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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Winning trumps recruiting for top duo

By David Helman

It's been the mantra since before the season even started. Check that -- from before the recruiting cycle even started.

Kendell Beckwith
Kendell Beckwith put East Feliciana (La.) High School on his back last week, leading it to the Louisiana Class 3A semifinals.
Before they became two of the most coveted prospects in Louisiana, ESPN 150 athlete Kendell Beckwith (Clinton, La./East Feliciana) and ESPN 150 defensive end Tim Williams (Baton Rouge, La./University Laboratory) have had designs on a state championship. Williams is the most-high profile member of a UHigh team considered among the best in Louisiana Class 2A football. Beckwith is the do-everything quarterback/running back/defensive end/linebacker for the Class 3A Tigers.

Of course, a state title is the goal for every player in the state, but the Mercedes Benz Superdome is a destination few teams reach. The dream almost fell short for Beckwith just last weekend, when East Feliciana fell behind Farmerville, 16-0, in the fourth quarter.

"It was a long ride  up there, like a three-and-a-half hour ride on the bus. We came out slow," Beckwith said.  "We just wasn't really feeling it. Then, I wanna say eight minutes left, we just started scoring."

Anyone questioning Beckwith's versatility should read about what happened next. The No. 19 prospect in the country ran in a 10-yard touchdown, along with a 2-point conversion, to put the Tigers on the board. He then completed a 40-yard touchdown pass on a swing route to tie the score. With Farmerville driving, Beckwith made the third down tackle to force a punt. And to cap it off, he proceeded to race 85 yards to the game-winning touchdown to put East Feliciana in the semifinals.

"It's a little shocking. That game Friday was a big shocker, it was crazy," Beckwith said. "I was just praying, but I was just like 'I don't know how we're going to do it.'"

Williams' path hasn't been so dramatic, as UHigh has won its playoff games by 40, 31 and 12 points, respectively. But the endgame is the same -- the Cubs have reached the final four.

Fantastic news for both players, no doubt. But what does it mean for the powerhouses pursuing the state's highest-ranked players? Beckwith and Williams have long-maintained that they'll take their official visits when their senior seasons end. The only problem -- for colleges, at least -- is both guys just keep winning.

"It really makes me not want to go home. I want to win, and I want to do everything I can to win," Beckwith said. "It's been a long time since a team from East Feliciana Parish got to the Dome."

Should Beckwith, Williams or both reach their respective state championship games, they'd be consumed by their season until Dec. 15. That's only a mere two and a half weeks before the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 4 -- the venue where both have said they'll make their college decision.

Beckwith said in October he hoped to take visits to Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, LSU and Tennessee. Williams' shortlist has been whittled down to Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Miami. But if these playoff runs continue, some schools might have to fall by the wayside.

"I'm probably not going to able to take all five," Beckwith said. "But I'd like to go to at least LSU and Alabama."

None of this might matter by late Friday night. East Feliciana faces Class 3A No. 2 seed Notre Dame, while Williams' UHigh squad must travel to Shreveport, La., for a tilt against Class 2A power Evangel Christian. Beckwith said members of the Tigers' coaching staff plan to attend.

Regardless of what might on the line in the world of recruiting, winning is all that will matter -- at least for another week or two.