ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Christian Wilkins had to pause more than a few moments for breath on the sideline. It’s not every day that a 6-4, 300-pound defensive tackle gets to return a blocked extra point the length of the field for a safety.
Wilkins’ score came in the first half in the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game. It was that kind of day for Team Highlight’s defense, which allowed only six first downs, all in the first half, in a 46-6 victory Friday at Tropicana Field.
Wilkins, a defensive tackle from Suffield (Conn.) Academy, also had a sack in each half.
“I wasn’t that tired,” Wilkins said. “We had a great game on defense. We just kept the pressure on them all game long. I’ve never done that before in a game.”
While the game wasn’t close, the event is all about individual highlights and there were plenty of those.
* Two Florida State commits: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) quarterback Deondre Francois and East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) wide receiver George Campbell, connected for a 60-yard pass play.
“He had a post and I looked at the safety and I made the safety go right and I knew George could beat him with the speed, so I threw it before he got open and he got under it,” Francois said.
Another Florida State commit, Miami Central wide receiver Da’Vante Phillips, scored on a 4-yard touchdown catch to start the third quarter.
* Southern Cal-bound running back Ronald Jones II of McKinney North (McKinney, Texas) set a game record with a 58-yard run from scrimmage for the game’s first score. Jones committed to the Trojans before the start of the game.
* Undeclared wide receiver Daylon Charlot of Patterson, La., set a game record with 101 yards in punt returns and a touchdown on three first-half returns.
*Justin Yoon, a Notre Dame-bound kicker from Milton (Mass.) Academy, had a game-record 47-yard field goal.
* Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) defensive end Byron Cowart, who has not announced a college choice, had four tackles, including three unassisted and one sack, and was the Most Valuable Player for Team Highlight. He also had a near fumble recovery for a touchdown that was called back after officials ruled the play was not a fumble.
“It shows that I am developing, it shows that I am maturing, it shows that I am getting ready for the next level,” Cowart said. “I felt that coming out here, that I might be tired, but I felt like if I went hard in the practices, it would be easy.
“I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was easier than practice. I almost had one (a touchdown), but hey, it will look good on the highlights.”
*Another undeclared recruit, Gladewater (Texas) defensive tackle Daylon Mack, was the MVP for Team Armour. He had seven tackles, including three for loss. Mack recently decommitted from Texas A&M but is planning a campus visit after the Aggies hired former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. LSU is among his finalists.
*The announced attendance of 25,461 was a game record, besting the mark of 25,382, set in 2009 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
Yoon put Team Highlight up 3-0 on his team’s first drive with a 33-yard field goal. Jones made it 10-0 with 6:18 left in the first quarter on a 58-yard run down the right side.
Francois made it 17-0 with three consecutive completions late in the first quarter. The first was a 4-yarder to Texas commit John Burt of Lincoln (Tallahassee), followed by the bomb to Campbell. Francois did a great job of avoiding the rush by stepping up in the pocket and perfectly leading the 6-3 Campbell. One play later, Francois found Garrett Williams of First Academy (Orlando) and led him with a strike just over his right shoulder for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
The rout was on just a few plays later at the start of the second quarter. Team Armour’s offense stalled deep in its own territory and Charlot had his second big return of the day, scoring on a 53-yard punt return after first bobbling the ball and picking it off the turf. In the first quarter, he had a 48-yard punt return.
Yoon made it 27-0 a few moments later on a 31-yard field goal. At that point, it was the most lopsided first half in the event’s eight-year history.
When Christian Kirk’s 47-yard punt return got Team Armour on the board, Team Highlight answered with a blocked extra point and Wilkins rumbled with a giant convoy of blockers to make it 29-6. Another Yoon field goal, this one from 47 yards out, made it 32-6 just before the half.