The Ties That Bind
Daylon McCutcheon was nine years old when he asked his mother, Deborah Sterling, if he could play organized football. "I told him no, and he didn't play that year," says Sterling. "I was afraid of the comparison."
Daylon, you see, is the son of Lawrence McCutcheon, the former Los Angeles Ram running back. These days, as the leading rusher on USA Today's top-ranked schoolboy team, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat, Daylon cannot escape comparison with his father. Last Friday night, in a 28-6 victory over Crespi High, Daylon rushed for 189 yards and scored all four of the Lancers' touchdowns. For the season he has gained 1,575 yards on 150 carries and scored 22 touchdowns for 9-0 Bishop Amat.
"I've never seen a kid with better lateral movement," says Lancer coach Tom Salter. While Lawrence was more powerful, Salter says that "Daylon's a slasher with a lot of moves and speed."
"He's pretty exciting when the ball is in his hands," says McCutcheon the elder, now a Ram scout, who has watched Daylon play five times in the last two seasons. "But I can't take any credit. I didn't have a lot of contact with him."
Deborah and Lawrence met while they were students at Colorado State in the early '70s. McCutcheon was drafted by the Rams in 1972, and Sterling moved to Los Angeles after graduating in '74. Daylon was born on Dec. 9, 1976, but Lawrence was never anything more to him than his biological father, though he has paid child support since Daylon was born.
From the time he was about 2½ until he was 16, Daylon saw his father only once. That was in 1986, when Deborah took 10-year-old Daylon to a Ram practice. "We were running around, having players autograph our pennants," says Daylon. "This man asked me if I wanted him to sign mine. I said O.K."
After practice, the three of them talked for a few minutes. "Lawrence spoke to me the whole time," says Deborah, "but he never took his eyes off Daylon."
Though Daylon and Deborah lived near Lawrence while Daylon was growing up, it wasn't until 1992 that Lawrence called Daylon to meet with him again. "Both of us are kind of stubborn," says Daylon. "My attitude was, If he wants to talk to me, let him come to me." The two had dinner, and the conversation was "awkward," says Daylon. "But today we're pretty good friends."
So are Deborah and Lawrence. The two sometimes sit together at Bishop Amat games, along with Myna, Lawrence's wife of 12 years, and their 10-year-old son, Marcus. Does Sterling, a substitute teacher, think that Daylon has suffered because he didn't come to know his father until recently? "If you know Daylon, you know that he's always been surrounded with so much love that it wasn't Daylon's loss."
If Mike Jones's entry in the Fitch High yearbook listed only a few of his activities since junior high, it might read like this: drug dealer, student of the month, marijuana abuser, homecoming court, gang leader, co-captain of the football team.
Only 18, Jones has already lived two lives. After running away from his home in Brooklyn when he was 14, he ended up prowling the streets of New Haven, Conn. As a young teen he was arrested a dozen times. "I used to carry G-bundles [50-bag supplies of cocaine] and make $600 a night," he says. "But I'd spend a thousand a week on weed."
He got high every morning smoking marijuana dipped in embalming fluid. He had his own gang, the Knockout Posse, and carried a .357 Magnum. "I hit a kid in the head with a brick once," says Jones. "Another time I shot at a guy because he wouldn't sell me weed."
After several stints in detention centers and reform school, Jones landed in a group home for teenage boys, the New England Adolescent Treatment Center (NEATC), in Groton, Conn. There he met a counselor named Ron Adams. "I hadn't known Mike long when I told him that if he could quit smoking cigarettes for a month, I'd take him out to dinner," says Adams. "Three days later he told me we'd have to start over because he'd smoked one. He didn't have to tell me that. That's when I began to think Mike might have a chance."
While living at NEATC, Jones enrolled at Fitch, which also is in Groton. He ran track as a freshman, but when people encouraged him to don pads, he balked for what seemed a bizarre reason to anyone familiar with his past. "I was afraid of getting hurt," says Jones.
Eventually he relented, and this year, as a senior halfback, Jones is averaging 15 yards per carry for Fitch, which is 9-0. Last Saturday, in the Falcons' 42-0 win over Ledyard High, Jones rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. But his most impressive statistic is his academic rank: 65th in a class of 228.
