If you’ve had the chance to watch St. Thomas Aquinas play this year, the Raiders are certainly as talented as ever. What the two losses to Miramar and Don Bosco Prep represent is the lack of playmakers. But things are starting to change.
For a program that has maintained a high level of success through the years, the Raiders fully understand that having players who come up with that key catch, short run or open field tackle can make the difference in winning a state title or coming up short.
In last week’s district title win over Plantation, the Raiders used the running of senior Fred Coppet, and the blocking of an offensive line that has been mentioned as one of the best in the state.
Coppet, who had fallen behind in the exposure race to South Plantation’s Alex Collins, and Christopher Columbus standouts Lorenzo Woodley and Darryl Chestnut, ran for more than 200 yards and put this team on his back. It was something that had been lacking in big games for this program since winning a national title two years ago.
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Coppet’s performance — along with the blocking up front — helped to take the pressure off of senior quarterback John O’Korn, who had a superb fourth quarter in the 24-20 win. O’Korn, headed to the University of Houston, has been up and down with his play this season, but has played well against Columbus and Plantation.
That offensive line that everyone has been watching includes seniors Zach Provin, Kyle Schafenacker and Austin Bland, and juniors Ryan Crozier, Nicholas Linder, Tyler Dever and Kai Absheer — to name a few.
As well as Coppet and the offensive line have played the past month, the Raiders have done well on defense.
Senior Joey Bosa (6-5, 270) and his freshman brother, Nick, a 6-2, 215-pounder, have been making plays all season. Even when he was banged up in games against Don Bosco and Miramar, the Ohio State-bound Joey Bosa has been impressive.
What makes the older Bosa a prize recruit is his strength and quickness. He is always the player teams gameplan against, which has opened the door for athletes such as Nick, who many believe could be one of the best to lineup for this school.
One of the nation’s elite Class of 2016 performers Nick Bosa has already been offered by Ohio State. He is athletic and very smart for having limited high school experience.
As impressive as both Bosa brothers have been, the Raiders have also gotten big plays on the defensive side of the ball from senior linebackers Lance Virgil, Javaris Hendricks and Scott Northcutt. The secondary has also been one of the major surprises as well.
One of the players who has been a catalyst is senior safety James Crawford, a 6-2, 200-pounder who has played as well as anyone. In big games, this is the player who has stepped up.
Crawford is not alone, the secondary has seen dramatic improvement with Al Harris Sr. giving this unit a major lift as far back as the spring. Players such as seniors Isaac Brutton, Peter Nicoletto, Chris Washington and Martel Williams have made major contributions. So have juniors Al Harris Jr. and Nicholas Richardson.
It’s almost that time of year when our local seniors will be headed off to national and local all-star games. While we will continue to bring you news on our local players, there are some who will once against have the chance to participate in some of the major nationally televised contests.
Those taking part in the annual Under Armour game in St. Petersburg will be Matthew Thomas (Booker T. Washington), Stacey Coley (Northeast), Maquedius Bain (University School), Joey Bosa (St. Thomas Aquinas), Artie Burns (Northwestern) and Jordan Cunningham (University School).
We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. All you have to do is send a DVD and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein, P.O. Box 3181, Hallandale Beach, Fl. 33009. Have a comment? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.