THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Friday night: The time to see best state players
If you live in Virginia and believe Saturdays and Sundays are the time to watch football, you are sorely mistaken. Believe it or not, Saturdays and Sundays aren't when our best football happens.
Friday night is.
When I was in high school, our football team didn't strike fear into anyone's heart. A small private school, we quaked when we heard "Central of Lunenburg" and if– God forbid– someone uttered the words "Hampton Roads," we prostrated ourselves and begged for mercy.
If a school were a football powerhouse, we didn't want to know anything about it.
I must have carried that phobia with me since high school, because I was stunned to learn ESPN seeded Virginia eighth in the nation for high school football. Eighth? In the nation?
If you are surprised too, it's probably because you're not from Northern Virginia, Tidewater, Chatham– or sometimes Richmond. If you're from those areas, you're likely stunned to discover most of Virginia considers high school football a chance to make out under the bleachers or sell Brunswick stew. Our boys rarely go on to play in Division I programs, and if a USC rep comes to our towns, he's lost.
After politely pointing out the quickest way back to the interstate, the rest of Virginia might wonder where the USC rep got the gall to come here in the first place. They have football in California; what do they want with our boys? No one who could play for UVA or Tech would choose to go elsewhere, right?
The top tier doesn't always get that choice. While VT and UVA struggle to get their teams on track, 15 of the AP's preseason top 25 college football programs boast Virginia players and this isn't a one-time deal. Top players from those areas flee Virginia as if it were Egypt. I hate to be the one to tell you but—
Of the six Virginia high school football players nationally ranked, four stars or higher and have committed to a college, one will play ball in the Commonwealth. David Wilson, a running back from George Washington High School has committed to Virginia Tech.
David Wilson is from Danville– the only player from Southside. Four of these premier players are from Northern Virginia or Tidewater, while one is from Richmond and none of them will pay in-state tuition.
Virginia's two five-star committed players, Logan Heastie and Tajh Boyd, are from Tidewater, and have both signed on to play for— gulp– West Virginia. They can reminisce with Dominik Davenport, a four-star DT from Hampton, who will also suit up in the gold and blue.
The two remaining four-star players will be farther afield. Damien Thigpen, an RB from Manassas, is off to Tennessee, while Jordan Love, the CB from Glen Allen, has committed to Georgia.
What's to become of us?
Of the 12 three-star players, five are going to UVA and two to Virginia Tech. The other five will be playing for NC State, UNC, Louisville, Wake Forest and good ole West Virginia. Out of 18 committed two-star players, 10 will stay in Virginia.
The odds only get worse for one-star players. Of 11, two will be heading to Blacksburg while the rest are heading out of state.
While I'm stunned at our talent, the exodus does not stun me. Hargrave Military Academy, with its reputation for giving troubled and underachieving athletes second chances, has nine one-star players, but none will play in Virginia. Tidewater– whose schools are more known for athletics than academics– is sending the majority of its players far away.
When a high school athlete is exceedingly good, often he or she isn't expected to balance athletics and academics. How many of us sat in class while athletes got to leave early? For that matter, how many times did a pep rally preempt class altogether?
Don't count on seeing Virginia's best football on Saturday or Sunday. Get there on Friday nights because an athlete can't play in Virginia if he can't make the grade.
Then again, the exodus might be more about Virginia's lack of national titles.