Last Friday evening, Rivals.com went out and took in the first half of the Woodland Hills, Calif., Taft/Carson, Calif., game, headlined by Taft's three-star quarterback Josh Portis (6-foot-4, 200 pounds, 4.5) and Carson's athletic quarterback Bo Napoleon (6-foot, 195 pounds, 4.5). After the half we headed to the campus of Lake Balboa, Calif., Birmingham to take in the second half of the Birmingham/Valencia, Calif., game.
Simply put, Portis was the man on this night. Portis threw three long passes that were as good as it gets. He hit junior wide receiver Jamere Holland (6-foot-0, 180 pounds, 4.4) in perfect stride and he didn't even have to slow down one step. With Holland's speed, it's over.
What made Portis even more dangerous was his ability to buy more time with his feet. He had a couple of runs where he turned a bad play into a long gain.
Portis put on an amazing show. What made it even more impressive is that it came off a tough one point loss to Los Angeles, Calif., Crenshaw just a week before.
Another Taft player that looked solid was athlete prospect Jason Haywood (6-foot-3, 170 pounds, 4.5). Haywood showed good closing speed to the football, and once he arrived on the scene, he made his presence known with a couple of bone jarring hits.
Holland is a game breaker at wide receiver for Taft. While not as polished as former Taft wide receiver, and current USC Trojan, Steve Smith was at the same juncture of his career, Holland has that extra gear that can't be taught.
Holland will be highly sought after for the class of 2006. He has a very high ceiling.
Another junior to watch at Taft was running back/defensive back Shelton Banks. Banks is a playmaker can run and catch on offense. On defense, he played the run exceptionally well, and for good measure, he handled Taft's punting chores, pinning Carson deep in their own territory on one kick. However, Banks will get his scholarship offers for his skills on offense or defense, not as a punter.
Sophomore safety Malcom Smith is another name to keep in mind for the future. He is USC's Steve Smith's little brother. Besides being a solid safety, he is also a fine running back.
Carson was not without its share of players. Quarterback Bo Napoleon is raw, but has a lot of ability. He needs to improve on his overall passing skills, but he had very little accuracy on his long ball.
It must be said that Taft had heat on Napoleon on almost every play. The thing that you had to admire about Napoleon is his competitive spirit. This guy keeps coming after you.
Napoleon also showed outstanding feet. His fancy footwork time and again bought him time. If Napoleon can find some accuracy to go along with his otherwise strong arm, he will be able to play somewhere. Napoleon is worth recruiting on his athletic skills alone.
Carson fullback Phillip Knight (6-foot, 195 pounds, 4.5) was a double threat catching and running the ball. He ran hard even when there was nothing there and was still able to make positive yardage.
Carson wide receiver Dwayne Sanders (5-foot-11, 165 pounds, 4.4) showed off fancy running skills after making the catch. The fact that Sanders can run shouldn't be too surprising since he played running back as a junior.
Carson wide receiver/tight end Antwan Mahaley (6-foot-4, 197 pounds, 4.7) showed that he can get open and that he will lay out for the ball. He made a couple of catches and almost made a couple of fantastic catches that somehow he got his hands on, but couldn't quite make the grab.
There was a lot of action in the first half with both teams fighting tooth and nail. Taft was leading at the half 21-14.
When Rivals.com arrived at Birmingham it was halftime with Birmingham leading Valencia 26-21.
The lead was to be short lived as junior quarterback Mike Herrick (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) proved that he is the real deal. This young quarterback had pinpoint accuracy and didn't make any obvious mistakes.
Under Herrick's guidance Valencia rolled Birmingham, before you knew it, the score was 43-26 and Valencia was running down the rest of the game.
Herrick will be a quarterback who could be highly recruited for the class of 2006. Early in the game Valencia was down by two touchdowns and Herrick didn't even flinch.
Herrick made every right decision in the second half after a rough first half when he was picked off twice. For the night, Herrick was 27-40 for 307 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
This young man is only going to get better.
Senior wide receiver/safety Shane Morales (6-foot-2, 190 pounds, 4.5) was another very impressive player for Valencia. He played with equal furor on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Morales laid out on one pass and came up with the catch. On the night, Morales caught five passes for 85 yards. On defense, Morales picked off a pass and made several tackles. All in all, a great night for Morales.
Valencia sophomore running back/cornerback Shane Vereen (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) is one to keep on your watch list in the future. He ran very tough and plays bigger than his size.
On the night, Vereen rushed for 98 yards and caught three passes for 17 yards.
For Birmingham, it was a tale of two halves. For the first half, Birmingham played up to their potential and in the second half, they just fell apart.
Birmingham quarterback Andrew Miramontes (6-foot-1, 175 pounds, 4.8) still threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half, he could get nothing going as he was harassed by the Valencia defense the entire half.
Keep your eye on Birmingham senior wide receiver Corey Anderson (6-foot, 165 pounds, 4.5). He is a good one. Anderson made a couple of sensational catches showing excellent body control and an outstanding set of hands. Anderson caught seven passes for 217 yards, with a long of 71 yards.
If Anderson keeps playing like he has in the early going, look for his stock to take a large leap in the next few weeks.
On the defensive side of the ball, Birmingham linebacker Luke Laolagi (6-foot-2, 205 pounds, 4.6) showed great quickness.
Valencia stayed away from Laolagi in the second half. Valencia threw over him and ran away from him, still his quickness was apparent. He also displayed a nose for the ball.
All four teams that Rivals.com saw last Friday will contend for league titles and could go far in the playoffs.