Football pledges, targets converge

South Pointe High's Gerald Dixon
South Pointe High's Gerald Dixon The State

More than bragging rights will be on the line when practice opens Monday for the Shrine Bowl.

South Carolina carries 25 commitments, including at least four players planning to enroll in January, into the 74th-annual all-star game, which will be played Saturday in Spartanburg between the best seniors in the Carolinas.

By the end of the week the Gamecocks could begin putting the final touches on the recruiting Class of 2011. USC is expected to add 28 to 30 total players in this class between those who enroll midyear and those that wait until next August.

There is a chance that two USC targets – the two Gerald Dixons from Northwestern and South Pointe – will announce their decisions at some point this week. The stepbrothers have maintained a desire to play collegiately together, and they’ve long been considered USC leans since their father played for the Gamecocks.

South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Manning defensive tackle Phillip Dukes, Scott’s Branch athlete Jarell Adams, Williston-Elko athlete Dexter Staley and Marlboro County linebacker Lateek Townsend are among the uncommitted players in the game currently considering USC. If all of them ended up in Columbia, USC’s class would likely be complete.

Lake City tailback Shon Carson, Goose Creek offensive tackle Brandon Shell, Calhoun County wide receiver Shamier Jeffery and Spartanburg corner Ronnie Martin are the players participating in the Shrine Bowl who have already committed to USC.

Like most prep and college all-star games, the practices leading up to the event are typically more important for college coaches and members of the media. The Shrine Bowlers will practice 10 times through Friday at Spartanburg High School.

The game will kickoff at 1 p.m. Saturday at Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium.

Finnie advances

Miami Central will make its first appearance in the Florida Class 6A football championship game next Saturday. The clutch play of South Carolina commitment Thomas Finnie is the reason why.

Finnie had four pass breakups and five tackles in Friday’s 30-27 win over Cypress Bay (Fla.) in the state semifinals. None of the tackles were bigger than a fourth quarter stop that few in the stadium thought he could make.

Leading 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter, Cypress Bay broke off a 70-yard run. However, Finnie ran the ball carrier down at the 6, and Central’s defense held the Lightning to a field goal.

“He’s been tremendous all season,” Central coach Telly Lockette said. “This kid is just a blessing to have. That was the game changer right there.”

Central running back Devonte Freeman, who rushed for 354 yards, scored a go-ahead, two-yard touchdown with 1:19 left and Central added a late safety to become the latest inner-city Miami power to reach the championship game.

Central (13-1), which has won 13 straight games, meets Orlando’s Dr. Phillips in the Citrus Bowl next Saturday for the championship in Florida’s largest class.