss over a scholarship offer from Southern Mississippi and interest from other SEC schools. He finished the title game with five catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned kicks the Owls.
Lawhorn’s game-changing performance was the highlight of the two games, and fittingly, he was the one who walked off with the night’s final trophy.
NEWS AND NOTES
Underclassman on the rise?
The day’s biggest hits were provided by MUS cornerback/safety Logan Welch, who's only a junior. He made three bone-crushing tackles after BA receptions that riled up the Owls crowd. Welch is a three-sport star at MUS, and will immediately assume the starting point guard role on the school’s basketball team. Afterward, he said he could already see how his senior year would be different.
“It’s always different when you’re at the top because everyone is gunning for you, so it will be tough (to defend the state title). I haven’t really thought about colleges yet, because I’m always focused on playing sports now. I’ll deal with all of them when I get there.”
So young and so talented:
Another eye-opening performance in the AAA game was turned in by sophomore running back Tyree Ford, who was named the game’s offensive MVP. The starting back and kick returner brought back the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and had another big run in the third quarter to keep his team in the game. He finished with 101 yards on 11 carries, and his performance was the highlight for the Eagles offense.