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December 16, 2002
Stars secret ingredient in Louisiana playoffs
NEW ORLEANS - The only thing that might have been hotter than the blue-chip prospects on hand this weekend for the Nokia Sugar Bowl Prep Classic at the Super Dome might have been the Cajun food that New Orleans is famous for.
But not by much.
The championship weekend was one of the most impressive collections of talent in the nation for both the Class of 2003, but also for the Class of 2004.
From the Class 1A game that featured future star Joshua Mackey and the Class 2A game that showcased Port Barre two-way star Daniel Francis to the Class 5A game that featured star-studded Shreveport Evangel Christian, there were enough spicy players to make a recruiting coordinator's mouth water with anticipation.
Even with all of the other games showcasing blue-chip players right and left it was the Class 4A game between River Ridge John Curtis and New Orleans O.P. Walker that had the most firepower.
There were more players ranked by Rivals100.com in that game than any other game that has been scouted this season.
When the smoke clears, there were at least 20 current recruits and future D-I players battling for the title with many of them being on the field at the same time.
And as expected it was some of the higher ranked players that proved why coaches from all over the nation are flocking to New Orleans to recruit them.
TigerBait.com editor Mike Scarborough has been raving all season long about the play of O.P. Walker receiver Craig Davis and after seeing for the second time this season, it's easy to see why he's one of the Southeast's top prospects.
Not only does Davis look the part of a game-breaker receiver at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he has the game to go with the look.
Davis simply did it all - from kickoffs to catching big passes, there wasn't a bigger big play guy on hand this weekend.
When Walker needed a clutch play, they looked to Davis and he often delivered.
Take his 28-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter for example.
Walker was down 16-6 and then Davis split two defenders on a flag post pattern and glided into the end zone and effortless caught the ball.
Scarborough was right, Davis is one of the nation's top 100 players and after seeing him in person it is definitely easy to believe.
He belongs right up there in the same category as the other big timers in the nation. He might not be a huge super-star line Andre Caldwell, but he has a shot at being an amazing player.
And Miami recruiting him at receiver is even more convincing.
The other top-100 caliber player on hand this weekend was John Curtis defensive tackle Carnell Stewart (left with teammate Ryan Watson).
Stewart was more impressive looking in person than he was on film.
The first thing that catches you attention is his size - he is a legitimate 6-foot-5 and might be more accurately listed at 6-6 now and he has some of the longest arms on a defensive linemen seen this season.
He would use those long arms to split through double-team blocks and get back into the backfield and frustrate the O.P. Walker quarterback.
Stewart had at least three or four batted down balls at the line of scrimmage and often was in the Charger backfield like he knew what the snap count was.
But Stewart and Davis weren't the only highly recruited players on hand in the 4A championship game.
Cornerback Daryl Johnson (right) of O.P. Walker was one of the more impressive defensive backs that Rivals100 has seen in person this season.
What makes him even more attractive as a recruit is that he has impressive size at 6-2 and 200 pounds.
He's physical in man-to-man situations and receivers simply couldn't get off the line of scrimmage against him.
Colorado has already landed a commitment from linebacker Travis Berry and it's clear that Berry was the heart-and-soul of the O.P. Walker defense.
He's listed in their official roster at 6-foot, but Davis is lucky if he's 5-10. That small stature scared away many college coaches from recruiting him as heavily as some of his other teammates, but the Buffs have landed themselves a real gem.
Davis is a headhunter on defense and when he gets to the ball he gets there with an attitude. Along with his height, he's not the fastest linebacker around but the kid just makes play after play after play.
Another Scarborough favorite heading into the weekend was O.P. Walker defensive end Dominic Cooper, and he too was a special prospect.
After seeing Cooper, along with the other O.P. Walker players this spring at the Louisiana Junior Day, the defensive end has continued to fill out and is a much more impressive physical specimen than he was just six months later.
He's gotten bigger, stronger and faster. Against a John Curtis offensive line that featured at least one D-I prospect, Cooper was all over the field with his long arms and speed making plays.
He was a joy to watch in action when he got his motor revving. It was a sight to see him chasing ball carriers 10-yards down the field making the tackle.
Rounding out the stars on the O. P. Walker roster was sophomore, yes sophomore, offensive tackle Cleveland Johnigan. Johnigan is the biggest sophomore ever seen - coming in at an amazing 6-foot-8 and 335 pounds.
And yes he can block.
He often did go one-on-one with Stewart, Curtis' star d-lineman, and showed that he's not only big, but also strong and agile for a player his size.
On the Curtis roster, there are more stars than just Stewart.
Maybe the next most impressive prospect was Kris Bush the silky smooth running back prospect.
Bush isn't going to blow you away with his speed, but when he got the ball good things happened and he always came through in the clutch with the tough yards when the Patriots needed them.
He's going to make a college coach very happy one day and people are going to wonder why he wasn't recruited more heavily.
The rest of the Curtis defensive line also proved to live up to the pre-game and recruiting hype. Along with Stewart, defensive tackles Jarrod Carter and Ryan Watson made their share of big plays.
Watson has maybe the better frame of the two, but Carter for some reason has that drive that just never gives up on the ball. If it's on the other side of the field, he does what it takes to get there.
He might not be as pretty looking in a uniform as Stewart and Watson, but Carter got it done on Saturday against Walker.
Watson is also nothing to sneeze at. When he got his motor running he was very difficult to block.
Consider Watson a semi-combination between Stewart and Carter. He has a lot of the body frame of Stewart but not quite the same and he has a lot of the same moxie that Carter does but maybe not quite at the same level. Either way, he's should be a very successful college player.
Curtis offensive lineman Jerry Sevin (right) was also a solid prospect.
The LSU commitment is listed at center by Rivals100 but he played guard the entire game and when he got his lower body into the block and threw his hips into the drive block the defender often ended up on his back.
Curtis' linebacker of Chris Bua and Mike Snyder were also solid.
But you have to really give it up for Snyder. He just looked like the type of guy you'd like to take to war with you. He never smiled once - even after Curtis had won the state championship.
It's hard to give kickers four-star rankings since they only play a few plays every game, but if Rivals100 did, then Curtis kicker Chris Jackson would be under major consideration for that honor.
He is a deadly weapon that should be able to carry on the LSU kicker tradition that has been so successful the past few seasons.
Coming Tuesday: A look at the Evangel-West Monroe game, along with a look at the other senior prospects on hand. Also, be on the look out for a look at some of the state's top under-classmen later this week.