Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – As high school football players head to camp this week, some are just fighting for the chance to put the uniform and pads on under the lights every Friday night.
Others know they’ll be Week 1 starters, and some are hoping to combine successful senior seasons into college scholarships if they haven’t already solidified their college plans. For some elite athletes, this is their chance to get their names on the recruiting map.
Here, in a nutshell, are some athletes to keep on your radar as the prep football season progresses.
Bridgeport Tusler, Osseo running back – Bridgeport Tusler and D.J. Hebert combined to be a potent offensive attack last year for Osseo. With Hebert graduated, the show is all Tusler’s on the ground this year. The senior running back led the Orioles last year with 106 yards per game on the ground and scored 11 touchdowns. His bruising, yet elusive style should make him one of the top rushers in the metro this season.
Jeffrey Jones, Minneapolis Washburn running back – Jeffrey Jones is only a junior, but he’s one of the fastest players in the Twin Cities. Look for him to be a clear leader on the ground for the Millers as they are hoping to contend for yet another Minneapolis City Conference title.
Jackson Goplen, St. Croix Lutheran running back – Jackson Goplen went largely under the radar around the metro last season, leading St. Croix Lutheran to a Tri-Metro Conference title and a Class 3A state championship. He’s a big back who can simply run people over, and he averaged 11 yards per carry last season. Look for him to lead the Crusaders.
Malcolm Moore, Minnetonka wide receiver – Every receiver in the metro was overshadowed by Andre McDonald last year. Minnetonka senior Malcolm Moore is hoping to be this year’s McDonald. Moore led the Skippers with 383 receiving yards last year. Look for him to be a threat to score every time he touches the ball this season.
Jeff Borchardt, Wayzata wide receiver – Jeff Borchardt was one of Wayzata’s most reliable receivers last year, running sharp routes and catching virtually everything thrown his way. He was second on the team in receiving with 283 yards, led the team with almost 22 yards per catch and scored five touchdowns. He looks to be the top receiver on a team loaded with offensive talent.
Keelon Brookins, Tartan defensive back – What Tartan may lack in depth they make up for in a big name. Keelon Brookins made headlines just before the start of fall practices as he announced he was de-committing from the University of Minnesota and gave Wisconsin a verbal commitment. Things can and often do change before National Signing Day, but Brookins is one of the top defensive backs in the state.
Reid Travis, DeLaSalle quarterback – He’s made a name for himself on the basketball court this summer, but Reid Travis could become one of the marquee names this fall for the DeLaSalle football team. The Islanders are always tough in the Tri-Metro Conference, and Travis is coming off a sophomore season where he threw for nearly 1,700 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had five scores on the ground.
James Onwualu, Cretin-Derham Hall wide receiver – Look for James Onwualu to emerge as one of the top athletes in the metro this year as the Raiders look to win the Suburban East Conference. As is usually the case at Cretin, the young Onwualu was stuck on the depth chart last year behind a load of talent. He still 123 yards and three touchdowns rushing, but led the team in receiving with 350 yards and four touchdowns. I have a feeling he’ll be a busy man for the Raiders this season if he stays healthy.
Zach LaValle, Hill-Murray quarterback – After a run to the state tournament last year, Zach LaValle looks to have a standout season behind center for the Hill-Murray Pioneers this fall. He passed for more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns last season to lead Hill-Murray’s offense. He’ll also look to improve on a 48.7 percent completion percentage rate from last season. The Pioneers were third in a loaded Classic Suburban Conference last year, and with LaValle at quarterback they’ll likely be contenders this fall.
Malik Rucker, Cooper defensive back – Look for Malik Rucker out of Cooper to emerge as one of the top defensive backs in the Twin Cities metro by the end of the season. He finished third on the team in tackles last year with 43, including 21 solo tackles and forced a fumble. He also had one interception in the secondary. Rucker could also use his natural speed in the Hawks’ offense at wide receiver and could play a role returning kicks in special teams.