Future Faces of ACC-SEC Football Battle It Out in Georgia

Isaac ScheidtCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2009

Saturday night near Atlanta, Georgia, North Gwinnett High School hosted the Progressive Football challenge featuring many players who are emerging into the national spotlight.  Several of them have offers or have already committed to ACC and SEC schools.

Central Gwinnett vs. Byrnes

The early game featured the Central Gwinnett Black Knights against the No. 1 team in the nation, the Byrnes Rebels from South Carolina. It looked like an upset early as Central Gwinnett’s Al Mayes turned a routine run play into a 66 yard touchdown.

From there the wheels came off the tracks for the Black Knights as they gave up 43 straight unanswered for a final score of 43-7.

Marcus Lattimore

Marcus Lattimore

The star of the show was Byrnes senior running back Marcus Lattimore who had 133 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The five star recruit had this to say about his performance and his outlook on prospective colleges. 

“I’m just going out there and trying to play as hard as I can and not worry about all that…Byrnes is the main goal right now.  I know I have to think about it [college] and I have visits coming up.”

Lattimore has two of those visits in October, one to Penn State and one to Oregon. His top five schools right now are Auburn, UNC, Oregon, Penn State, and South Carolina. 

When asked if his teammates' decisions would affect his he said, “I would really like to play with my teammates.”  But he also said he has to pick the best situation for himself.

The two other standout players for the Byrnes Rebels are Corey Miller and Brandon Willis.  Miller has already committed to Florida State and Willis has yet to decide between the wide range of ACC and SEC schools who have shown interest. 

Miller said this about the prospect of getting Willis to FSU with him.  “I’m working on him day in and day out.  In the end I think he’s going to end up with me. ”

Corey Miller

Corey Miller

Willis commented, “I would love to play with him. Who’s to say I won’t be at Florida State….pretty soon I’ll make a decision.” 

He also listed his current top five list of schools as California, FSU, Tennessee, UNC, and UCLA. Willis also had this to say about the possibility of playing on the West coast.  “I’m not scared to travel and I want to see what they have to offer.”

It is likely the two will end up playing together in college. They have a very good relationship but Miller admitted it was hatred first when Willis took Miller’s starting role as a sophomore. 

“He came in and kind of frustrated me. I didn’t like him at first. I didn’t like him at all…but it’s all about competition with us.”

While we wait to hear the decision from Willis, the Byrnes Rebels can enjoy one of the best combos of rushing attacks in the nation.


North Gwinnett vs. Pratville

The nightcap between the Bulldogs of North Gwinnett and the visiting Pratville Lions was a thriller.  Both defenses played tough through the first half with the lone touchdown coming with only six seconds before the break. 

The Bulldogs junior quarterback C.J. Ozomah led the team on a long scoring drive to take a halftime lead of 7-0.  The Lions had only three total yards of offense at the break and didn’t even cross the 50 until midway through the third quarter.

After a third quarter field goal by Pratville the Bulldogs answered back with a 20 yard touchdown pass to take a 14-3 lead. Late in the fourth the Lions finally finished a drive and converted a two point attempt to get within three. 

The Lions were not able to convert on their final opportunity to score as the Bulldogs shut the door on any hopes of a comeback.

Nick Perry

Nick Perry

Five star safety Nick Perry, felt he could have played better to help his team win as he had a quiet night. The Alabama commit said that he is looking forward to playing for the school he has been a fan of his whole life.

The Lions star quarterback Sam Gibson had a rough night.  He summed it up nicely. 

“A lot of offensive linemen weren’t picking up blocks.” 

The five star commit to LSU never was able to get comfortable in the pocket which shut down the offense. While Gibson has a quick release with bullet speed passes, his line failed to give him the opportunity to showcase that talent.

When asked about his relationship with teammate and future rival Perry he said, “I stay with him all the time, always over at his house, every day I ride to school with him.  He’s like my brother.”  Gibson also said that it is “something to look forward to” when he will be playing against Perry in the future.

Interestingly, North Gwinnett’s two starting tackles, Ja’Wuan James and Austin Shepherd have both committed to Alabama. They were both key to buying time for their young quarterback.

James had this to say about the game. 

“Everybody doubted us. Even some of the people in our own community. They thought it was going to be a blowout.” 

He also commented on his relationship with Shepherd saying, “Me and Austin compete.  We make each other the best that we can.”  James also said the he is looking forward to playing with Perry as he is “very athletic and he breaks well on the ball.”

Austin Shepherd

Austin Shepherd

Shepherd agreed with James’ sentiments saying, “Everybody doubted us except ourselves.”  He too is excited about the chance to play with his teammate James and the talented safety Perry.

Finally, the offensive MVP for North Gwinnett, quarterback C.J. Ozmah shared his comments about the game and his future. He complimented his two star tackles on their ability to block for him. “I know I have a lot of time to throw.”

Ozmah is still a junior but showed a lot of poise and talent taking on the No. 5 team in the nation and leading his team to victory.  He is a quick runner and a great scrambler, but also has the ability to make a good pass. 

He has offers from UGA, Alabama, Tennessee, Clemson, Indiana, Maryland, and LSU but says he has not looked into anything very much.

From the great plays of Saturday night it is safe to say that the future of the ACC and SEC is looking good.


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