Freak of the Week: Patrick Payton and the Miami (Fla.) Northwestern Pass Rush
Freak is a term thrown around too much in the sports world but sometimes it's the first phrase that crowds the cranium when a gaudy athletic feat takes place.
What about an entire game's worth of head-turning and gasp?
SI All-American continues a salute to these dominant high school football players in a weekly feature, of course titled 'Freak of the Week.'
High school football is well underway in several states and the wild, almost Fantasy sports-type statistical performances are piling in. FOTW candidates can be dominant in the trenches or beyond the numbers, and this week's winner helps us delve into an entire new category for the honor -- an entire pass rush.
The Miami (Fla.) Northwestern front, which helped the Bulls kick off the 2020 season Friday night with a win over rival and fellow Florida state champion Miami (Fla.) Central, is the next Freak of the Week.
Led by senior edge rusher Patrick Payton, a Nebraska commitment, the group tallied double-digit sacks and even combined for a strip-sack fumble returned for a touchdown in the 21-14 win.
Payton did the honors for the game’s sole defensive score, one of many highlights the group accounted for in what was a consistent punishment against what is considered a rock solid offensive line. The future Husker, who is hearing from additional programs this fall, added 2.5 sacks and a tackle for loss in the win.
“Our whole D-line played team football,” Payton told SIAA. “Even if we had to sacrifice ourselves one play for another player to make a play, we did. Number 56, that’s big Mike (Marshall), 7 is Amahri McCray, FIU commit. 31 is Carlton Thomas.”
“It was fun. Even more exciting because all my closet friends play for Central. My best friend is Yulkeith Brown.”
SI All-American was on hand for the defensive display (video above), and the numbers tell only a part of the story. Not only did the unit slow a very good offense at its very foundation, register nearly a dozen sacks and force multiple turnovers including the Payton fumble return for six, but it had to pull together back to back red zone stands up a score with the game on the line.
Central notched a 75-yard run courtesy of SI99 running back Amari Daniels to get into the red zone for a theoretical game-tying score. In clear four-down territory, the Bulls wouldn't allow a single additional total yard the rest of the way.
The night should have been wrapped up in front of a sellout crowd at famous Traz Powell Stadium following the fourth-down stop.
But on the very next Northwestern offensive snap, which could have been a knee to run the clock, the center-quarterback exchange was botched and Central recovered the loose football.
Payton, Marshall, McCray and that defense would have to get back out there with even more pressure on their shoulders and provide four more stops.
First down would end on an incomplete pass forced by a huge Payton hit on the passer.
Second down was a minimal gain on a rush.
Marshall drove the guard into the passer and held on for a sack on third down.
The final play of the stand was a completion short of the sticks to wrap things up for good.
"On tape, it appears Miami Northwestern preferred a 4-man under front with heavy second level pressures, including some trail blitz concepts through the A-gaps," SI All-American's Edwin Weathersby II said. "They took advantage of protection communication issues within Miami Central's interior offensive front. This disrupted Miami Central's timing in the passing game, as it was unable to consistently locate quick hot reads to replace blitzers.
"FIU commit Amahri McCray had a field day blitzing from his stacked linebacker position. Miami Northwestern consistently worked with man coverage concepts on the backend, which makes perfect sense since they have a high-end post-safety prospect like Kamren Kinchens patrolling the deep middle. This cover-1 oriented man coverage scheme with a schemed pressure package in the front 7 led to 11 sacks for Miami Northwestern in a big contest vs. a talented rival."
Northwestern faces an even better offensive front on Friday night when it travels to Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy.
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