High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Braxton Berrios

Braxton Berrios is making a habit of stepping up when the opportunity presents itself.

As a fifth-grader, he helped guide his Pop Warner team, the Capital City Steelers, to a national championship.

Then this past fall, the Leesville Road (Raleigh, N.C.) sophomore receiver/safety took over as the team’s starting quarterback after his brother Austin, a senior, tore his ACL returning the opening kickoff in the regular season finale. Braxton ran for 245 yards in the 41-16 victory over Wake Forest-Rolesville (Wake Forest, N.C.) to lead the Pride to their first outright conference title.

Berrios finished the year rushing for 1,251 yards and 21 touchdowns and tallying 519 receiving yards and four scores.

And once the season ended after a loss to Garner (N.C.) in the Class 4AA eastern regional final, Berrios got to work. It showed on March 10 at the Nike Football SPARQ Combine in Charlotte when he posted the highest SPARQ rating (119.52) of all the competitors.

Now the buzz is starting to build for the 5-foot-10, 170-pounder. What does he plan to do to keep the momentum going?

Get Familiar with Braxton Berrios.

ESPNHS: What was it like winning a Pop Warner national championship?
Berrios: Back then, you’re young and don’t realize the importance of what it’s going to mean. When the clock struck zero, it was an indescribable feeling.

ESPNHS: Describe what it was like watching your brother go through his knee injury.
Berrios: He went down on the opening kickoff. I was in front blocking for him and he yelled. I knew he was out for the game after I heard that. He was the leader. When we found out he had a torn ACL, it was devastating. The two of us had this dream to lead Leesville Road to a championship. To have it end like it did, it sucked.

ESPNHS: What did his injury teach you about playing the game?
Berrios: It was over in a split second, so play every second like it’s your last. He coached me the rest of the year. It was almost like he was on the field. It helped me a lot. He made me look good, I’m not going to lie.

ESPNHS: What was your mindset going into the Charlotte combine?
Berrios: You want to win it, but you can’t say going in that if you don’t, you failed. As long as I went in there and did what I thought I could and didn’t come out on top, that’s OK -- somebody had a better day. I was surprised and happy (after I finished first). It’s a great honor, but I know there’s still a lot to do.

I was in the car on my way to the mountains with my dad and uncle and I found out through Twitter that I finished with the highest score. It was relieving to say the least.

ESPNHS: Has your performance led to any early offers?
Berrios: I don’t have any offers yet. Hopefully it made a statement. But I really want that first one and everything will happen from there.

ESPNHS: What are your goals now after your successful combine?
Berrios: It motivates me. Normally you don’t see a guy win a combine without any hype around them. Now that I won that, what else can I do to show them? What else can I do to open their eyes?

School: Leesville Road (Raleigh, N.C.)
Class: 2014
Position: Wide receiver/safety
HT: 5-10
WT: 170

TV Show: “The King of Queens”
Movie: “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Athlete: Ray Lewis
School Subject: Math
Food: Steak
For the first time in three years, there will be a new Class 4AA champion.

With two-time defending champ Butler up 20 points in its third-round matchup with Greensboro Page, it appeared most local fans would get what they wanted: a rematch between Butler and Mallard Creek in the next round. But the Bulldogs' dream matchup vanished after a nightmarish second half.

Page capitalized on the Bulldogs' penalties and five turnovers to reel off 34 unanswered points and secure a 40-26 win on Friday. The Pirates, who were led by QB James Summers' 248 total yards and five touchdowns, will face Mallard Creek in this week's 4AA state semifinals.

Summers scored twice on runs to open the second half and tie the game before a one-yard TD pass to Orlando Hatfield gave the Pirates the lead for good with 4:48 to play. Meanwhile, Butler junior QB Riley Ferguson threw three picks in the final 15 minutes to thwart the Bulldogs' chances for a comeback.

Needless to say, Butler dropped out of the latest POWERADE FAB 50, while Mallard Creek moved up to No. 13 in the national rankings.

Garner will take on Jack Britt in the other 4AA semifinal after both teams rode their rushing attacks to victory. Garner was led by tailback Juwan Moye's 285 total yards and three scores in a 42-21 win against previously undefeated Leesville Road. The Pride got 402 total yards from do-everything player Braxton Berrios, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Trojans' quick start.

Meanwhile, Jack Britt ran the ball 60 times for 333 yards to push past Middle Creek, 28-14. After starting 2-2, the Buccaneers have won nine straight, including four straight shutouts prior to last week's third-round win.

