With the kickoff of the 2014 high school football season quickly approaching, our reporters will be out at local practices checking in with contenders, dark horses and rebuilding teams alike as they gear up for the fall. Here is the latest installment of our Camp Countdown:
As the Bullis Bulldogs practiced through the rain that soaked Montgomery County earlier this week, spectators sat and watched, some from the safety of their cars, others stubbornly in dripping wet camp chairs. It wasn’t that the Bulldogs had drawn a training camp crowd — most of the onlookers were parents waiting to pick up their sons — but their presence was fitting: loaded with high-level recruits and already-committed talent, more and more eyes will be on the defending IAC champions this season.
Even staring into the mob of rain-soaked practice t-shirts from 50 yards away, those parents could pick out rising junior Dwayne Haskins Jr. Ranked fifth at his position in the class of 2016 by Rivals, he’ll bring top college coaches to Potomac throughout the season.
On Monday night, in the midst of a few shorter, unspectacular passing plays, Haskins dropped back, looked left, and pivoted quickly to his right. He released immediately, as if trying to get the ball out of the rain as quickly as possible, and a beautiful, high-arcing spiral traveled an easy 40 yards, undeterred by the precipitation. That polished delivery has earned Haskins offers from more than 20 of the country’s top college programs, including Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
When recruiters come to see him this year, they’ll get a look at a Bullis roster filled with players earning interest all by themselves, though as senior defensive end Jonathan Holland says, the looks “trickle down.”
Holland, who is committed to Penn State, says he was a beneficiary of 2013 first-team All-Met Justin Herron’s recruiting process. When Wake Forest pursued Herron, who ultimately committed there, the Demon Deacons’ coaching staff saw and liked Holland, too.
“We told the younger kids, coaches might be out here to see us, but if you go out there and play like you’re supposed to play, they’re going to look at you guys, too,” Holland said.
Holland and senior running back Devonte Williams, who’s got 10 offers of his own, will bring plenty of eyes to Bullis games, too. They’ll see senior defensive end Julian James, one of the Bulldogs’ leading tacklers last year, senior running back Brian Latham Jr., and sophomore linebacker Damani Neal, who emerged as a key defensive presence in his first season with the Bulldogs. They’ll also see McKinley Tech transfer Patrick Johnson II, a junior defensive back with offers in his pocket. They’ll see all that highly regarded talent and a team eager for an undefeated season after a season-opening loss to St. John’s marred an otherwise perfect 2013.
“Ten and 0, winning the IAC,” Holland said. “Those are the goals. Definitely just dominating on both sides of the ball.”
Bullis will play IAC foes like Landon, Episcopal, and recently re-integrated Georgetown Prep, which had played an independent schedule for more nearly a decade. They’ll also play Mount St. Joseph, Spalding, Friendship Collegiate and recently reloaded Avalon, but no Washington Catholic Athletic Conference teams, which would let the Bulldogs know how they stack up with the area’s top teams.
Regardless of what their schedule reveals, Haskins says the Bulldogs know there’s a reason college coaches will be flocking to the new Bullis turf this season.
“Even though we’re an IAC team, we have WCAC athletes,” Haskins said. “That’s the thing. Our team is small, so when we play against those schools, they have a lot more kids. So the key is we need to stay healthy, and that’ll give us a better chance against those schools.”