This weekend several Columbia County athletes participated in two big football events. First, on Saturday morning, Ryan Bowers of AthElite Sports Training Academy hosted the first-ever, invitation-only Underclassmen Football Combine.
The event was originally scheduled for Laney High School, but because of poor weather the event was moved indoors to the 53,000-square-foot Evans Fitness Club. Only the top 50 underclassmen in the CSRA were invited to attend. Participants were tested in several events: The 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, L-drill (which is a great measure of quickness), the broad jump and the bench press. Players from as far away as Washington County in Georgia and Blackville-Hilda in South Carolina were on hand, but Columbia County athletes stole the show.
More impressive is the fact that the county did so well with the top overall prospect in the area, Lakeside’s Rashad Roundtree, not participating because of basketball obligations. Here is a look at a few of the top performers at the combine.
Jamal Richard (Greenbrier) – Richard won the award for Overall Best Performer by capturing the best times in two of the five events for skill-position players. He posted the fastest 20-yard shuttle time with a blistering 4.08, but it was his 40-yard dash time that had everyone talking. The rising senior tailback set a new AthElite Facility record with a time of 4.36.
Stephon Houzah (Lakeside) – Houzah was the event’s top college prospect, according to Bowers, a former college All-American himself. The speedy Panther athlete posted an NFL-caliber time of 6.84 in the L-Drill and was also second fastest in the 40-yard dash with a blazing time of 4.44.
Ben Jean (Grovetown) – Jean, who earned all-county honors this season as a sophomore, continued to show there are big things in his future. The soft-spoken DE/LB had the best broad jump at the Combine with a leap of 9 feet, 5.5 inches.
Tyler Spence (Evans) – The Knights’ fullback won the bench press title among skill-position players by doing 21 reps of 185 pounds. Keep an eye on Spence to have a breakout year in 2014.
The Combine kicked off a big football weekend. Well, it was supposed to be a big football Saturday, but Mother Nature would not cooperate.
The Inaugural Border Bowl was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Saturday, but severe weather conditions forced the game to be postponed until Sunday.
The game was a joint venture by WJBF News Channel 6 and The Augusta Chronicle, with proceeds from all ticket sales going to The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta. So event organizers were concerned about attendance when the game had to be moved to Sunday. Well, there was no need for concern as approximately 3,000 fans were at Laney High School to watch Team Georgia and Team South Carolina square off in Border Bowl I on what turned out to be a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Like Saturday’s combine, there was a wealth of heavily recruited talent from all over the CSRA,
Columbia County players did the county proud. The team was coached by Lakeside’s Jarrett Troxler, who ran a no huddle spread offense that Team South Carolina struggled to contain in the first half. Lakeside quarterback Hunter Banks, who shared QB duties with Laney standout Horatio Keller, spent the first half picking apart the Carolina defense, as he opened the game completing six of his first seven passes for nearly 140 yards and a touchdown. Another Lakeside player accounted for Team Georgia’s other first half TD. Defensive lineman Kendall White, who has committed to play at Western Carolina, recovered a South Carolina fumble in the end zone for the first TD to give Team Georgia the early lead. The defenses stiffened after halftime, but Banks still had a few big throws up his sleeve. He found Aquinas wide receiver Chris Lambert for the only touchdown of the third quarter to give Team Georgia a commanding 21-7 lead. Lambert caught five balls for 68 yards, including both of Banks’ TD passes, to earn Offensive Player of the Game honors for Team Georgia. In the final quarter the two teams traded field goals as the defenses took over and Team Georgia earned bragging rights with a 24-10 victory in “The Battle for the Paddle.”
Here is a breakdown of the performances of all the Columbia County players who were selected to play in Border Bowl I.
Hunter Banks (QB) - Was narrowly edged out for Offensive Player of the Game honors after going 8 of 16 for 153 yards and 2 TDs with an interception. The 5-8 Banks outperformed the highly touted South Carolina QBs and was the best signal caller in this game.
Kendall White (DL) - White took home Defensive Player of the Game honors. In addition to his fumble recovery TD, he also made a huge play to end any thought of a South Carolina comeback when he sacked QB Bo Baldwin (South Aiken), stripping the football from the 6-5, 232-pound Baldwin in the process. White pounced on it for his second fumble recovery of the day.
Daniel Cotty (LB) – Started slow but came on strong in the second half picking up five tackles, including a couple of bone-jarring hits.
Forrest Nanney (WR) – The normally sure handed Nanney caught one pass in the game, but also had a couple of passes slip through his finger tips.
David Mims (DB) – Mims may have been Team Georgia’s best defensive back. He had two pass break-ups and four tackles.
Jonquell Jones (LB) – Jones had only three tackles in the contest, but he also had a spectacular interception. On the play, as he dropped back into coverage, South Carolina’s Baldwin tried to loft the ball over his head to an open receiver, but Jones leaped in the air and hauled the ball in.
Stephon Jacobs (RB/LB) – Jacobs was one of the most physically impressive athletes on either team. He carried the ball five times for nine yards on offense and managed to make three tackles on defense. He is one of the few players to play on both sides of the ball in the game.
Donovan Davis (DE) – Davis made a big play late in the game to halt a South Carolina drive when he pressured the QB out of the pocket and into another Georgia defender, who hit the QB and jarred the ball loose. Davis pounced on the ball for the fumble recovery.
Malcolm Thomas (DE) – Like Cotty, Thomas started slowly, but he spent the entire second half forcing S.C. quarterbacks Jauveer Hammond (Strom Thurmond) and Bo Baldwin (South Aiken) to run for their lives. He registered one sack, several QB pressures and four tackles.