WASHINGTON — Tom Verbanic isn’t used to starting freshmen.
The Flint Hill head coach can hardly ever remember starting any first-year players during his time at Westfield, where he won a pair of Virginia AAA Division 6 state titles. In fact, he could only point to one: Penn State star and NFL running back Evan Royster. But right now, the Huskies (5-2) are starting three freshmen, one of which is evoking Royster in his stunningly quick adjustment to high school ball.
That player is Jordan Houston, who is making an immediate impact alongside defensive back Zach Garcia and wide receiver/defensive back Trey Rucker. But at just 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Houston has shouldered the offensive load, getting at least 20 carries in every game, while racking up an average of nearly 200 yards per game to go along with 12 touchdowns on the ground.
WASHINGTON — Plenty of high school kids play multiple sports. Some are even recruited by a coach from the sport they grew up playing because of a certain size, speed or skill set. And a number of soccer players have made the successful conversion to the football field.
Northwest High School’s J.J. Funez is a little different. After playing for D.C. United’s academy team the last couple of years, he began working out in the spring with some friends on the football team. Going into his senior year, he wanted a chance to play the sport he had loved and excelled at growing up in Florida. So he went to Mike Neubeiser, head coach of the school in Germantown, Maryland, and asked.
“I said, ‘Sure, you can kick for us,’” explains Neubeiser. “But he was like, ‘No, I want to play play.'”