I just finished my junior year of high school, which has many stories unto itself. But the majority of them come from the fall when football season was in full swing here at King School in Stamford, CT.
After starting the season 3-0, we prepared ourselves for a home game against Kingswood-Oxford (known colloquially as KO). In total, their roster boasted six seniors who have already signed to play college ball. Among those seniors, the most notable were Temple WR signee Isaiah Wright and Duke LB signee Koby Quansah. Everyone on our team had nerves going into a game against a team of that caliber, but our coach got us excited to play with a pre-game speech which culminated in him smashing the metal door to the football field with his forehead.
Now, I go to a small private school so we usually play in a league with schools of similar sizes. This leads to small rosters, which leads to many players playing both ways. Isaiah and Koby were among these players, as well as myself at right guard and nose tackle. When we played one another, we were almost always head-to-head.
KO got the ball first, with Isaiah lining up at wildcat quarterback with Koby right behind him. I lined up for the first play on defense at nose guard, ready to clog up the middle. Isaiah received the snap, faked the hand-off to Koby, and then…dust. In one moment, Isaiah had gone from standing right in front of me to coasting down the sideline towards the end zone untouched. I was shocked, but I knew a lot of football had yet to be played.
On our first offensive drive, I lined up at right guard and we stuck with the pass game to avoid having to deal with Koby’s run-stopping ability. We succeeded with flying colors as the drive culminating in a 20-yard touchdown pass. We had tied the game at seven and believed this was a fight we could win.
However, when I lined up for the next drive, regular quarterback Jacob Hallenbeck, who eventually signed to play football at Marist College, handed the ball off to Koby. I shed a block by the center but it didn’t matter as Koby had long ago run past me and was essentially walking into the end zone.
The onslaught that ensued was horrendous.
Koby ended up running for one more touchdown and finished with 142 rushing yards on seven carries. He also had five tackles in the game but was pulled well before the end of the first half to ease the blowout. Isaiah would accumulate 42 receiving yards on three catches in addition to his lone rushing attempt that culminated in a fifty-yard touchdown.
Final score: 49-13. (highlights start at 5:32, Wright is No. 7, Quansah is No. 15)
Some argue that between FCS and FBS players, there isn’t a clear difference in ability: that they are both on a Division One tier and just fit different skill-sets. If I still agreed with that sentiment before November 14, I soon would not.
Our final game of the season came against our sworn rivals St. Luke’s, who carried some D1 talent of their own. Playing wide receiver and linebacker was Duke signee Jacob Morgenstern, at running back was 2017 Temple commit Justin Brown, and playing wide out and corner was Omar Fortt, who currently holds 2017 offers from Army and Navy amongst other suitors. But the one who showed this difference between tiers was B.J. Buckle, a 2016 recruit who will play at Wagner College this year.
This game was not as clear-cut as the KO game. It was hard-fought by both sides, grinding it out in chilly forty-degree weather. I had more of a spectator's view for this game, spending most of it on the bench so a senior could start both ways.
Each team tried to throw their own curveballs. St. Luke’s put B.J., who usually plays fullback, at center to compensate for injuries. I got to witness and even go head to head with B.J. for a few plays and I can say for sure he is a gifted athlete and a damn fine football player.
However, in Justin Brown, Omar Fortt, and Jacob Morgenstern, I saw we were dealing something else entirely. Omar made our cornerbacks and safeties look like toy soldiers, racking up 92 yards on five receptions, including a touchdown. He was also everywhere on defense, accumulating fifteen total tackles. Jacob had only two receptions, but took full advantage, accumulating 111 receiving yards and a touchdown to accompany his thirteen tackles on defense. Justin actually had a terrible day against us, rushing for a meager 45 rushing yards on nineteen carries after finishing the first half with negative yardage. But on the tape, it is clear he was not the one to blame. As I previously mentioned, there were injuries to their offensive line—and it showed. Brown rarely had any blockers, often being swarmed by three or four defenders at once who at times still struggled to bring him down. He stood 5-10 200 pounds with biceps the size of my head and enormous legs that looked like they could make the earth quake as he ran. Those three athletes are simply on a different level entirely, an even more refined group of an already elite breed. We lost that game 28-24.
Some mistakes on our end definitely cost us, but a lot of credit needed to be sent to the talent on the other sideline. They fought hard with athletes at a level my school hasn’t seen in a long time. Not since I watched future Penn State, USC, and Washington Redskins RB Silas Redd as well as future Boston College and Seattle Seahawks LB Kevin Pierre-Louis don our Blue and Gold. Kevin would just bully everyone on defense and Silas was practically untouchable. I remember our homecoming game in 2008 when, in an overtime triumph of rival Brunswick, Silas ran for 188 yards on 22 carries and a sprained ankle while Kevin piled on 126 yards on 19 carries as a fullback.
Those kinds of special players never lose a place in your mind. They always do something spectacular, some show of athleticism or god-given ability that etches a place in your memory.
So if you find yourself watching a high school player who has that oh-so-visible edge, remember what you're witnessing and cherish it. You'll only see so many times with your own eyes.