A new 4A champion will be crowned as well after top-ranked Scotland knocked off defending champ Hillside. The Fighting Scots' were paced by the three-headed monster of QB Kwashaun Quick and tailbacks Tony McRae and Caison Murphy, who accounted for all seven of the the team's scores in the 35-7 win. Next up will be New Bern, which downed New Hanover, 31-20.

On the other hand, West Rowan has bounced back from a slow start to make sure there won't be a new champion in the 3A ranks. The three-time defending champs have won their last six games by an average of nearly 20 points, but face quite the test in a 13-1 Burns squad that has similar success on the scoreboard of late.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Second round of North Carolina football playoffs brings familiar results

November, 14, 2011
A weekend filled with rematches ended up as a major case of deja vu:

*Butler beat Independence for the fifth straight time, riding Riley Ferguson's four touchdowns to a 42-20 win.

*Leesville Road continued to light up the scoreboard, beating Cap 8 rival Wake Forest-Rolesville for the second time in three weeks. Braxton Berrios proved unstoppable, scoring six times in the 49-20 win. Next up: undefeated Garner.

*Middle Creek did it again, using a late charge to push past Fuquay-Varina, 34-20. For their second third-round trip in school history, the Mustangs will face Jack Britt, which has shut out its last four opponents.

*The second time was a bit easier for Asheville, as it beat rival Erwin, 26-7, to keep its undefeated season in tact. Brandon Williams led the way with 123 rushing yards and two scores. Next up: Crest.

This past weekend's outcomes sets up a juicy slate of third-round playoff matchups. Check back here Thursday to catch a preview.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Braxton Berrios, Khris Francis are on the rise in NC football

October, 13, 2011
It's time for the North Carolina All-State football stock watch, but from here on out, we're going to switch things up a little bit. Along with highlighting an All-State player who is ballin' out, we're going to hand out On The Rise (OTR) awards to players who didn't make the preseason list but are on their way to earning postseason recognition.

UP — Braxton Berrios, Leesville Road WR/DB
He may have a cool last name, but Berrios has been on fire for the high-powered Leesville Road offense. The senior has, who snags passes from his brother Austin, has 455 yards and four touchdowns on the season. With Berrios leading the way, the Pride are 7-0 and favorites to win the Cap 8 conference title.

OTR — Khris Francis, Hillside RB
Entering the season, most wondered how the Hornets would replace the incredible offensive impact of quarterback Vad Lee, who is now at Georgia Tech. Francis has answered the call, rushing for 1,171 yards and 23 touchdowns for Hillside. His emergence has helped the Hornets win six straight games after dropping their season opener and hit their stride as the playoffs loom.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Undefeated squads collide in Week 6 NC football

September, 30, 2011
Several teams will walk away from the sixth week of North Carolina football with their first loss, making for some intriguing matchups.

The first such game went down Thursday, as Leesville Road (6-0) outlasted Wakefield (6-1) in a 67-58 shootout. Wolverines quarterback Connor Mitch threw for seven touchdowns and nearly 600 yards, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Pride's sibling tandem Austin and Braxton Berrios.

Here are a few other gridiron bouts to watch for this weekend:

Marvin Ridge (5-0) at No. 9 Porter Ridge (5-0)
This Union County matchup could be a shootout, as both teams can pile up points in a hurry. Before its week, Porter Ridge scored a season-low 10 points in a tight win against Providence, but with Lee McNeil at quarterback and a week's rest, the Pirates are poised to return to their high-scoring ways. Marvin Ridge, whose signature win came earlier in the season against a solid Ardrey Kell squad, has topped 30 points in each of its last three games.
My Pick: Porter Ridge 38, Marvin Ridge 31

Burns (5-1) at Chase (6-0)
Just a week after taking down previously undefeated Freedom, 27-26, Burns will look to hand another team its first loss in Chase. Bulldogs running back Darius Ramsey will be the focus for a Chase defense that's surrendered an average of 14.7 points per game this season.
My Pick: Burns 24, Chase 21

Laney (5-0) at Hoggard (5-0)
This crosstown rivalry has a little more spice this season with both Laney and Hoggard entering the contest without a loss. Hoggard has won nine of their last 10 meetings, but Laney has been lighting up the scoreboard this year, averaging more than 47 points per contest. Much of that production has come from Buccaneers quarterback Mike Sheehan, who has thrown for 963 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Hoggard DB Tevin Jackson (two interceptions) will have his eye on Sheehan and his favorite target, Tevin Clay (442 receiving yards and eight TDs).
My pick: Laney 42, Hoggard 28

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.