November 7, 2007

Playoffs to unveil Houston area stars

It's a week away from playoff time in Greater Houston, when late senior scholarships are earned and underclassmen make names for themselves.

One of the city's fastest risers is senior athlete Johnny Thomas of Texas City, who has rushed for 1,481 yards and 18 touchdowns. The versatile Thomas was an all-district cornerback last season with eight interceptions, before moving to offense as a senior.

"His acceleration and speed are so impressive," Texas City coach Tim Finn said. "He is a smooth runner with good size. Everyone knows he's getting the ball and he still puts up big numbers. He had three touchdowns against La Marque, which is pretty tough."

While he's making Finn's job easy, he's making recruiting coordinators' jobs hard. Schools from across the country don't want to miss out on potentially one of the best athletes in a talent-rich area. He has offers from Rice and most recently Ole Miss, but other large Division I programs are re-recruiting Thomas.

"The Texas coaches called me looking for a big back and want to see Johnny's tape," Finn said. "They will be here Friday to see him. I'm really shocked that he doesn't have a dozen offers right now. Someone is going to get a steal."

For the playoffs, Thomas' film could get more impressive when he starts taking direct snaps from center and playing cornerback for the 8-1 Stingarees.

Another under-recruited Houston athlete is Brazoswood High School's Yobes Walker, who leads area Class 5A schools in rushing with 1,749 yards on 241 carries.

"Yobes can get outside and it takes more than one strike to get him down," Brazoswood coach Dean DeAtley said. He gets better as the game goes on and he just wears people out.

"A lot of recruiters don't get down to Freeport, Texas, but getting in the playoffs should get him some more exposure," he said.

The 5-foot-7, 205-pound running back is receiving looks for the likes of TCU, UTEP and Missouri, among other Division I-AA programs.

"He did some camps last summer and rushed for 1,500 yards as a junior," DeAtley said. "He could be a full-time running back or a full back with his size. He is just so physical."

Brazoswood will face Fort Bend Marshall in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cypress Ridge Rams have arrived a year early. Juniors Russell Shepard and Hasan Lipscomb are starring on offense while shut-down cornerback Royce Hill is anchoring the defense.

The versatile Hill has an offer from Rice but is being recruited by the likes of Northwestern, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska.

"I've heard that Northwestern is getting very close to offering Royce," coach Gary Thiebaud said. "He's that physical corner that everyone is looking for. He's had a great season for us on defense and returning kicks. This is a true multi-sport athlete.

"Royce starts in baseball, basketball and runs the first leg in our relay events," he said. "He's impressive and has the grades to match."

While Hill's recruitment is just beginning, Shepard and Lipscomb's are in full swing.

"Russell makes is so tough on high school defenses because he can score from anywhere with his feet," he said. "His recruitment is going to be crazy during the spring."

Shepard already has offers from the likes of Florida, Alabama, Minnesota, Boston College, Rutgers, Iowa and Iowa State, to name a few.

"He's one of those special leaders on and off the field," he said. "He will graduate early so his recruitment will be pretty aggressive."

Lipscomb has rushed for 1,152 yards and 20 touchdowns this season and possesses major Division I size and speed.

"He's 5-11, 200-pounds and has that low center of gravity that colleges look for," he said. "He's got great power, track speed and a huge burst. He will be just as heavily recruited as Russell."

The surprising 8-1 Rams face Sam McGuffie's Cy-Fair Bobcats for a chance at the district title.


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