*GAME OF THE WEEK
Toms River North (NJ) 17 Southern Regional (NJ) 14
With the game on the line, Toms River North (NJ) head coach Chip LaBarca didn't hesitate in sending out his talented senior kicker Chris Gulla to attempt the go-ahead field goal from 45 yards out with just 2:35 left in regulation.
"I know very little about kicking. I do know that Chris Gulla is one talented kicker. He's been punting and kicking for us since his freshman year, " LaBarca stated.
And Gulla didn't disappoint. The 6'2", 195-pound specialist calmly bumped through the three-pointer, providing the margin of victory over the previously-unbeaten Rams.
"The guys picked me up mentally after I missed that kick (from 42 yards out in the 2nd quarter). I’d definitely say being the kicker is a big part of the team,” said a smiling Gulla afterwards. “But the truth is, I get a lot of help from my teammates.”
With the Rams (2-1, 1-1) leading 7-0 heading into the second half, thanks to a one-yard TD run by Rob Yaiser, who also kicked the point-after with 44 seconds left in the first quarter, Gulla, junior Jacob Forlenza and junior running back Joey Fields generated the sparks the Mariners needed to climb back into the contest.
North (2-1, 1-1) took its opening possession of the second half and moved the ball to the Southern 42 before being forced to punt. Gulla’s punt landed around the 5-yard line and took a hop toward the end zone, but Forlenza corralled it at the 1.
The Rams were forced to punt after three downs from their 9-yard line. Fields snatched the punt from Mike Gesicki at the 37, zipped through the first line of Southern’s special teams players, then dashed down the right sideline into the end zone. Gulla’s PAT made it 7-7 with 6:25 left in the third.
On 2nd-and-14 during Southern’s next possession, Dan Higgins attempted to hit Gesicki down the right sideline with a pass but was picked off by Forlenza, who snagged it and fell out of bounds at the Rams 45.
Seven plays later, after North worked the ball down the 8, sophomore quarterback Carmen Sclafani fired a pass into the end zone and hit junior wide receiver Kyle Carrington with 2:06 left in the third. Gulla made in 14-7 with his second PAT.
The Rams rebounded immediately, taking the ball at their own 20 and going 80 yards on a 13-play, 5:29 drive culminated by Abe Gonzalez’s four-yard TD run with 8:37 to go. Yaiser’s PAT again knotted the game.
Recruiting Notebook: Chris Gulla's kicking prowess has received attention from the likes of Alabama's Nick Saban, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Boise State's Chris Petersen. He camped at both North Carolina State and Penn State this summer. His eye-popping performance in Happy Valley was documented in a very popular online clip.
*PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Mike Richardson, Boerne Champion (Texas)
Going into Thursday night's game against Boerne Champion (Texas) High, Marble Falls (Texas) High quarterback Mike Richardson had passed for 760 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first three games—an impressive start to the season for any signal-caller...until you realize Richardson nearly matched his passing total in one game.
In a regular Texas shootout, Richardson broke the Texas state record for passing yards in a single game—set just last season by Wichita Falls (Texas) High QB Dylan Sheffield who passed for 683 yards—with a 715-yard, seven-touchdown performance in a 62-55 win over Boerne Champion.
The 715 yards has yet to be confirmed by both coaches—Marble Falls head coach Todd Dodge told the Statesman that he had Richardson for 722 yards—so the number may change in the coming days. But for the moment, Richardson's 715 yards is the second most in high school football history behind David Koral's 764 yards for Pacific Palisades (Calif.) High in 2000.
"I didn't really think about the yards and completions," Richardson told the Express-News. "I just played the game."
Instead of enjoying the record, Richardson and Marble Falls had to play until the whistle—and still only ended up winning by a touchdown. According to the San Antonio Express-News and the Austin American-Statesman, both teams combined for 1,310 passing yards, which is currently an unofficial state record.
To give you an idea of how prolific Marble Falls was on offense, the Express-News noted the team had six touchdown drives that took less than six plays, and that receiver Garrett Gray ended the game with an eye-popping stat line: 13 receptions for 294 yards and five TDs.
Boerne Champion quarterback Kyle Poeske may have been overshadowed by Richardson, but he produced a memorable performance in defeat, passing for 595 yards, which currently has him tied for fourth all time in the state record books.
Marble Falls head coach Todd Dodge knows a thing or two about having offensive success. Before taking over at Marble Falls this year, Dodge coached at North Texas University and Pittsburgh, and won four state titles at perennial Texas football powerhouse Southlake Carroll (Texas) High.
"We had a couple of 600-yard games at Southlake [Carroll]," Dodge told the Express-News. "But nothing like that."
*PHOTO OF THE WEEK: "A 757 Zinger"
Junior OLB Joseph Benzing had nine tackles for Bishop Sullivan HS (Virginia Beach, VA) this weekend, but this shot separated the ball from the ball-carrier, causing a key turnover. One of three tackles for loss for the talented 6'3", 205 pound head-cracker and one of the brightest defensive prospects in Upper Hand Promotions.
Submit your weekly suggestions to Upper Hand Dan at either Twitter or Facebook. Return every Monday during the regular season to see if your player or team walked away with the most prestigious honor in high school football.