Posted On: 02/12/21 1:42 PM
The Louisiana Bootleggers’ national team’s game-tying two-point conversion pass was ruled narrowly out of bounds with time expired in the championship game.
But the group still left the Battle: Miami tournament as much the talk of the event as any other, including winner Def Con.
As many heads as the Bootleggers turned, though, the performance might not have opened anyone’s eyes more than their own.
The short-handed roster still missing most of its multi-sport athletes to basketball and coach Ryan Clark to NFL television responsibilities traveled to Fort Lauderdale with minimal preparation time together and came together on the fly.
The team looked every bit the part of a national champion contender with one victory after another in a gauntlet that included Tucson Turf (twice), Def Con: Texas, South Florida Express and Miami Immortals before nearly taking Def Con’s top team to overtime.
And with top weapons such as 2022 wide receivers A.J. Johnson and T.J. Johnson and budding 2023 star Omarion Miller on the way, the Bootleggers only figure to get stronger as the season progresses.
Ten or more players easily could earn recognition among top performers.
Rising senior cornerbacks Khamauri Rogers, Laterrance Welch and Jordan Allen all had impressive weekends in their own right, for instance, and LSU-committed wide receiver De’Coldest Crawford and sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Vessel each proved themselves reliable in their roles in their first trip with the team.
But we’ll try to stick to seven key takeaways, including four players that really took their recruiting momentum into new stratospheres.
Jaiden Ausberry — 6-2, 196 ATH — University Lab (2023)
The younger of the two Ausberry brothers excelled in his first tournament with his new 7-on-7 team. The U-High athlete played primarily from a linebacker role and moved smoothly and quickly for his size to police the middle of the field, run stride for stride with small, speedy running backs and limit much of the Bootleggers’ opponents’ short passing game. And, in the first game of Sunday’s bracket play, Ausberry managed to jump the passing lane to an early throw to his right, intercept the pass and return it to a tone-setting celebration to start the day. LSU extended a scholarship offer the next day.
Harvey Broussard — 6-4, 175 WR — St. Martinville (2023)
The young St. Martinville receiver didn’t learn until two days before departure that he wouldn’t be missing the tournament for basketball. But limited football work in the weeks leading up to the event did little to slow down Broussard’s debut with the team. The tall target used his height, length and leaping ability to rise over defenders in his No. 23 jersey and pull down highlight-reel touchdowns. But he also looked good running routes across the middle, catching passing in stride and turning up field. Penn State offered the 2023 prospect three days later.
— Jerit Roser (@JeritRoser) January 23, 2021
Eli Holstein — 6-4, 220 QB — Zachary (2023)
Another 2023 prospect already feels like one of the program’s veterans after spending so much time with the team during his older brother’s years at the helm of the offense. That experience showed for Zachary quarterback Eli Holstein, working through his reads and throwing darts to his receivers all over the field whether he was stationary or rolling out either direction. But that confidence and poise has always been the norm for younger Holstein — whether 18U or 15U, 7-on-7 or tackle or football or basketball.
Landon Ibieta — 6-0, 184 WR — Mandeville (2022)
Fresh off Louisiana Tech and Memphis offers finally restarting his previously quiet recruitment, Ibieta opened several Power Five programs’ eyes with one of the most dominant days ever by a Louisiana Bootleggers wide receiver — along with predecessors Odell Beckham Jr., DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase and Koy Moore. The Mandeville star made catches all over the field, running himself open over the middle or over the top or going over and out-battling one Florida or Texas defensive back after another for more tightly contested or 50-50 balls. Ibieta hauled in dozens of receptions Sunday alone, including snatching a would-be interception away from LSU and Clemson target Edric Weldon for a touchdown in the back-and-forth championship game against Def Con.
Aeneaus LeMay — 5-10, 175 ATH — West Feliciana (2022)
One of the Bootleggers’ lesser known 2022 prospects put himself on the map in Miami with speed that gave opposing secondaries fits. LeMay made a few sure-handed catches downfield, but more consistently served as the team’s most dangerous underneath threat out of the backfield with an ability to take short receptions in stride to the corner and turn shorter or intermediate gains into much bigger ones in foot races. Florida Atlantic had extended an offer before he could even make his way out of the state, and Louisiana Tech and others followed soon thereafter, with some programs also considering the West Feliciana athlete as a defensive back.
Jacoby Mathews — 6-2, 200 ATH — Ponchatoula (2022)
For all Ibieta’s dominance on offense, a similar case could be made for Mathews as the tournament’s most impressive defensive performance. The Ponchatoula star may have been the most physically imposing athlete at the event, but particularly impressed with his instincts and diagnosis of opponents’ plays and his speed on the back end of the defense to cover tons of ground and close out for five interceptions and another handful or so pass breakups.
Shazz Preston — 6-0, 190 WR — St. James (2022)
Another top 2022 prospect and returning leader lived up to high expectations on offense with big catches all over the field — particularly difficult touchdown catches in or over tight coverage in the end zone at critical moments. Ibieta was the buzz of the tournament coming out, but Preston’s performance shouldn’t be overlooked. The St. James star entered the spring as his the Bootleggers’ most known commodity on offense and repeatedly came through, including a touchdown in Saturday’s second game that seemed to help spark the team into a much-needed new gear after dropping its first content, a game-winning conversion early Sunday to help set the stage for his teammate’s continued breakout and a one-handed grab in the end zone in the semifinals that seemed impossible.
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