MaxWire National Blog

Covering High School Sports in America
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    Thanks in part to a wave of international players, the state of Florida is a hotbed for high school basketball talent and storylines.

    Perhaps none are more intriguing than 6-foot-11, 240-pound eighth grader Balsa Koprivica, who made his varsity high school debut last week at University (Fort Lauderdale).

    Thanks to his exploits on the club circuit, Koprivica – a native of Serbia – is already a national name in basketball circles. For what it's worth, he's regarded as a Top 10 player in his class by Future150.com.

    University head coach Adrian Sosa – also Koprivica's club coach – said last week he planned to bring his young center along slowly, but by the looks of things, that may be tough to do.

    Koprivica scored 17 points in University's opener – a 65-61 win over IMG Academy.

    MaxPreps caught up with Koprivica over the weekend at a Coaches vs. Cancer event hosted by Cypress Bay High School of Weston. He was a factor again as the Suns improved to 2-0 with a 46-40 win over Coral Springs. See him in action above.

  • Photo by Terry Jack

    Trenton Irwin, Hart

    Hart (Newhall, Calif.) saw its season come to an end Friday with a 52-21 CIF Southern Section playoff loss to Upland, but that didn't stop Indians receiver Trenton (Trent) Irwin from setting a pair of California state receiving records.

    Irwin caught 15 passes for 165 yards in the loss to finish his career with 285 receptions for 5,272 yards in his career. He played varsity football from the first game of his freshman year, and it took him 51 games to reach the state record mark.

    According to The Santa Clarita Signal, Irwin surpassed fellow Santa Clarita area receiver Drew Wolitarsky of Canyon (Canyon Country), who held the state records of 281 catches and 5,148 yards.

    Irwin finishes his career in 15th place on the national all-time career receptions list. His career receiving yardage totals rank eighth all-time.
  • Photos by Daniel Coppola/David Argyle. Graphic by Ryan Escobar
    When Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.) and Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) meet, expect fireworks.

    In Paramus Catholic's 18-17 win Saturday in a New Jersey Non-Public Group IV bracket semifinal, almost all of them were reserved for the finish.

    The finals 2 minutes, 10 seconds to be precise, according to nj.com.

    That's how long it took host Parmus Catholic to go 52 yards to pull out the win that sent the Paladins to a third straight title game at MetLife Stadium.

    It was also the third straight win or Paramus against their New Jersey rivals after being beat 12 straight times in the series.

    A 12-yard touchdown pass from Willy Hansen to Marquis Spence was the game winner, but Paramus overcame numerous seemingly impossible spots to prevail.

    Bosco had held on downs with a little more than two minutes left that appeared to seal the win, but it fumbled on the very next play and Paramus had new life at its own 48.

    The Paladins moved to the Bosco 21, but an offensive pass interference seemed to seal their fate, making it 3rd-and-22 from the 36. It was for sure done when Bosco's Lawrence Stevens intercepted Hansen in the end zone.

    But wait. Stevens was called for pass interference. Again Bosco held and forced a 4th-and-7, but Hansen completed a 9-yard pass to Donald Stewart one play before the game-winner to Spence.

  • Hail Mary passes are, by definition, desperate plays, but the pass that Dunham (Baton Rouge, La.) completed to stun Menard on Friday night seemed particularly unlikely.

    Quarterback Jyron Walker threw up a prayer in the vicinity of receiver Josh Matthews--and about eight Menard defenders.

    Somehow, Matthews came down with the pass for a 46-yard score, and Dunham came away with a 27-24 victory over Holy Savior Menard in the LHSAA Division III playoffs.

    "I saw the ball go up. They tipped it up in the air and I took it off of one of the defensive player's hands," Matthews told The Advocate after the game.

    With the victory, Dunham advances to take on Calvary Baptist in the next round.
  • Mason Fine of Locust Grove (Okla.) broke the Oklahoma state record for touchdown passes in a season last week, but there are likely more record-breaking efforts to come before Fine's career is over.
    Facebook photo

    Mason Fine, Locust Grove


    According to the Oklahoma City Oklahoman, Fine broke the record of Austin Brooks of Oklahoma Christian, who threw 54 touchdown passes in 2013. Fine's 55 touchdown passes currently ranks second in the nation behind Jake Browning of Folsom (Calif.), who has 56.

    With 3,679 yards on the season, Fine is also within striking distance of the single-season yardage mark of 3,916, set by Hunter Eubank of Lindsay in 2011.

    Fine also has a shot at the career passing yardage record held by L.T. Pfaff of Atoka (2007-10). Pfaff had 11,357 career yards while Fine, a junior, has 7,503 yards.

    Locust Grove is 10-0 on the season and plays Spiro in the first round of the playoffs this week.
  • Lake Nona (Orlando, Fla.) quarterback Tucker Israel isn't through setting state records.

    Courtesy of 247Sports

    Tucker Israel, Lake Nona

    In a 59-33 win over East River, Israel completed 24 of 36 passes for 417 yards and five touchdowns. The five scoring tosses were enough to break the previous season record of 46, set by Tim Tebow while he played at Nease (Ponte Vedra) according to the Orlando Sentinel.

    The Sentinel posted that Israel had four touchdown passes in the game while stats posted by Lake Nona show Israel with five touchdown passes.

    Israel officially has 3,903 yards and 51 touchdowns on the season. Season stats for Israel reported to MaxPreps include a preseason game against Lake Minneola that do no count toward his official season total.

    Israel had already set career state records for passing completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns. He also holds the state record for touchdown passes in a game with 10 and yardage in a game with 659.
  • Photo by Mike Braca

    Massachusetts governor-elect Charlie Baker (middle) walks toward the Gillette Stadium field in Foxboro, Mass., Saturday before the game between Belmont Hill and Governor's Academy.

