All-County Football: Small School Defense
Fri. December 30, 2011 at 3:16 p.m. | By Blake Hasenzahl
Maurice Russell, small school defensive player of the year from Ft. Meade High School. (Photo by Scott Wheeler | THE LEDGER)
By BLAKE HASENZAHL
FORT MEADE | While most prized senior football players were hitting the recruiting trail, Maurice Russell stayed home.
“We had a young team, and with that you have to buy into everything,” Russell said. “I bought into it to help make us come together as a team. I had to stay focused and I didn’t want the extra distractions.”
His approach worked.
While Fort Meade lost its first two games, the Miners pounded out nine straight wins before falling in the second round of the playoffs to Tampa Berkeley Prep.
Russell was a huge part. He led all of Polk County in tackles with 154 and also forced four fumbles.
He is the 2011-12 PolkPreps.com small school defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season.
Russell also helped out on offense. He took turns at running back this season and picked up 242 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
He’s still in search of a college, though, and he’s about six months later than most. He has offers from South Florida, Western Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa State and Ball State.
“It (holding off recruiting) kinda hurt me in the long run,” he said, “but I’m still getting my name out there and I’m still doing good. In the end, it helped the team a lot.”
Some local coaches think he’s got no reason to worry.
“He’s going to be a Division I kid for sure,” said Rod Shafer, the head coach at Lake Wales.
Added Ridge Community coach Richard Tate: “He’s just a tenacious ball player. He can run, he can hit and he can cover. Had he been at any school he would have excelled. He’s a great football player.”