Takeaways from high school football action at The Boot

NEW ORLEANS — Rivals was in the General New Orleans area this weekend, taking part in a few five-star prospect showdowns from The Boot and a pit stop to observe the young talent in a traditional powerhouse.

National Recruiting Analyst Sam Spiegelman watched as five-star quarterback Arch Manning threw five touchdowns en route to Isidore Newman’s win, five-star safety Jacoby Mathews and Notre Dame commitment Amorion Walker led Ponchatoula to big district win and visited with prospects at Destrehan High School, including LSU legacy Jay Eugene Jr.

Here are some thoughts from the weekend:

CREW DOMINATE

In his third game of the season and his first against a Class 4A opponent, Manning stepped into the limelight with a hugely efficient performance behind the middle. The nation’s No. 1 player executed just that: throwing five touchdown passes, extending play in and out of the pocket, and taking command of the scrimmage.

Much like his Uncle Peyton so famously did during his NFL career, Manning changed his game based on what the Pearl River defense showed. He called audibles and helped his teammates pre-snap directing, resulting in a handful of big plays in the field and a few scoring plays. Manning was equally impressive throwing into tight windows, maintaining his accuracy while on the move and showing off spectacular timing with all of his receivers.

With great protection against his offensive line, featuring the promise of LSU Bo Bordelon (who earned his fair share of knockdowns), Manning shone by reading his reads and making smart decisions as he found gaps in the zone. He delivered catchable passes on the field and had other notable off-schedule and on-flight throws that could have led to even more points.

In three games, Manning’s Greenies are 3-0 with an average win margin of 36 points per game. Manning had 14 touchdowns, 12 of which were through the air. He has thrown nine touchdowns in the past two games.

MORE: MANNINGS ARE METHOD, ENJOY THE PROCESS

STOCK FOR RANDLE

Three-star tight end Will Randle has emerged as Manning’s top weapon in the Newman attack. The junior demonstrated his varied skills with some great hand catches that turned into touchdowns and chances to pick up a chunk of distance in space. Randle is physical after the catch and also a willing, effective blocker in the run game. He has reliable hands, can block in space and is a dangerous pass catcher in the middle of the field. LSU has a strong foothold with the Louisiana native, but Texas and SMU are two teams that are heavily in the mix.

MORE: Bordelon, protecting Manning’s blindside, devised a handful of key blocks to defeat the Newman in this one. He is explosive from his stance and helped keep the bag clean. Bordelon is getting stronger and it shows. He played indoors and out to help smooth out running lanes.

FIVE STAR MATHEWS SHINES IN ALL THREE PHASES

Mathews spent his junior season as a quarterback for Ponchatoula (La.), but recaptured his starting spot on the defensive side of the ball to prepare for the next level. Mathews plays a hybrid role with a deep backlash on safety, as a walk-up safety in the box and sometimes even as a linebacker.

In addition to playing all over the Ponchatoula defense, Mathews saw action as a final receiver, quickly breaking away on a corner route to the back of the end zone. Mathews turned a punt over 100 yards across the field, breaking multiple tackles and flashing his skills in the return leg and his nose for the end zone.

History teaches us that Mathews is a versatile safety capable of both defending the run with range and ballhawking skills at the rear. The one-time LSU pledge won’t make an official visit to Baton Rouge, but a source pointed out that the Tigers’ defensive battle could end intriguing Mathews.

The five stars planned an official visit to Alabama just before the Early Signing Period. Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia are also still involved, with the Gators also setting host Mathews for an official. He will be in Dallas on Saturday for the Cotton Bowl.

ON THE SUBJECT OF WALKER

Three-star bet for Notre Dame Amorion Walker landed a touchdown in tight coverage over a defensive back for Ponchatoula’s opening score. As a prospect, Walker has a speed of 4.4 and at six feet and 170 pounds is tall and a big target for his quarterback.

There are areas for Walker to defend as a pass catcher, but schools chasing can also get defensive backs with upside. He possesses size, speed and athleticism to cover as well.

hiker wore Michigan gloves in the contest, then returned to Tuscaloosa for Alabama’s win over Ole Miss. A source noted that LSU was also trying to get Walker on campus for the Auburn tilt. The Wolverines are still the team in the best position to send Walker away from Notre Dame.

JAI EUGENE

If you remember the name Jai Eugene, you will definitely want to read on.

Eugene’s son is entering his junior season, finishing second as a starter behind center for Destrehan (La.) High. This year, the younger Jai is making an impressive start at center with more confidence and also getting the chance to play from multiple positions.

In the season opener — delayed a few weeks after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana — Eugene led his team past parish rival Hahnville and did so with his throwing and haste skills. In two games, Eugene has six touchdowns as the architect of the Wildcats’ attack.

During the off-season, the SEC’s legacy impressed several 7-on-7 events and a handful of corner camps, including in Austin. He will also be running this spring. Mississippi State, Michigan and Texas are among the teams that rate Eugene as a defensive defender, while Group of 5 power Cincinnati takes a close look at the quarterback. LSU, Alabama and Notre Dame are a few more teams that are also involved.

Weighing six feet and 185 pounds, Eugene has a lot of advantage in the secondary.

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