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July 19, 2008

Mustangs, Rebels lead the way at MCC

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- After two rounds of pool play, only the David Lipscomb Mustangs and Franklin Rebels can claim a spotless record at Vanderbilt's third annual Music City Classic 7-on-7 passing tournament.

The Mustangs, who are the defending Class 3A state champions, were dominating defensively and were led by three-star receiver/safety Zach Rogers. The 6-foot-2 performer began the day with four interceptions against Class 5A power Ravenwood in a 37-1 runaway. The smart and speedy rising senior made it nearly impossible for any team to complete a pass in his area of the field. Rogers has a very high football IQ and can breakdown and recover very quickly. As a receiver, he runs clean routes and has speed to burn.

A veteran unit, Rogers was not the only impressive Mustang during the day as linebacker/split end Evan Webb, athlete Michael Saggio and Harrison Daniel also put out solid showings. Webb, who stands at 6-foot-3, ran several good routes and made a number of big catches while also making a few interceptions at linebacker. Saggio, who also starts at linebacker for the Mustangs, worked several positions during the day and made a few key receptions on third downs as David Lipscomb rolled to a 6-0 record. The Mustangs defense just didn't allow much on the day, giving up only an average of 9.5 points per game.

The Franklin Rebels were runner-ups in last year's Music City Classic and may have enough to get back to the tournament final again this year. The Rebels feature a well-balanced unit, led by Jamal Starnes, Keylo Lee, Jarrel Eaton and Ramsey Sellers. Franklin was a well-oiled machine offensively for most of the day and breezed through the first round of pool play, averaging 37 points per game. Franklin was also active defensively and shutdown teams like Greenbrier and CPA.

In the second round of the pool play, the Rebels continued their winning ways with a surprising 7-3 win over Whitehaven. The Memphis program was also 3-0 heading into the contest and had perhaps the best collection of overall athletes of any other team at the event. Franklin's defense then controlled both Clarksville and surprising Pope John Paul II to close out the day with a 6-0 record. With Starnes, Lee and Eric Brown making several plays and deflections, the Rebels defense gave up an average of only 7.8 points per game.

Last year's Music City Classic champion, Hillsboro came into the tournament with a lot of momentum after capturing last week's passing tournament at Lavergne. However, Hillsboro would suffer a 31-28 upset coming out of the gates against new Illinois program, Plainfield North.

The Burros, who were led on the day by Rivals250 prospect Eric Gordon, athlete Alex Crutcher and Corey Jordan, would get back to their winning ways against Region 5-4A rival Stratford in the next game and closed out the first round with a 27-7 win over DeKalb County.

Hillsboro would start off the second round with a strong victory over 2007 Class 5A state championship runner-up, Independence as Gordon made several big plays defensively and caught two touchdowns in the Burros 28-7 victory. The Nashville program would close out the day with decisive victories over CPA and Page to post a 5-1 record.

Other programs that were also posted strong results included Plainfield North, Memphis University School, Springdale Har-Ber (Ark.) and Pope John Paul II.

The PN Tigers have perhaps one of the event's most impressive athletes in 6-foot-1, 200 pound Jacob Arnold. In addition to having a college-ready body, Arnold's speed was on display for much of the afternoon and everyone seemed to take notice. He was all over the field, making several plays and seemed to be a leader on the field. Defensive back Andrew Starks was also impressive and displayed solid speed of his own.

Plainfield raised money over the past year to make the trip to Nashville for the event and displayed a lot of positively as well as athletic ability during the first day. They could be a possible surprise team in the tournament.

If PN isn't the surprise team, Memphis University School could be. The Owls possess a number of quality receivers, highlighted by seniors Taylor Reed and Michael Folk. Reed is a lengthy target with good speed and body control. Against Greenbrier during the first round, Reed caught three touchdowns, including two for more than 35 yards. Folk also has good speed but even better hands and made several tough catches during the two rounds of play.

Owls punter/running back, Walt Wepfer and tight end Dylan Cunningham were also dangerous for most of the day, with Cunningham constantly running clean routes and Wepfer making several plays after the catch. Quarterbacks Barry Brunetti and Johnny Carson were equally impressive in throwing the ball and Carson was remarkably accurate for the entire two rounds. The MUS defense, led by linebacker Will Stokes, was also effective for most of the game, causing a number of interceptions and pass deflections as well as a few sacks.

Springdale Har-Ber's defense may need some work but the offense was as good as advertised. Led by quarterback Zach Faust, the powdered blue Wildcats averaged 36 points throughout the first day and would often take only two to three plays to get the ball into the end zone. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Foust is a similar looking passer to 2006 MCC Most Valuable Player Cody Kirby. Undersized but accurate, Faust connected on several fade routes during the first two rounds.

Pope John Paul II's impressive performance was due in part to the Knights being without key receiver Devin Wilson. JP2 did have several players step up however including Wesley Tate, Johnny Drennan and Cody Clawson. JP2 defeated Lavergne, Maplewood and Brentwood Academy for a surprising 3-0 start in round one. The Knights would drop two games during the second round but did post a impressive 20-0 win over Whitehaven as well.

The Music City Classic will resume at 8:30 a.m. central time on Saturday morning with a third and final round of pool play. Then, after a Fastest Man Competition final as well as an award's presentation, the teams will begin tournament play at 1:45 p.m., with the championship final expected to take place around 4 p.m.



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