What I learned this weekend

Life goes on for Penn State, ex-commit O'Connor

As Penn State attempts to return to normalcy after a tumultuous and disturbing week, four-star offensive lineman and former Nittany Lions commit Joey O’Connor (Windsor, Colo./Windsor) took his first steps as an uncommitted prospect.

O’Connor, who decommitted on Thursday, said the recruiting process will take a back seat until after the playoffs, as Windsor opened the Colorado Class 3A playoffs with a win against Broomfield (Colo.) Holy Family on Saturday.

“At this point, I have no idea what’s going to happen,” O’Connor said. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to rule out Penn State. It just means I’m going to have my options open to where I can look at other opportunities that could be best for me.

“With everything, it really breaks my heart. My heart goes out to the victims, and they all are in my thoughts and prayers. I just hope this doesn’t take away all the things that Coach (Joe) Paterno did for the program. I still believe in my hear that he’s a genuine person, but this is really a tragedy.”

O’Connor, Colorado’s top-ranked player, committed to Penn State in June. He chose the Nittany Lions over offers from Colorado, Colorado State, Tennessee, Arizona, South Carolina, UCLA and several other schools.

Texas second round has champion pairings

Fans of the Texas high school playoffs will be treated to two second-round games this weekend that would have been good enough to call state-championship matchups.

In a battle of Fab 50 teams, No. 3 Allen will face No. 8 Euless Trinity in a Class 5A Division I Region I game early Saturday afternoon. Later in the day, two more of Texas’ top teams collide, as Fab No. 19 Dallas Skyline plays former Fab 50 team DeSoto in a Class 5A Division I Region II game.

Several BCS-bound recruits will participate in both games. Allen includes Alabama commit Alec Morris at quarterback and new Arkansas commit Jonathan Williams at running back. Trinity has Oklahoma commit Polo Manukainiu at defensive end and the UCLA-bound duo of offensive lineman Hiva Lutui and safety Ilaiu Moeakiola, in addition to highly-touted linebacker Brian Nance.

Skyline features Under Armour All-Americans in receiver Thomas Johnson and linebacker/running back Peter Jinkens, who both have committed to Texas. Skyline also includes UNLV commit David Greene at running back and Kansas State commit Tray Rabon at receiver.

DeSoto, like Skyline, has two Texas commits who are UA All-Americans in offensive lineman Curtis Riser and cornerback Bryson Echols, as well as Texas A&M-bound defensive end Michael Richardson, LSU-bound cornerback Jalen Mills, Rice-bound linebacker Alex Lyons and Air Force-bound running back Devin Rushing.

Wild win could help K-State recruiting

For a team looking to bounce back from back-to-back losses, Kansas State got the job done in super-dramatic fashion, defeating Texas A&M, 53-50, in quadruple overtime. To Wildcats commit Tavarius Bender (Lincoln, Neb./Southwest), who was in Manhattan, Kan., to take in the game, it was the perfect way to attract more 2012 and 2013 recruits.

“It was a sick, sick game. My legs were hurting from standing so much,” Bender said. “I’d never been to a game that went to four overtimes. It was definitely an adrenaline rush, something I’ll never forget.”

The Wildcats are looking to pick up their first commit since the first week of October. Kansas State has 10 commits from the Class of 2012, including six three-star players. Bender said highlight reels of Saturday’s game definitely will sell a couple of high-quality players.

“The atmosphere there was crazy,” Bender said. “It was a packed house, and fan base is everything. With everybody getting into it, and with the scoring back and forth, it definitely put a plus on Kansas State recruiting. That’s a school you want to be at.”

Some of the players targeted by Kansas State include defensive ends Trace Clark (Wichita, Kan./Collegiate) and Nathaniel Lohn (Kansas City, Mo./Staley), tight end Matt Miller (Omaha, Neb./Skutt Catholic) and defensive tackle Demonte Hood (Arlington, Texas/Bowie).

Behind 2013 prospects, Bismarck wins N.D. title

Junior running back Layne Johs (Bismarck, N.D.) is considered a rising standout among Class of 2013 players. Johs added to his growing recognition Friday, as he led Bismarck to its third North Dakota AAA football state title in the last four years.

Bismarck beat cross-town rival Century, 21-3, in the final, which was a rematch of a September meeting. Johs, who missed two weeks of action recuperating from back spasms, rushed for 193 yards and two touchdowns. He helped Bismarck finish the season with an 11-1 record.

Johs’ performance shared top billing with a phenomenal defensive effort in the biggest game of the year. The defense includes another junior in cornerback Josh Seibel, who had eight tackles and also was a primary special teams contributor. It was the fourth game of the year that Bismarck held an opponent without a touchdown.

“We came into the game hoping to run the ball, and our offensive line stepped up,” Johs told the Bismarck Tribune. “We relied on our defense to make some big plays, and they made some huge stops for us.”

Fumble recovery gives multiple effects

A 99-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown is newsworthy by itself. When defensive back Garrett Roach (Woodward, Okla./Woodward) made this happen Friday, it was the beginning of what turned into a positive domino effect.

The recovery keyed Woodward’s 20-19 upset win over defending Oklahoma Class 4A state champion Oklahoma City (Okla.) Douglass. The play capped Woodward’s task of erasing a 19-7, fourth-quarter deficit. It also gave the Bombers their first playoff victory in 15 years, according to the Woodward News.

Woodward, under first-year coach Darris Servis, next will face Wagoner in the state quarterfinals. In addition to Roach, Woodward is led by quarterback Jake Hughes.