Franklin's Steven Smothers wanted to stand out at the Offense Defense All-American Bowl on New Year's Day to show that he belonged in the one of the bigger games like the Under Armour All-America Football Game.
Smothers, who helped his team win a close game, was among several local players who stood out in All-America football games last week.
Franklin teammate Kareem Felder (Ohio State) had an interception that set up their team's game-winning field goal. Gilman offensive lineman Stephen Spanellis (Virginia) also played in the Offense-Defense Bowl in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The next day, at the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando carried live on ESPN2, Boys' Latin's Dom Maggio stood out for his punting as well as improvising a first down off a busted punt.
Gilman defensive tackle Ellison Jordan (Penn State) also earned kudos from the ESPN announcers for a play in which he chased down the ball carrier to contribute to a tackle.
Smothers, however, earned star status with his "SportsCenter" highlight. To score the touchdown, he outran two defenders -- including McDonogh safety Eric Burrell (Wisconsin) -- and made a diving grab in the corner of the end zone.
"I noticed I was in man-to-man coverage and there was only one person sticking to me, but as the quarterback started rolling out, Eric was their safety and Eric got a chance to come over and then I wound up in double coverage," Smothers said. "Pretty much I believed I was going to get the ball because there was only one person sticking to me, so I had to keep running and go get it."
When Smothers outran the first defender, Burrell came racing in from the left and almost upset the play. He pushed Smothers to try to force him out of the end zone, but Smothers managed to keep his feet in.
Later that night, the two friends were together when they turned on "SportsCenter."
"I was like, 'That would be great if I was on 'SportsCenter,'" Smothers said, "because when they had put the video up, the Offense-Defense Twitter account had #SportsCenterTop10. I'm like, 'Maybe they're going to put it on there,' and sure enough, they put it on there. And Eric just looked at me like, 'Oh my God, you're on Sports Center.' It was just a surreal moment."
The touchdown, however, came with a somber dedication from Smothers, who was mourning the loss of his friend Tyree Brown II. Brown, a sophomore player at Milford Mill who idolized Smothers and wore his No. 7, died after being hit by a car crossing a street in Owings Mills last Monday night.
"That was my little bro," Smothers said. "We were real close. He actually played for my rec organization, the Pikesville Wildcats, so I knew him before he even got to high school. I had to do that for him, because he's no longer here and he can't be on the field."
At the Under Armour game on Jan. 2, Maggio punted five times for an average of 39.4 yards with his longest 52 yards. He put four punts inside the 13-yard line -- one to the 4 -- as his Team Highlight won 27-0.
Maggio also earned a little more face time on ESPN2 when he ran for 16 yards for a first down off a busted punt. That was the longest run of the day for Team Highlight.
"It was a great snap. I caught it clean. I just felt a lot of pressure after I took my first step off the left side. I definitely thought he was going to block it, so I pulled and made a little move. I almost thought to punt it again once I got past him, but I looked to my left and saw a bunch of space so I took off and ran for it and wanted to showcase my running back skills," Maggio said with a laugh.
Maggio, who will begin classes and join the football team at Wake Forest next week, likely echoed the feelings of most of the All-Americans with his thoughts on the chance to finish his high school career at that level.
"It was an awesome experience," said Maggio, the No. 1 punter in the country. "Under Armour and everyone, it was a first-class deal and everything was great. It was awesome being together with the top guys in the nation, getting to experience them on the field and off the field and getting to know the guys. I had a lot of fun."