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St. Pius X cross country runner Austin Sprague was honored by Gatorade and we give you the rundown below. Also, Craig Sager II reviews the star-studded offensive linemen from the Elite Junior Classic. 

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To what college is St. Pius X runner Austin Sprague verbally committed? 
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Friday, January 17, 2014

by Jason Belenke, Gatorade
St. Pius X harrier honored by Gatorade


CHICAGO (January 16, 2014) - In its 29th year of honoring the nation's best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Austin Sprague of St. Pius X Catholic High School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Georgia Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. Sprague is the first Gatorade Georgia Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year to be chosen from St. Pius X Catholic High School.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Sprague as Georgia's best high school boys cross country runner. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year award to be announced in January, Sprague joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Ryan Hall (1999-00, 2000-01, Big Bear HS, Calif.), Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Kevin Garnett (1992-93, Maudlin HS, S.C.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.) and Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.).

The 5-foot-11 senior distance runner raced to a second consecutive Class AAA individual state championship with a time of 16:08.37 this past season, leading the Golden Lions to the state title as a team. The Co-Runner of the Year as named by the Atlanta Track Club, Sprague captured fourth place at the Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional championships in 15:09.40, and then placed 32nd at the NXN Final in 15:35. He finished among the top 30 at both the 2011 and 2012 Foot Locker South Regional championships as a sophomore and junior.

Sprague has maintained a 3.17 GPA in the classroom. In addition to donating his time to children on the Autism spectrum as a camp counselor at PEOTSI Day Camp, he has volunteered on behalf of Project Open Hand.

"Austin is the fiercest competitor that I've ever coached," said St. Pius X head coach Ryan McClay. He does everything right, but is still able to maintain a strong academic standing at the school and balance his social life as well. He has had a goal since his freshman year of making it to nationals, and I was so happy when he accomplished that this year."

Sprague has verbally committed to an athletic scholarship at Furman University beginning this fall.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Sprague joins Gatorade Georgia Boys Cross Country Runners of the Year Josh Brickell (2012-13 & 2011-12, Peachtree Ridge High School), Cody Barger (2010-11, North Hall High School), Kirubel Erassa (2009-10, Grayson), Taylor Lord (2008-09, Chapel Hill), and Zack Flickinger (2007-08, Lassiter) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.

To keep up to date on the latest happenings, become a fan of Gatorade Player of the Year on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of past winners and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit

By Craig Sager II
Star-studded offensive line lives up to the hype




Mitch Hyatt (North Gwinnett)

Hyatt will continue wearing a giant target on his back for the rest of his varsity career.

Photo by Rob Saye

At 6-foot-5.5 and 271 pounds, the offensive tackle is a consensus five-star and the No. 2 recruit according to 24/7 sports in the nation. Every defensive lineman will use the matchup with Hyatt to try to make a name for them. That is easier said than done, because Hyatt is the most complete offensive lineman I have seen at the high school level. His pass protection is nearly impenetrable and you can win games running behind in the ground game. In the Elite Junior Classic, the North team ran off Hyatt's side for much of the game and racked up more than 250 rushing yards in the four quarters. Hyatt has tremendous potential at the next level.


Hunter Holland (Buford)

Holland is an experienced starter that has helped lead the Wolves to consecutive Class AAA state championships. Holland stands 6-foot-4, 280 pounds and can play tackle or guard at the next level. As a junior, Holland recorded 139 knockdowns and he has not allowed a sack in 28 games.


Max Kemper (Pope)

Kemper could not participate in the Elite Junior Classic due to an injury that sidelined him for the majority of the season. Kemper was named all-Cobb County first-team as a sophomore at guard and has great size at 6-foot-4, 280 pounds.


Mason Sims (Mays)

Sims is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound guard that showed great athleticism and discipline on the North offensive line in the Elite Junior Classic. Sims thrived in pass protection and looked great when pulling. In the first quarter, running back Josh Bettistea followed a pulling Sims for a gain of six that was the result of a great first and second level block.


