Playoff time for Irish recruits
Justin Brent remembers what it feels like.
As a freshman, the eventual Notre Dame commit caught the game-winning touchdown pass to defeat Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter in a sectional semifinal. The following week, Brent and Speedway (Ind.) High School won a sectional title.
He and his Sparkplug teammates have been fighting to get that feeling back ever since.
Brent’s last chance comes Friday night in another matchup with Ritter, this time for a Class 2-A sectional championship.
“It's not really about me,” Brent said. “It's about the team and doing it for the rest of the guys. Some of these guys will never play football again. I'll get that chance next year, but for some of these guys it might be their last time ever stepping on the field. We want to go out and get another win and keep it going.”
Beating Ritter (9-2) has been a tough task in recent years. Speedway (8-3) has lost three straight games to its west-side rival, including a 41-20 loss in September. Three touchdowns from Brent kept that game close early, but a deeper Ritter team pulled away in the second half.
Brent has made the most of his position switch to running back this season. With inconsistent quarterback play, he’s been able to impact the game on a weekly basis. He’s rushed for 1,283 yards and 18 touchdowns in addition to 314 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. He’s also combined for three return touchdowns on defense and special teams.
He’ll likely need to be just as prolific on Friday night to defeat Ritter. His 185 rushing yards, his most in a game this season, and 91-yard kick return touchdown weren’t enough for a win last time.
“We feel that we have a good chance,” Brent said. “We just have to come out and execute. It's going to be whoever wants it more. I don't feel like they’re too much better than us. They know they have to bring everything they have to because we're definitely coming.”
Win or lose, Brent will continue to prepare for a January enrollment at Notre Dame. He’s attended every Irish home game this season.
“It's kinda like I've been there for two years,” Brent said. “I'm not nervous or anything. I feel like I'm going into my junior year next year. I feel like I've been there for two years now being committed for two years. It feels like its about time I'm finally going.”
Weishar finally wins
Nic Weishar waited four years for a playoff victory. Last week he and his Marist (Chicago) teammates finally met their mark.
In the opening round of the IHSA Class 8A playoffs, Marist (7-3) outmatched Plainfield South (6-4) and Division I linebacker prospect Clifton Garrett in a 64-28 victory. Marist had failed to win a playoff game in Weishar’s previous three seasons at the school.
“It's good to finally get past the first round,” Weishar said. “Plainfield South was a great team. In all facets of the game we were clicking and played really well. That's a credit to the great week of practice we had. Right now we're just focusing on our next week and focusing on playing Bolingbrook on Friday."
Marist and its Notre Dame tight end commit will have their hands full Friday night against an undefeated Bolingbrook team that has allowed more than 10 points just twice in 10 games.
“They have great team speed on both sides of the ball,” Weishar said. “You can never teach speed so that's a great thing that they have. They play nasty on defense and they're really physical. It should be a great game. We're really looking forward to it."
Weishar caught six passes for 77 yards and one touchdown for a Marist offense that accumulated more than 500 yards in the opening-round victory. Also playing linebacker, Weishar returned an interception for a touchdown and recorded a sack. The production from Weishar has been consistent all year long – roughly 80 catches for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns – but the entire Marist offense appears to be peaking at the right time.
“Toward the end of the season, we're finally starting to click,” Weishar said. “The whole season we've been waiting for that extra step offensively. I think we're finally starting to get that. It's the right time to be able to peak. Hopefully we're finally doing it.”
Must-win for Mustipher
A disappointing end to a high school football career is staring Sam Mustipher in the face.
Despite an inconsistent 6-4 season for Good Counsel (Olney, Md.), all can be redeemed in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs.
“As far as the team goes, we were hoping to do better than we have,” Mustipher said. “We had some tough losses and key injuries that had players out for a little bit. That's why they do playoffs. Last year with the Baltimore Ravens, they lost six games and ended up winning the whole thing. The season's still alive. There's still hope for us.”
A pair of injured defensive linemen – Maryland commit Jesse Aniebonam and four-star junior Darius Fullwood – hope to return to the lineup for Sunday’s WCAC semifinal matchup with DeMatha (9-1). Good Counsel lost earlier in the season to all three other teams in the playoffs: DeMatha (21-0), Gonzaga (30-20), and St. John’s (31-6).
Mustipher, the Notre Dame offensive line commit, has played left tackle all season for Good Counsel and tallied 54 pancake blocks while allowing just one sack. He’s played defensive line sparingly this season and will likely play both ways on Sunday with the season on the line.
“They have talented guys,” Mustipher said. “They have a lot of guys going D-1, but I feel like I have a lot of talented guys surrounding me as well. Our guys feel the same way. That's why we play the game.”
A look at the schedule for Notre Dame's 2014 recruiting class with their senior seasons coming to a close.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8
WR Justin Brent – Speedway at Cardinal Ritter (IHSAA Class 2-A Sectional Championship)
TE Nic Weishar – Marist at Bolingbrook (IHSA Class 8A Playoffs Second Round)
QB DeShone Kizer – Toledo Central Catholic vs. Defiance (OHSAA Division III Region 8 quarterfinals).
P/K Tyler Newsome – Carrolton (Ga.) vs. LaGrange (regular season finale)
DE/OLB Grant Blankenship – The Colony (Texas) at Little Elm (regular season finale)
WR Corey Holmes – St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) at Deerfield Beach (regular season finale)
CB Nick Watkins – Dallas Bishop Dunne vs. Nolan Catholic (regular season finale)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9
OL Jimmy Byrne – St. Ignatius at Canton McKinley (OHSAA Division I Playoffs First Round)
LB Greer Martini – Woodberry Forest (Va.) at Episcopal (regular season finale)
OLB Richard Yeargin III – University School (Fla.) at Miami Central (regular season finale)
DE Andrew Trumbetti – Demarest (N.J.) at Tenafly (regular season finale).
OL Quenton Nelson – Red Bank (N.J) Catholic at Monmouth Regional (regular season finale).
DL Matt Dickerson – San Mateo Serra (Calif.) at Archbishop Riordan (regular season).
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10
OL Sam Mustipher – Good Counsel vs. DeMatha (WCAC Semifinals).
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11
DE/OLB Jonathan Bonner – Parkway Central at Fort Zumwalt East (MSHSAA Class 5, District 3 Final)
*OL Alex Bars of Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tenn., has a first round bye in the TSSAA Division II Class AA playoffs. The season has ended for Poly Prep (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and DE Jay Hayes.
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