They command extra attention from opponents trying to minimize their effects on games each Friday night. So it stands to reason they should also command extra attention from area prep football fans as well.
Here are the area's five must-see players (listed alphabetically):
5-foot-9, 180-pound senior quarterback/safety
Arguably the most valuable single player for any one team in the area, Cardwell could lead the team in passing, rushing and tackles, interceptions and return yards. Yeah, he's that valuable and that much of a playmaker on both sides of the ball.
Simply put, he's the epitome of a great high school player.
Going into his fourth year as the Buccaneers starter at quarterback, he has guided the team to the semifinals twice and has a 31-9 record as a starter. Last season he ran and threw for more than 1,000 yards each and was just as important on the defensive side.
"He knows how to bring poise to our offense and intensity on defense," Bucs coach Grant Reynolds said. "He's a great leader and you won't see him coming off the field."
6-foot, 175-pound senior receiver/cornerback
Even on a team loaded with college prospects, the Vanderbilt commitment's athletic ability stands out. He was a playmaker on both sides of the ball last year with 63 tackles, four interceptions and 11 pass break-ups and also had a game with four catches for 121 yards.
"Just a special player," Hurricanes coach Ted Gatewood said. "He's a real physical corner who likes contact and is a guy we want to have the ball in his hands on offense. He can make a lot of good things happen for us on either side."
D.J. Jones (Cleveland) 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior receiver/defensive back
The first word that comes to mind when watching Jones is "electric."
Last season he had 54 catches for 693 yards and 11 touchdowns, and during 2013 preseason scrimmages he has shown flashes that he'll top those numbers this fall. During just one quarter of last Friday's jamboree against Boyd-Buchanan, he made a leaping interception and followed with a 79-yard TD when he took a short slant pass, broke one tackle and used his 4.4 40 speed to outrun the rest of the defense.
5-foot-11, 180-pound senior receiver/defensive back
The first word that comes to mind when watching Jones is “electric.”
Last season he had 54 catches for 693 yards and 11 touchdowns, and during 2013 preseason scrimmages he has shown flashes that he’ll top those numbers this fall. During just one quarter of last Friday’s jamboree against Boyd-Buchanan, he made a leaping interception and followed with a 79-yard TD when he took a short slant pass, broke one tackle and used his 4.4 40 speed to outrun the rest of the defense.
6-foot-3, 260-pound senior defensive tackle
Few players can dominate up front the way Mack does. He's reason enough to keep your eyes locked on the line of scrimmage. He had 137 total tackles last season, an impressive number for an interior lineman, and during one three-overtime thriller Mack had an amazing 30 tackles, including nine for lost yardage.
"He's got one of the fastest 10-yard dashes on the team, and his first step is something you just can't teach," Northwest head coach and defensive coordinator Josh Robinson said. "People don't believe his stats, but they're even better than they look. He had several tackles downfield last year that saved touchdowns -- plays you never see a tackle make."
6-0, 185-pound junior athlete
There may be no local player more sought by college recruiters for next year. There's also arguably no player more versatile, since Orr will play receiver, running back, quarterback and safety and return kicks and punts for the Fighting Irish.
Last year he had 18 total touchdowns (8 receiving, 8 rushing, 2 returning kicks) and ranked as one of the top juniors at this summer's camps at Ohio State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
"We're going to get the ball in his hands every way possible," Notre Dame coach Charles Fant said. "He'll carry it about 10 times and we'll target him a lot as our top receiver. He's unreal when he touches the football. Safety was one of the biggest questions we had, but since he's made the move to play there, now it's one of our team strengths. He's just a dominant athlete."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...