High school football: Cottonwood QB Cooper Bateman faces another prized recruit in Max Browne
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
MURRAY — For a few hours this Friday, diehard college football fans in both Alabama and Southern California will be focusing their attention on Cottonwood High School to get a sneak peak at the future of their programs.
In conjunction with the ESPN High School Football Showcase, two of the countries' top high school quarterbacks will be on display when Cottonwood hosts Skyline, Wash., at 7:30 p.m., a game televised nationally on ESPNU.
Cottonwood gunslinger Cooper Bateman has verbally committed to No. 1-ranked Alabama, while Skyline quarterback Max Browne has pledged himself to No. 2 USC. National recruiting services Rivals.com and Scout.com both have Browne listed as the No. 1 QB in the country this year, while Bateman is ranked second according to Scout.
The two have become friends throughout the recruiting process, and Bateman is looking forward to the unique opportunity this Friday.
"I couldn't be more excited, and it speaks for everybody," said Bateman. "We're playing Skyline as a whole, we're not playing Max Browne's team, we have a tough opponent in front of us."
When ESPN scheduled this game back in March, it seemed like a no-brainer to showcase two of the elite quarterbacks in the country.
Months later though, the game seems like a bit of a mismatch.
The Skyline Spartans are the defending 4A state champions in Washington (the largest classification) and they come into the season ranked No. 22 according to the Freeman Rankings on MaxPreps. Skyline has won three of the past four 4A state championships.
Winless Cottonwood, meanwhile, is a team searching for an identity.
Under first-year coach Greg Croshaw, the Colts were shut out by Logan in their first game and only scored two touchdowns against Davis last week. For a team that averaged nearly 30 ppg last season, it's a stark drop off.
"I don't think two touchdowns is indicative of what this group is capable of," said Croshaw.
Bateman said offensively Cottonwood made great strides from the Logan to Davis game, and he expects much of the same this week.
"This week it's just progressively getting better and it will show tomorrow," said Bateman, who reiterated it's all a matter of execution. Turnovers and penalties have definitely proved costly thus far.
The absence of an endowment game didn't help, and neither have injuries.
Offensive lineman Lo Falemaka, a University of Utah commit, is finally cleared to play after falling out of the back of a car and hitting his head on the concrete three weeks ago. With his return, Cottonwood's offensive line will be at full strength for the first time this season.
Tight end Siale Fakailoatonga, another Utah commit, has finally been cleared to play following an offseason knee injury, but he likely won't be back to full strength until region play.
Croshaw knows most people have probably written off Cottonwood as a contender in 5A this year, and that's fine with him.
"It really doesn't matter until West Jordan," said Croshaw in reference to Cottonwood's first region game on Sept. 21.
Croshaw believes the potential is there for Cottonwood to be a much better football team than it's displayed, and he's optimistic this resilient bunch will get there.
"These kids have been through more than any high school kid should ever have to go through," said Croshaw.
None of that matters against Skyline in front of a national audience.
"Utah as a football state kind of flies under the radar, and it shouldn't. This is our opportunity to show everybody that shouldn't be the case," said Bateman.
Colts on the air
Skyline, Wash. (1-0) at Cottonwood (0-2)
Tonight, 7:30 p.m. MT