High School Sports

Keenan lineman pulls double duty

ROEBUCK - James Barnes has high expectations of himself for Saturday's Shrine Bowl.

The lineman is hoping to raise his profile - and that of his Keenan High team.

"Me being here is bringing Keenan out into the spotlight even more," said Barnes, the second Raiders lineman to be selected to the Sandlappers in as many years. "We had a lot of losing seasons before, but now we had back-to-back winning seasons, we made the playoffs and we have players in the Shrine Bowl."

Barnes, who finished his senior season with 61 solo tackles, 32 tackles for loss and six sack from his defensive tackle position, credits second-year Raiders coach Mitchell Moton with pushing the program to this point, but he believes Keenan can go higher.

The Raiders won one game in Barnes' freshman season. This season they were 9-3 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

"We're going to build tradition year by year, and this is part of that," Moton said after watching Barnes practice at Dorman High on Thursday.

In 2008, Raiders lineman Matthew Johnson was the program's first Shrine Bowl selection since 2002 (Anthony McDaniel), and Moton expects Barnes will not be the last.

"It has been such a big boost for our program. If they work hard and buy into what we are doing, people will take notice and you can be honored like this," Moton said.

It was not always easy for the Raiders to picture themselves in all-star uniforms. Barnes had his doubts.

"I really truly didn't know if I'd make it, but I worked hard and I knew I could; my coaches said I could," Barnes said.

Moton was more certain.

"I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that James Barnes was one of the best defensive linemen in the state," he said. "James can play with the best of them."

Barnes is 6-foot-2, weighs 313 pounds and has solid footwork. Add in his integrity and leadership ability, and the Raiders' coaching staff would not let Barnes settle for being average.

"We set the bar for him real high," Moton said. "I told him coming into this year anything less than being a Shrine Bowl pick would be unacceptable."

Barnes is more than pleased with the results of following his coaches' lead.

"It feels real good to know that years from now I'll be able to look back and see that I played with the best of the best in South Carolina," he said.

He is using the opportunity to help himself prepare for the future.

Barnes believes playing alongside SEC commitments Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina) and Corey Miller (Tennessee) could push him to the next level.

"It's more competition, and I'm going to have to work a lot harder, and I could have one of my best games playing beside these guys," he said.

"I'm hoping this game will get my (recruiting) stock up," said Barnes, who is entering offers from a number of FCS schools, including N.C. Central, S.C. State and Coastal Carolina.

On Saturday he will be looking to attract an offer from an FBS program.

"All the players around him have (FBS) offers, and he should, too," Moton said.

He said the key to developing Barnes into an FBS prospect is to outwork the competition.

It is a mantra Moton has repeated since he started at Keenan, and one that never has been far from Barnes' mind.

So when Moton showed up to practice Wednesday, he could not help but smile at what he saw.

"He was giving everything he had and having fun, and it was a great feeling to see that," Moton said. "I hope more of my players get to have that as the years go on."

If so, they will have Barnes to thank for helping build the foundation at Keenan.