Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) was among the most anticipated — if not the most anticipated — games this season when the schedules started to come out last spring.
Gorman quarterback Tate Martell, an Ohio State recruit, tweeted this past winter that Aquinas was one of the five teams he wanted to play in 2016. He ended his tweet with the words: “Tell your coaches.”
That drew the ire of Aquinas’ Trevon Grimes, who is the No. 1 receiver in the nation, according to Rivals.com.
Grimes’ tweet: “No! Tell YOUR coaches to call. South Florida football is something you don’t want to call out.”
And, well, here we are. Aquinas travels west and visits Gorman on Friday (10 p.m. ET) in an ESPN televised game. Gorman enters the game at No. 1; Aquinas is No. 9 after starting the season as No. 1 in the Preseason Super 25 rankings.
Craig Haubert, a national recruiting analyst for ESPN, will be handling the color commentary and he spoke with USA TODAY High School Sports about some of the key players and matchups.
Q: Let’s start with the quarterbacks. Gorman has Ohio State commit Tate Martell and St. Thomas Aquinas has Florida commit Jake Allen. What’s the difference in style between the two?
A: When it comes to Jake Allen, he is distributing the football to five receivers with offers from FBS programs. He’s making good decisions and getting the football around. Tate Martell runs a little more dynamic of an offense. He can use his dynamic playmaking ability to create on his own if he has to. He has Tyjon Lindsey, he has Biaggio Ali Walsh and weapons around him so it doesn’t have to be him and probably can’t be just him, but Tate Martell has more of a chance to be electric and make things happen. Jake Allen’s success will come more from a group effort.
Q: Among those options are two future Ohio State teammates in Lindsey, whom you mentioned, and Trevon Grimes from Aquinas. Different body types, though.
A: They’re both outstanding players and the comparison end there. Lindsey is a diminutive jet. He has the speed to get downtown and he can get the football in space and make you miss and look foolish. Grimes is tall and lengthy. He also can make you miss, but he’s stronger using his size. You can throw it up to him and he can win those 50-50 jump balls. He has the body control and can work the sideline and is really dangerous in the red zone. They are equally dangerous targets and big-play weapons, but come in very different packages.
Q: Let’s move over to the defense. Both teams have a lot of star players on that side of the ball too and at every level. What does each defense need to do?
A: For Aquinas, it’s going back to playing aggressive and disciplined. They have to make things really difficult for him in the pocket. He has a lack of ideal measurables, but he’s really good at finding lanes and making plays. Getting to him could be hard because while he’s short, he has a tremendous release. He can get rid of the ball in a snap and rifle it up. I don’t think success will be measured in sacks, but in hurries.
They have two of the best juniors in the secondary in Al Blades Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr. I really like the defensive end, Lashawn Paulino-Bell, who is going to Michigan State. I always thought (Tennessee commit) Kivon Bennett, Cornelius’ son, was underrated. Nikolas Bonito, a defensive lineman, is getting a lot of positive talk. The front is very talented.
For Gorman, they might not be as deep at every level. (Ohio State defensive tackle commit) Haskell Garrett is technically sound and does a lot of things well. They have two good players in the secondary in Bubba Bolden and Alex Perry. St. Thomas Aquinas, with a handful of wide receivers who are FBS commits not including Grimes, has a lot of ways to spread you out.
Q: Both of these teams have played a tough schedule and their wins have been by pretty substantial margins. Who has the advantage if this is a close game?
A: Both of the teams believe are all into the idea of iron sharpens iron. Aquinas faces good competition. Bishop Gorman doesn’t play cupcakes – they beat Cedar Hill, Cocoa and St. John Bosco and Kahuku, the team they beat from Hawaii, is 6-1. They’re winning big time, but both of these teams expect to play in these type of games and are used to it. These kids are braced for it and I don’t see either one has tiptoed their way to these games.
If there’s one team where that might be a little bit adjustment, it’s Aquinas. They lost to Booker T. Washington, but are coming off routs in their last two games. … But I don’t think with a program that has had so much success that they are going to have an overinflated sense of confidence. Maybe that loss was the best thing that happened to them. You can’t go in with one loss and think this is going to be easy.