ST. PETERSBURG — With Florida State playing in Monday’s BCS national championship game against Auburn, West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman wide receiver Travis Rudolph planned to put on a show for his future school.
The 6-foot-1 wideout made his pledge to play for the Seminoles next fall in front of a national audience, then caught three passes for 48 yards and scored a touchdown to help Team Highlight to a 31-21 victory against Team Nitro in Thursday’s Under Armour All-American all-star game at Tropicana Field.
“I’m really excited, and I’ll definitely be tuned in to that game on Monday,” Rudolph said about the national championship game. “I always wanted to make my commitment on national television. ... To do well in this game is just an overwhelming experience.”
Team Highlight, coached by former San Francisco 49ers/Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, opened up the scoring when Fort Lauderdale University School quarterback Sean White (10 of 12, 156 yards), who was named a game MVP, found an open Jacory Washington (two catches, 36 yards) for a 23-yard score with 6:19 left in the first quarter. Neither team could find a rhythm offensively in the first half, as penalties hindered many drives.
Team Nitro, coached by former New York Jets/Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, looked as if it had tied the game at 7 heading into halftime, when Adam Centers’ kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown by cornerback J.C. Jackson, who has committed to Florida. An illegal rushing penalty would erase the score, and Centers would make a 25-yard field goal to put Team Highlight up 10-0 heading into intermission.
The action picked up in the second half when IMG quarterback Michael O’Connor (3-for-6, 45 yards), a Penn State commitment, hooked up with Rudolph for a 10-yard TD to put Team Highlight up 17-7 with 5:03 left in the third period. Texas A&M commitment Speedy Noil’s 64-yard reception early in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach as Team Highlight took a commanding 24-7 lead. Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook led all rushers with 82 yards on eight carries.
There were many commitments made throughout the contest, with Noil, Rudolph, Leonard Fournette (LSU), Jalen Tabor (Arizona), Gerald Willis (Florida) and Jamal Adams (LSU) all announced their college intentions during the game. Washburn (Minneapolis, MN) High running back Jeff Jones, who had 72 yards of total offense, was named MVP for Team Nitro.
NOTES: Tampa Catholic offensive lineman Corey Martinez, who is headed to FSU, and Plant City offensive lineman Montel McBride, who is committed to Alabama, will play in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Sunday in Carson, Calif. The game will air live on Fox Sports 1 at 9 p.m.