Post Top 25 countdown: No. 11 Cardinal Newman
Monday, August 20, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Any conversation about the best athletes in Palm Beach County football finds its way to Travis Rudolph, Cardinal Newman's multi-talented junior who's already pledged his college services to Miami.
For good reason, of course. Rudolph scored 13 touchdowns and produced more than 1,100 yards of offense for the Crusaders last fall, helping them win nine games for the first time in 10 seasons.
But while Rudolph (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) expects to put up even bigger numbers this year, he's got some serious help around him, which should ease Newman's transition to new quarterback George Mastics.
Start with Devonte Brown, a senior running back who averaged 8.7 yards per carry and led Newman in rushing (616 yards) in 2011, and sophomore tailback Erick Hardnett, who's made major offseason strides after a breakout freshman year.
Then there's 6-6, 218-pound senior tight end Matt Burke, whose pass-catching ability has drawn scholarship offers from Boise State, Florida International, Marshall and several other Division I schools. And sophomore receiver Andrew Owers (6-3, 200 pounds) is more and more becoming a big-time football player after spending most of his development as a basketball star.
"We can attack people from a lot of different areas," Newman coach Steve Walsh said. "Look at our offensive set -- we have two guys on the right and two guys on the left who are pretty talented. So, teams have to ask, do they want to stop (Rudolph) and get away from these other guys?"
Not a bad crew for Mastics to work with, especially considering Newman's youth and lack of depth at offensive line. Walsh has two seniors and two juniors at his disposal for the starting offensive line, but a crop of four sophomores will have to fill in the fifth and backup spots.
Even with thin ranks there, though, Newman has the kind of talent to make another run at nine wins and push the big-name schools in Class 3A, namely district rival American Heritage and recent playoff menace Fort Lauderdale-University, which beat Newman last fall in the regional quarterfinals.
It all comes down to the players around Rudolph, and Walsh thinks they're up to the challenge.
"I like the kids we have," Walsh said. "They have a good understanding of what we're doing."