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January 9, 2011

South Carolina in a state-ment game

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SAN ANTONIO - The only quarterback to throw for more than 100 yards hailed from California. The only rusher over 100? He came from Florida. And a Texas kid caught a touchdown pass.

All-star games are often a showcase for the big states - and the three biggest (Florida, Texas and California) made up nearly half of the players in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Saturday. Of course, that just gives players from less-heralded states a chance to prove themselves with the perceived best.

And many did.

Odell Beckham of New Orleans (La.) Isidore Newman had a game-high three catches for 42 yards. Miles Shuler of Long Branch (N.J.) had two catches, including a 22-yard TD reception. Curtis Grant of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage had five tackles. And Christian French of Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kennedy had perhaps the game's most impressive play, running down Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips' Demetrius Hart from behind.

Call it a state-ment making game.

South Carolina, which was the top second-level state all season, showed why with solid performances from three players: Receiver Charone Peake of Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman; Brandon Shell of Charleston (S.C.) Goose Creek and Lateek Townsend of Bennettsville (S.C.) Marlboro County.

"It's an honor for us to play in this game to have so many kids from South Carolina," Peake said.

But, Peake said, Saturday is just the start.

"We need to work to get more kids in all-star games like these," he said. "We're a small state, but we can compete with Florida and Texas guys. We just need to bring more guys to game like this."

Shell agreed.

"We just need more good teams and more good years," he said. "We need to step it up so show South Carolina can play football."

It certainly did this season.

South Carolina had eight teams in the final RivalsHigh Top 100, led by No. 5 Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern and RivalsHigh Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Justin Worley.

It also has four players in the Top 75 of the Rivals 250, including No. 1 overall recruit and RivalsHigh Defensive Player of the Year Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe.

The key, said Shell (No. 72), is to keep it going. And he puts that responsibility on himself.

"We really had a lot of great teams and great players in the state," he said. "It's up to us to help the younger guys, to teach them, to pick up the state."

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