Breaking down Montgomery's gamechangers -- Gazette.Net


NFL fans in Washington watching Week 1 of the 2013 preseason probably hated to see Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson cut back to the inside of the field for an unchallenged 58-yard touchdown run, but they'll probably want to nab him quickly for their fantasy football roster.

Johnson is a gamebreaker, that guy who makes you hold your breath whenever might get the ball.

Here's a look at some Montgomery County football players capable of changing the complexion of a game in a single play:

Jalen Christian

Damascus junior defensive back/wide receiver

As a freshman two years ago, Jalen Christian lined up for his first varsity football play and was faced with the mammoth task of covering former 6-foot-2 Clarksburg wide receiver Stefan Houston, the Coyotes' one-man show and former University of Maryland, College Park recruit.

It was not a big deal.

“They threw a swing pass to [Houston] and Jalen came up and just laid him out,” Damascus coach Eric Wallich said.

The 5-foot-10 wide receiver makes things happen on offense, defense and special teams — a 37-yard punt return is child's play. If possible, he might actually change direction quicker than he runs straight and with the graduation of University of Virginia recruit Zach Bradshaw, Christian will be the Swarmin' Hornets' No. 1 wide receiver this fall.

Trevon Diggs

Thomas S. Wootton sophomore wide receiver

Six-foot-1 high school sophomores are supposed to be learning how to control their recently lengthened limbs. Instead, Trevon Diggs is so in command of his body that he, basically on repeat, sprints full speed into perfectly-timed leaps that result in things such as one-handed 85-yard touchdown receptions.

“He has the uncanny ability to play the ball in the air,” Wootton coach Tyree Spinner said. “Most kids at this level do not have the body coordination or psychology to be able to manipulate their body mid-stride.”

Blake Dove

Winston Churchill junior linebacker/running back

Run in Blake Dove's direction. He dares you. Defensive players don't always get noticed in the same way as 50-yard scampers, but Dove certainly makes his presence known.

“Blake is definitely a ball hawk,” Churchill coach Joe Allen said. “He has a nose for the ball and great instincts.”

Dove will also be the Bulldogs No. 1 option out of the backfield this fall. Once he reaches his second gear, there's really no catching up to him, Allen said.

Kevin Joppy

Quince Orchard senior wide receiver

This guy was not on any of the county's top 10 statistical lists last fall because he's rarely in the same place two plays in a row. Joppy scored nine touchdowns for Seneca Valley on a combined 830 passing, receiving and rushing yards.

“He single-handedly beat our team last year,” Quince Orchard coach Mencarini said. “The whole game they had him up at receiver, then he was in the backfield, he was all over the place and he made the big plays.”

Joppy's ability to perform anywhere on the gridiron makes him a nightmare matchup for defenses.

Zac Morton

Walt Whitman senior running back

The county's third-leading rusher with 20 overall touchdowns last fall, Morton's shiftiness and ability to change direction on a dime make even the county's best defensive players look clumsy.

He was given the ball on about 60 percent of Whitman's offensive plays last fall. That number is not likely to decrease, but Morton won't be limited to the backfield. His great hands make him a viable target for quarterback Evan Smith.

Devonte Williams

Bullis junior running back

Can one be listed as a running back and rack up 500 receiving yards? To be fair, Williams did rush for nearly 1,000 yards as well. Williams has breakaway potential — he scored at least six touchdowns on runs of 50 yards or more last fall. The scary part is he's only a junior.

Solomon Vault

Gaithersburg senior running back

There are three general types of running backs: Those who run straight through the line, backs who run by defenders and those who run around defenders. A good running back usually possesses two of those traits, Mencarini said. Vault can do all three.

“Solomon Vault scares me to death. I'm not looking forward to coaching against him but I love watching that kid play,” Mencarini said.