Byrnes senior Akia Booker was a SportsCenter highlight all by himself on Saturday night.
With the nation watching on ESPN, Booker scored five of the Rebels’ six touchdowns to lift Byrnes over defending Virginia state champion Oscar Smith 42-21 on the Tigers home field.
“He’s unbelievable,” said Rebels coach Chris Miller. “He’s a beast with a football. We just tried to give him space and he took advantage.”
“It took hard work, dedication, practice, practice and more practice,” Booker said. “It started with my offensive line and a quarterback like Shuler Bentley who was able to get it to me.”
Two-time defending Class AAAA Division I state champion Byrnes came in ranked No. 5 in USA Today’s Super 25 rankings, while Oscar Smith, which won Virginia’s Division 6 state title last season, is No. 17.
The Tigers’ highly touted defense couldn’t get a handle on Booker, who caught 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns and carried six times for 31 yards and three touchdowns.
Booker’s first score came when he took a direct snap and ran in from three yards out with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
Bentley, who completed 30 of 38 passes for 333 yards, tossed a 3-yarder to Booker with five seconds left in the first quarter for a 14-0 Rebels’ lead.
Oscar Smith’s Melvin Vaughn caught a 55-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit in half, and the Tigers were on the verge of tying the game on their next possession when quarterback Deshawn Blow scrambled deep into Rebels territory late in the first half. But Byrnes cornerback D.J. Henderson punched the ball free and Tyreick Lyles recovered.
“I saw him cut across the field, and I had a clear shot at him,” Henderson said. “So I just took my shot.”
Eight players later, Booker caught a 3-yard scoring pass from Bentley with 22 seconds left in the first half to send the Rebels into the break with a 21-7 lead.
Booker’s fourth score came on a 10-yard run and he capped his night with a 1-yard scoring plunge that cleared the crowd of more than 8,000, though the sizeable contingent from Duncan stuck around..
“You go out of state, you’re on ESPN, you win the game,” Miller said. “We couldn’t ask for a better start.”