    Massachusetts governor-elect Charlie Baker was one of several dignitaries to attend Saturday's Belmont Hill (Belmont, Mass.) football game against Governor's Academy (Byfield, Mass.) under the lights at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.

    According to the Boston Herald, the game was played at Gillette thanks to the generosity of New England Patriots President Jonathan Kraft, the son of team owner Robert Kraft.

    The reason the game was played at Gillette, home of the Patriots, was because the original 2:30 p.m. start was pushed back for SAT testing. Neither school has lights, so Kraft, whose son Harry Kraft is the starting quarterback at Belmont Hill, stepped up.

    "This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of feeling, playing at Gillette Stadium," Governor's Academy captain Brandon Lopez told the Herald.

    Baker was the honorary mascot for Governor's Academy, which boasts Governors as its mascot. He proved good fortune or inspiration as the Governors (7-1) rallied for three second-half touchdowns to win 27-15.
  • Photo by Dan Browning

    Quarterback D.J. Vanderwerf hands the ball off during Sweetwater's playoff game on Friday night.

    From the stands, Sweetwater (Tenn.) quarterback D.J. Vanderwerf is an athletic, savvy signal-caller who led his team to the playoffs.

    Upon closer inspection, however, there's something a little different about the 6-foot-1 junior — he plays on a prosthetic leg.
    Photo by Dan Browning

    D.J. Vanderwerf, Sweetwater


    According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Vanderwerf had his left foot amputated as an infant to combat a condition known as fibular hemimelia, a congenital defect where part or all of the fibular bone is missing.

    The operation left Vanderwerf without a foot, but part of his heel remained. This allowed him to continue to bear weight on his left leg, and he has certainly made the most of it.

    Vanderwerf took over at quarterback earlier this fall after senior starter Andrew Barr went down with a torn ACL. Vanderwerf had been playing tight end, but his natural position is behind center so he was more than happy to take the reins.

    After taking over as the starter in Week 6, he led the Wildcats to a 2-1 record (6-4 overall) and a playoff berth. They lost to Gatlinburg-Pittman on Friday night, but Vanderwerf was gritty in defeat, throwing for a touchdown and running in a late 2-point conversion.

    MaxPreps photographer Dan Browning was on hand and captured Vanderwerf in action.
  • Courtesy photo

    Fairfield (Langdon, Kan.) senior Cannon Burns with his family following a record-breaking night in a 91-44 victory over Bucklin. Burns rushed for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns and he did much more.

    It was Senior Night at Fairfield (Langdon, Kan.) and boy, did senior Cannon Burns and his Falcons put on a show.

    Courtesy photo

    Cannon Burns, Fairfield

    The aptly-named 6-foot, 180-pound running back rushed for 565 yards and a Kansas state-tying record 11 touchdowns in a 91-44 win over Bucklin, in 8-Man football. His 11 touchdowns tied the 2009 state mark of Jake Kizzar of Chase and with his two 2-point conversions he broke the state mark for points in a game (70).

    His rushing total missed the single-game mark of 611 by Kizzar and he surely would have broke it had the game not been stopped after 2.5 quarters for surpassing the state 45-point mercy rule.

    His rushing total pushed him to a state-record 2,914 for the season, surpassing a 40-year-old record of Bryan Kindall, of Haviland. Burns finished the season with 276 carries (10.6 yards per carry) and 43 touchdowns and his 323.8 yards per game lead the nation among all team sizes and his overall rushing yards are best among 8-Man teams.

    Courtesy photo

    Cannon Burns, Fairfield

    "He's much more than just a running back," noted assistant coach Luke Bauman.

    In the win over Bucklin, Burns also caught five passes for 49 yards and during the season he completed 9 of 17 passes for 247 yards and four scores. He's also among the state leaders in kick return yardage (22 returns, 507 yards, 3 touchdowns) and his 312 points were just 34 short of the state record.

    Wait. There's more. (Sounds like an infomercial).

    Like players on most 8-Man teams, Burns plays both ways. He led the team in tackles (115), 11 for loss. He had two interceptions, six pass deflections, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

    Burns helped Fairfield (5-4) set some state 8-Man season records as well, including rushing yards per game (427.1), total yards per game (482.7), rushing touchdowns in a game (14) and scoring average (65.0). It should be noted that Chetopa currently averages 65.1 per game, but its season is not complete.

    Check all records on the Kansas state record site.
  • Many are reaching out and extending a helping hand to the football programs at Marysville-Pilchuck (Marysville, Wash.) and Oak Harbor (Wash.) after Friday's tragic shooting near Seattle.

    The longest and most prominent reach might have been from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who invited both programs to practice at the Super Bowl champions' facilities.

    Photo by Todd Shurtleff

    Austin Joyner, Marysville-Pilchuck

    After Friday's shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck that left three teenagers dead, including the shooter, and three others in serious to critical condition, the championship football game between the teams was cancelled last week.

    Oak Harbor offered to forfeit the game to give Marysville-Pilchuck the title, but both teams will advance to the playoffs anyway.

    Marysville-Pilchuck will play in the WesCo 3A championship game while Oak Harbor hosts Mountlake Terrace in a matchup of No. 2 seeds. Both games are Friday.

    According to reports, Marysville-Pilchuck accepted Carroll's offer and was scheduled to practice Tuesday at the team's facility in Renton.

    "Our hearts just opened immediately to try to help in any way that we can," Carroll told the Seattle Times. "When they are faced with an opportunity about a playoff situation and the other school decides to forfeit the game, what an extraordinary gesture. And I think it's a gesture in every direction and an understanding and compassion that it's good to be recognized. And we hope that we can do whatever we can in our support, our fans' support.

    "You feel so helpless, but we wish that we could do something to ease the pain of all of the people that have been troubled."