In a quiet respite from his chaotic senior season, McDonough's A.J. Wallace stood before the mirror in the school's weight room last week and challenged himself.
"I looked at myself and I said, 'I know I could do better than this,' " he said.
One of the nation's most heavily recruited players in the class of 2006, Wallace entered Monday night's game at Huntingtown having rushed for just 92 yards on 28 carries his previous two games. There were whispers around Southern Maryland -- which Wallace heard -- that he might not be worth all the hype.
"I was thinking about that a little bit," said the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Wallace, who is being recruited as a defensive back. "Some people around [Charles County] were questioning my ability. When I got named to the [U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Sept. 14] that's when I felt the most pressure to start to produce."
Wallace certainly produced in McDonough's 24-6 victory against the Hurricanes. On the first play from scrimmage, he ran 38 yards for a touchdown. After Huntingtown scored on the next series, the Rams handed off to Wallace again on first down, and he ran 68 yards for another touchdown.
On a slippery field, Wallace finished with a career-high 268 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns.
"A.J. was back to his old self," McDonough Coach Dave Bradshaw said.
It might be because Wallace is healthy for the first time this season. He pulled a quadriceps muscle in McDonough's first scrimmage, and was not recovered by the opener. He still played, but was clearly a step off, gaining only 75 yards in a 20-6 loss to Chopticon.
Then, in the second quarter of last week's loss to No. 6 Westlake, Wallace was spiked in the ribs while making a tackle, which gave him trouble breathing the rest of the game.
All the while, he has managed dozens of phone calls and gossip about his recruitment, which has taken him to Ohio State and Florida State on official visits, and last weekend to Penn State on an unofficial trip. He plans to visit Nebraska in two weeks, and Florida, LSU and Miami are competing for his final two official visits. He said he plans to announce his college choice at the All-American Bowl on Jan. 7 in San Antonio.