Friday, February 23, 2018
Colleges

Bulls-Bearcats game features Jefferson High reunion

TAMPA — They'll hit Raymond James Stadium around dusk Saturday, their fallen teammate's memory emblazoned in their hearts and on their helmets. As grief goes, the Reds of Cincinnati have nothing — zilch — on the Bearcats.

Twelve days ago, Cincinnati offensive lineman Ben Flick died along with a friend in a single-car accident. Two other Bearcats, freshman receivers Mark Barr and Javon Harrison, also were injured. Barr remains in critical condition.

"Every game now is for them," said redshirt sophomore receiver Chris Moore, whose career sprouted 2.85 miles from Raymond James at Jefferson High.

"It's actually extra motivation, because every day I step on the field now, you're thinking this might be your last time to practice or play. You have to go hard because you don't even know."

Yet at some point Saturday, if only for a few seconds, Moore will peer into the Tampa sky, or catch a glimpse of the 30 or so friends and relatives in the seats, or maybe make eye contact with No. 81 for USF.

Then, for that moment, the somber might give way to the surreal.

Moore and USF junior Andre "Freak Show" Davis were the pass-catching catalysts for the undefeated 2010 Jefferson team that won the Class 3A state title. Saturday night, both will start for their respective college teams.

For all practical intents, it will be the first time they've shared a field since Dec. 17, 2010, when Moore broke his collarbone during a 44-34 romp over Miami Norland in the 3A final at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

"It's just going to bring back memories of us in high school and the great things we did at Jefferson and the good times we had on the football field," Moore said.

Those memories still induce acid reflux among some local coaches. Both matchup nightmares with athletic 6-foot-1 frames, Davis and Moore combined to catch 111 passes for 2,786 yards and 33 TDs as seniors from 2010 Florida Mr. Football Quentin Williams.

"We liked to line them up on the same side, because it made it hard for people to double both of them," said former Dragons coach Mike Fenton, who sent more than a dozen players from that team to college. "They really complemented each other really well. … You had to pick your poison."

The trajectories of their respective college careers diverged, at least initially.

Davis had 22 catches as a Bulls freshman in 2011, more than doubled that total last season, and has a team-high 14 catches this year as USF struggles for stability at quarterback.

With a catch Saturday, he will have sole possession of USF's record for consecutive games (23) with a reception.

"He gets frustrated at times because he wants the ball, and that's what competitors do, but he also understands where we're at," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said. "He's become more of a leader, which is something we need from him."

By contrast, Moore's ascension atop Cincinnati's depth chart has been more gradual. Which is to say, it has mirrored his development as a high school player.

His 11 catches (for 158 yards and a TD) this season are nearly triple the total of his first two years at Cincinnati. First-year Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville said Moore is "starting to learn how to read coverages and run his routes."

"He's more of a late blossomer, I would say," added Davis, who helped nickname Moore "The Doctor" at Jefferson for his route precision. "In high school, he really didn't start playing varsity football until his junior year."

A few autumns later, it's full-circle Saturday. Fenton said he's hoping to attend, to see something he rarely drew up at Jefferson.

The Freak Show and the Doctor, at last lining up on opposite sides.

"It's going to be awesome," Moore said.

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