In the galaxy that is Tennessee high school football, the largest collection of stars can be viewed Friday night on the field at Heywood Stadium.
When second-ranked Baylor (2-1) hosts fifth-ranked Lipscomb Academy (1-2) in a Division II-AAA showdown and the East Region opener for both teams, it will also be the biggest assembly of star-rated college recruits for any TSSAA game this season, with close to 20 players who have scholarship offers from power conference programs.
Lipscomb, which won the past two DII-AA state titles before opting to move up in classification, has two of the state's top three senior prospects -- cornerback Kaleb Beasley and linebacker Edwin Spillman, both committed to Tennessee -- as well as receiver Dillon Lorick, who's committed to East Carolina, plus three juniors who are four-star prospects: offensive lineman Chauncey Gooden, safety/outside linebacker C.J. Jimcoily and defensive tackle Amir Leonard-Jean Charles. Two other juniors, offensive lineman Jon Adair and inside linebacker Kris Thompson, are three-star recruits.
"The collection of talent they have is incredible," said Baylor coach Erik Kimrey, who spent one season as an assistant at the University of South Carolina before guiding the Red Raiders to last year's DII-AAA state title. "I've never coached against a high school team with the number of starred players as they have.
"It reminds me of when I was at South Carolina and we played Georgia and realized all of those guys were going to the NFL. There's no place where you feel like you can exploit them, so at some point you just have to go out and trust that your guys will make some plays, too."
Baylor is the only team in the state, regardless of class, that can match the Mustangs for college prospects as tight end Max LeBlanc is committed to Ohio State, receiver Amari Jefferson to Alabama and quarterback Whit Muschamp to Vanderbilt. Three-star defensive back Joshua Hampton has not yet committed, while athlete Cameron Sparks is the state's No. 2 overall prospect for the class of 2025 and junior offensive lineman Jimmy Bryson is a three-star recruit.
There are two fewer stars in the Lipscomb constellation after the departure of four-star junior quarterback Deuce Knight and four-star athlete Kohl Bradley earlier this week as transfers. The Mustangs still have a pair of junior quarterbacks who also have college offers in Jackson Kilburg and Tav Shaffer.
The Mustangs' losses this season are 35-10 to IMG Academy, a national powerhouse from Bradenton, Florida, and 31-30 to reigning Alabama 6A state champion Saraland. Lipscomb's last loss to an in-state opponent was on Sept. 23, 2021, to Murfreesboro's Oakland, which won 29-21. Oakland is currently the three-time reigning champ in 6A.
"You want to position yourself to be in the best spot possible for November, but matchups like this are about data and information so you can determine where you need to work to be firing on all cylinders in the playoffs," Kimrey said. "An unbelievable team is coming to play us, and we're excited to see how we measure up."
Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected].
AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 8
Games begin at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless noted
Boyd Buchanan at North Cobb Christian (Ga.)
Bradley Central at Walker Valley
Brainerd at McMinn Central
Central at Tyner
Cleveland at Farragut
Fayetteville at Marion County, 8
Howard at Rhea County
Knoxville Webb at Notre Dame
Lighthouse Christian at Grace Academy
Lipscomb Academy at Baylor
Lookout Valley at Whitwell, 8
Loudon at East Ridge
McCallie at Memphis University School, 8
McMinn County at East Hamilton
New Faith Academy (Ga.) at Copper Basin
Ooltewah at Knoxville Central
Polk County at Tellico Plains
Sale Creek at Chattanooga Prep
Signal Mountain at Hixson
Silverdale Baptist at Chattanooga Christian
Soddy-Daisy at Sequoyah
South Pittsburg at Sequatchie County, 8
Sweetwater at Meigs County
Tennessee Heat at Grundy County, 8
York Institute at Bledsoe County, 8
Calhoun at Cedartown
Coahulla Creek at Chattooga
Dalton at Rockmart
Heritage at Ridgeland
LaFayette at Sonoraville
North Murray at Northwest Whitfield
Ringgold at Gilmer
Trion at Gordon Central