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The Prospector: Timber Creek's nobodies and misfits turn team bond into district championship

Timber Creek goes into tonight’s 8A first-round playoff game with a bunch of nobodies. Football players of whom no one has ever heard.

Go to the website Rivals.com and do a college prospect search in the database using Timber Creek as the search terms. The results? Three players from Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek High, and Orlando’s own Billy Walsh, the quiet, blue-collar offensive lineman who’s persona embodies this football team.

Walsh, who was the MVP of the National Underclassmen Combine at Jones High last spring, is one of those guys who goes about his business. Clocks in, clocks out, goes home.

In fact, following the Wolves Class 8A, District 3 championship victory over Winter Park, Walsh was gone from the scene before reporters could even find him. Take Walsh and the Wolves lightly, however, and it’s a recipe for losing. Seven other teams did that this year, and that’s why Timber Creek (7-3) will be playing host to Apopka in an 8A regional quarterfinal tonight at 7:30.

Timber Creek is a group of misfits, if you will. An unlikely team of so many shortcomings, that no one would have ever given them the nod as the favorite to win the district title at the beginning of the season.

But don’t judge these Wolves by what you see.

There’s little DB-RB -QB Jimmie Roberts, one of the fastest guys you will ever see in pads. But surely he’s too little to have football success at 5-foot-6 and a half … don’t forget the half. But when you’re running the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds and shifting your hips fast enough to make Shakira jealous, who’s going to be able to tackle you? He has 408 yards and 9 touchdowns rushing. Defensively Roberts has two interceptions. The Timber Creek defense has picked off 14 opponent’s passes this season led by junior corner Keith White’s four picks.

No offers for Roberts, unless you count Stetson, which doesn’t start football until next year.

Then there’s co-captain Mat Verdon, a skinny, 6-foot-5, 190-pounder who is better known on the baseball diamond. But he’s also a football player ... and a darned good one. He was in on a couple of key sacks and forced several turnovers in the Wolves’ shootout victories over rival East River and Winter Park for the district crown.

Verdon uses his quickness and his ability to bend his wiry shape to get around huge blockers. He leads the Wolves with 8 sacks on the season. The whole D-line has been stout. DE Garret Becker has four sacks and DT Matt Hemann has three.

No offers, unless you count baseball.

There’s also Corey Russo, a bulldog of a middle linebacker who will stand-in against anyone despite his undersized height. Somebody measured him at 6-foot one time and so that’s what he’s going by. We won’t tell him he looks shorter than that. He’s definitely a stocky 210 pounds though, and quite a mean streak out there between the hashes. Russo, who has three sacks, is flanked by a couple of other feisty linebackers in Jake Rooney – he’s not even a football player, but a lacrosse stud headed to Hofstra – and senior co-captain Logan Reuters, who quietly averages 10 tackles a game. Russo averages almost 9.

No offers. Well, football offers, anyway.

But surely someone’s heard of heralded running back Kyle Snead. He’s big – 6-foot-2, 215 pounds -- and strong and, well, not necessarily fast, but don’t let him get going, because then no one can stop the big fella. He has the perfect body for a swing-type basketball player, but he still takes the punishment of about 20 carries a game and he’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season. He has meticulous, somewhat awkward running style and his long legs make it difficult for him to get his pads parallel to the ground. But those pads will come down if he has someone in his way.

No offers.

Zach Barrett is the Timber Creek quarterback, who transferred in from Spruce Creek after his father, Danny Barrett, who used to be an assistant coach at Bethune-Cookman, took the job as running backs coach with UCF this season. The younger Barrett is kind of a frumpy foreman type who leads this bunch by making sure the ball gets to the playmakers. Nothing fancy here, just hand-offs and more hand-offs mixed in with occasional passes. He’s completed just shy of half his 122 passes for 888 yards, nine TDs, and five INTs.

This football team has fumbled just three times all season on offense. Efficient. It’s head coach Jim Buckridge’s style.

No QB offers, either.

Oh wait, there is someone who people are starting to hear about; starting to acknowledge his talent. The kicker/punter Christian Pereira, a sophomore, has a 47-yard field goal this season and is averaging 46 yards per punt on 19 kicks. So does that mean the Wolves' best player is the kicker? Don’t tell them that.

Apopka coach Rick Darlington was scouting the Creek during the shootout and had an interesting comment. “They’re a lot like us in some of the things they do.”

Yeah coach, but we’ve heard of your guys. Be careful of those for whom you have no knowledge.

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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