Seconds before Warren Central's Darnell Smith takes the field Saturday, he will look down at his wrists, and see four numerals and a dash. With that, he'll have all the motivation he needs for the showdown against Cathedral (Indianapolis) at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Written on his wrist tape will be "35-14," the score of last season's loss in the first round of the Indiana Class 5A state playoffs. The game marked the most points the Warren Central (Indianapolis) defense allowed all season, and Smith and the rest of the defense are on a mission to make sure those are the most points they ever allow.
"People remember that score, so we go out every time to make sure it doesn't happen again," Smith said. "Every day in the weight room, that score would go through my head."
The Warriors' defense is led by Smith and the rest of "The Four Horsemen," the nickname defensive coordinator Steve Tutsie gave the defensive line. All four D-line starters are committed to play at a Football Bowl Subdivision school on scholarship next fall.
Smith, a defensive tackle committed to Ball State, lines up next to Sheldon Day on the interior of the line, and the two take turns wreaking havoc with pressure up the middle. Day, an ESPNU 150 member who is ranked as the No. 14 defensive tackle in the Class of 2012, committed to Notre Dame this month. He also had offers from LSU and Auburn, and Tutsie said there is no bigger compliment for a lineman than to own an SEC offer.
"They make it a lot easier on me," defensive end Jonathan Burt said of the pressure Day and Smith cause up the middle. "They get a good rush on the inside and make my job easier."
Burt makes rushing the passer look easy, anyway. Burt, who had a sack in the Warriors' lopsided season opener, is committed to Cincinnati, along with Josh Posley, who lines up opposite him. Two more teammates will join Burt and Posley at Cincinnati: running back Deionte Buckley and guard Deyshawn Bond.
The pressure the Warriors' line puts on opposing quarterbacks means cornerback Kaleb Humphrey doesn't have to cover as long. It also puts him into position to break up or intercept an errant pass caused by the pass rush.
"Opposing quarterbacks don't have time to throw," Humphrey said. "They maybe rush the throw or they're not as accurate as they could be."
"I'm a pressure guy, no question," Tutsie said, "and, when you have four cats that can rush the passer like that, you don't have to be as aggressive on defending the run. ... I know my four are going to beat your five."
The Warriors' defense allowed 13 points in the first quarter alone last weekend. However, one touchdown was the result of Merillville starting at the Warriors' 5-yard line after a fumble, and another was because of blown coverage.
The defense didn't panic, settled down and made adjustments on the sideline, and then didn't allow another point.
"Coach [John] Hart talked to us about not just being the best defense in Warren Central history," Posley said, "but being the best in Indiana history and best of all time. Period."
To be the best, Tutsie said, this team has to win a state championship. And how does Warren Central plan to accomplish that goal?
"The Four Horsemen," Tutsie said. "We're going to ride those dudes 'til the end."
Former NFL receiver: Stanford is best I ever coached
Coaches often are reluctant to compare current and former players or to say whether one is the best he has ever coached. Robert A. Taft (Cincinnati) coach Mike Martin has no such qualms. He readily admits the best player he has ever coached is four-star receiver Dwayne Stanford II, and in no way is that a slight to Taft defensive end Adolphus Washington, an ESPNU 150 member.
"Friday, Dwayne was the best player on the field by far," Martin said about a team scrimmage. "He literally put on a show. He caught a 10-yard pass and went 70.
"He's a man amongst boys. You just throw it up there, and he gets it. And he's a lot stronger than he appears to be, stiff-arming people. The last 10 yards, he dragged three people into the end zone."
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Stanford had no idea Martin, a former receiver who played with the Cincinnati Bengals, viewed him in that manner.
"Wow," Stanford said, clearly taken aback by his coach's sentiment. "I don't know what to say. It makes me want to work even harder to live up to that, to prove I'm worthy."
Stanford, who had six catches for more than 150 yards in the scrimmage, hasn't been able to find out who will be covering him when Taft plays Friendship Collegiate Academy (Washington, D.C.) at 11 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU. The teams decided not to trade film, so Stanford searched YouTube for any highlights of one of Collegiate Academy's cornerbacks.
He found what he was looking for.
"I think I got him," Stanford said with a laugh.
Paying to play at PSU
His parents aren't alumni. He has no ties to Penn State, and the Nittany Lions didn't even offer him a scholarship. But Mechanicsburg, Pa., linebacker Bryton Barr (Mechanicsburg) knows he is meant to play at Penn State, scholarship or not.
Barr, rated as a three-star prospect, was out to lunch with his dad, Terry, and the two were talking about Barr committing to Cincinnati. Barr didn't want to be a Bearcat, though. Or a Navy Midshipman. Or an Akron Zip. Or a member of any of the other Division I teams that offered him a scholarship.
"I said, 'Dad, it's been my dream to play at Penn State, and maybe they have a place for me to walk on since they don't have any more scholarships,'" Barr recalled saying that afternoon.
Barr called Penn State linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden to ask whether he could join the team as a walk-on next fall and try to earn a scholarship down the line. The Lions never brought up the idea of walking on to Barr, so Vanderlinden was surprised to see Barr's name pop up on his phone.
"Coach Vanderlinden was flattered," Barr said. "I had 10 Division I offers, and he's like, 'You're going to tell me you're going to turn down these offers to walk on at Penn State?' And I said, 'Yes sir.'"
Barr's desire was always to play at Linebacker U, but he had a tough time saying no to a full ride at an FBS school. He thought he was being selfish, forcing his parents to help pay for school when he could just as easily get a college education without spending a dime.
His parents assured him that if playing at Penn State was his dream, he should go for it and they would figure out the rest.
"I don't want to take away his dream because of finances," Terry said. "If that's what he wants to do, he's always been the kind of kid to earn whatever he gets."
Rippy's family tree filled with NFL relatives
The recruiting process has been known to take its toll on a fair number of high school athletes, so some seek out a mentor who has been through it before.
Luckily for four-star linebacker Deaysean Rippy (McKees Rocks, Pa./Sto-Rox), all he has to do is look through the family phone book.
"I have a few family members in the NFL," Rippy said. "I'm related to Darrelle Revis, Ty Law and Sean Gilbert."
All three are from Aliquippa, Pa., which is just 30 minutes from McKees Rocks. Rippy is related to them on his dad's side -- Gilbert is Revis' uncle, and both played at Pittsburgh. Law went to Michigan.
Revis is the Jets' all-everything cornerback and widely regarded as one of the two best cornerbacks in the NFL. Law, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, will garner serious consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame once he retires. Gilbert had a 12-year NFL career.
Rippy doesn't talk with them much, but he reaches out to them with a text message when he needs advice.
Rippy holds offers from several schools, including USC, Ole Miss, Michigan and Pittsburgh. He hasn't named any favorites or cut down his list but plans to do it soon.
"The plan is to take all five official visits," he said. "I don't want to make a decision and regret not taking all five."
A decision will likely come during the season, he said.