Josh Fannin (Mill Creek)

Fannin stands 6-foot-3, 285-pounds and projects to be a guard at the collegiate level. Fannin is an outstanding interior lineman and specializes in his ability to pick up blitzes and create alleys for the running backs. Fannin has a great first step and possesses a lot of power and push in his game.


Kaleb Kim (Mill Creek)

Kim was one of the most impressive athletes I saw during the Elite Junior Classic and he dominated in practice and the game. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive tackle is a four-star recruit that has quickly rose in the ranks as he continues to show the complete package. Kim has offers from Georgia, Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Boston College and will be a starter for multiple years in college.


Nick Wilson (Milton)

Wilson is a 6-foot-3, 275-pound guard and is listed as a consensus four-star recruit. In practice, Wilson's versatility and toughness stood out most and in the game he was a wrecking ball in the run game. Wilson is one of the best guards in the nation and will be able to chose between practically any school in the country on where he wants to take his talents to in college. In the Elite Junior Classic, Wilson was often driving defenders 10 yards down field and he is one of the best run blockers I saw.


Malik Mackey (Mays)

The 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive tackle has an NFL frame and put together a great performance

Photo by Rob Saye

in the Elite Junior Classic. Mackey is listed as a three-star recruit, but that will change as recruiters see more film on the gigantic lineman. In the Elite Junior Classic, Mackey did a great job pinning down the defensive line as Daniel Imatorbhebhe took a reverse for a big gain.




Chuma Edoga (McEachern)

In my opinion, Edoga was the MVP on the offensive line in the Elite Junior Classic. Edoga is a consensus four-star and is a top five offensive tackle in the country at 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. Edoga's wingspan is massive and in pass protection, he frustrates defenders as they find no room around him with his All-American quickness and size. In the run game, Edoga was polished in all of his fundamentals and drove defenders completely out of the play. Edoga is a finisher and once he got a hand on a defender it was game over.    


Brandon Sandifer (Northside-Warner Robins)

Sandifer is a 6-foot-4, 335-pound guard and is without a doubt one of the best run blockers in the state. In the Elite Junior Classic, Sandifer bulldozed defenders and allowed Taj Griffin and Kirvonte Benson to get going in the first half. Sandifer will improve his pass blocking once he is put in the system for it, but for now you can bet Northside-Warner Robins will run right behind Sandifer for much of next season.


Tyler Camp (Mary Persons)

Camp helped Mary Persons to its best record since 1998 this season at 10-3. He plays center at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds. The South running backs need holes to open up fast with their five-star and state championship speed and Camp was able to explode off the line of scrimmage and clear space for the runners. Camp picks up blitzes very well and has the power needed in the middle in short-yardage situations.


Chandler Jones (McEachern)

Jones is a 6-foot-4, 310-pound three-star guard for the Indians that helped McEachern reach the state semifinals last season. Jones has an incredibly long wingspan and has the quickness to pull and create a push off the line of scrimmage. Jones uses his hands well in pass protection and looked great in practice and the game with his first step and leverage.


Cade Blackburn (Colquitt County)

Blackburn is a versatile lineman that dominated at center for the Packers this season. Colquitt County's 52-6 win over North Cobb in the second round of the state playoffs was due to Blackburn and the interior line of Colquitt County's dominance over the Warriors' defensive front. In the Elite Junior Classic, Blackburn was always downfield looking to put a hat on another defender and he excels in screens with his athleticism.


Howard Williams (Telfair County)

Williams is a 6-foot-4, 330-pound guard that passed the test in the Elite Junior Classic. Williams plays for Class A Telfair County and was able to block the Class AAAAAA defensive front and linebackers. Williams helped the Trojans average 4.62 yards per carry last season and has the skills to play Division 1 football in 2015.


Levi Cribb (Charlton County)

Cribb stands 6-foot-2, 280 pounds and plays all three positions on the offensive line for the Indians. In the Elite Junior Classic, Cribb was used in the interior and did a great job protecting the South quarterbacks from the star-studded North defense. Cribb uses his strength very well and understands how to work with the other linemen to chip and create alleys in the second level. Cribb's ability to get downfield is an underrated aspect of his game.





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