Five schools remain for Thomas Duarte

Tight end Thomas Duarte (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) is down to a final five schools, but the 6-foot-3, 223-pound standout would like to wait one more week before diving fully into the recruiting process.

Though Duarte has taken it slowly from the begining, five schools have separated themselves at the top of his list: Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington. Duarte holds offers from all but USC, and said those schools will likely receive his five official visits. He said the topic of official visits has started to come up with coaches, and the tight end will begin setting them next week.

First, he wants to get through Saturday's CIF Championship Game against Long Beach (Calif.) Poly. Oddly enough, Duarte said it was a late-season loss to Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco that propelled them to this point.

"When we lost, we looked at each other heading into the Orange Lutheran game and said, 'Let's make a run for it,'" Duarte said. "It's now or never."

Five consecutive wins, including a very impressive shutout against Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure, has the Monarchs poised for something big. Getting Duarte back on the field after he suffered a leg injury in the first half of the loss to St. John Bosco was key.

"I'm fully back now," Duarte said. "I'm just maintaining it and making sure nothing is wrong, but I'm back to 100 percent now."

After Saturday's game, Duarte will turn his attention fully to the recruiting process. He said he won't host any in-home visits this week, but Oregon, UCLA and Washington have all expressed interest in visiting with Duarte soon.