Jones now lives with his foster parents, Anthony and Rachel Evans, in nearby Mystic. Says his coach, Mike Emery, "You will not find a better kid across the whole country. Mike's committed to turning his life around."
Says Jones, "I feel like I'm living in a dream."
You couldn't dream up a better college prospect than Arthur McDuffy of Mount Pleasant (Miss.) Christian Academy. Here's what The 1994 G&W Summer Report, a recruiting sheet, wrote about McDuffy, a 6'6", 300-pound senior whom it listed as a preseason first-team All-America: "The No. 1 rated [offensive line] prospect in...the entire SEC area.... Bench presses over 350 pounds and was Mississippi's power lifting champion in 1993.... Has 4.0 GPA at state's top private school."
Why, McDuffy sounds almost too good to be....
"Nope, he never went to school here," says Rodney Jones, the coach at Mount Pleasant during what would have been the McDuffy years. "Only nine players came out for the team last year, and none was named McDuffy." In fact, Mount Pleasant didn't field a team last season, and this year the school didn't even exist.
When informed of the hoax, G&W analyst Phil Grosz said, "You're kidding me." Grosz, like the analysts at Street & Smith's College Football, Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report and Max Emfinger's National Bluechips Recruiting Service, was duped into listing McDuffy after seeing his name on tout sheets traced to an unpublished draft of the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger's roster of the top seniors in the state. An anonymous caller had alerted the newspaper to McDuffy's "accomplishments" last winter.
Had Grosz called information for McDuffys listed in Mississippi, he would have found one real Arthur who played high school football. But no analyst is likely to have touted the 5'7", "200-something," 41-year-old Indianola resident. "I was fairly good," says Arthur, a former tight end at Gentry High. "But definitely nothing to brag on."
Upon spotting Tim Couch, the quarterback of Leslie County (Ky.) High, warming up in the north end zone of Louisville's Cardinal Stadium last Saturday, Chris Redman sprinted toward him. "Good luck tonight," Redman said, extending his hand to Couch, a 6'5" junior.
"Thanks," said Couch. "And congratulations on your record."
Earlier that afternoon, on the same field, Redman, a 6'3" senior, had quarter-backed his Louisville Male team to a 76-6 defeat of Holy Cross, tossing for 251 yards and five touchdowns. The record Couch referred to was the national single-season touchdown-pass total of 56, which surpassed the previous mark of 54, set by Kirk Saul of Turkey Valley (Texas) High in 1986. Redman's nine-yard throw on Saturday to his best friend, Brian Evans, gave him 55. A 62-yarder to wideout Ibn Green pushed the record to 56. Unbeknownst to Couch, Redman had also broken Couch's state career-passing-yardage mark of 7,192. Redman upped it to 7,369.
When the day was over, Couch was accepting some congratulations of his own. In a 45-28 win over Knox Central, he completed 21 of 29 passes for 350 yards, leapfrogging Redman in the record book by 173 yards.
The Bluegrass State had never seen two bluer-chip quarterbacks on the same field on the same day. Both have led their teams to 11-0 marks. Redman is a coach on the field—as a lad he bent a wire hanger into the shape of a headset to emulate his dad, Bob, the coach at Male. Of Chris's 56 touchdown passes, 49 were thrown in the first half, suggesting that had Bob been greedy, his son would already own the national career touchdown-pass mark of 126 (he's at 101).
Couch has another year to establish more schoolboy records. His opponents don't seem to relish this fact. Said Knox Central coach Robert (Hooker) Phillips after watching Couch pick apart his team, "Couch is one of the best high school quarterbacks I've seen in I can't remember how long. There's no comparison [between Couch and Redman]."
Actually, Coach, there are lots of comparisons.
Massillon versus McKinley (page 34) is only one example of a high school game that can be as important as the entire season. Here are some others, in no particular order of intensity.
•Joliet (Ill.) Catholic vs. Chicago Mount Carmel. This series was suspended for eight years in the 1980s after a fight nearly erupted between the schools' priests.
•Easton (Pa.) vs. Phillipsburg (N.J.). A Thanksgiving tradition since 1916, the 1988 edition was televised nationally.
•Valdosta (Ga.) vs. Lowndes County. The Wildcats and the Vikings change their nicknames to the City Slickers and the Plowboys for this rhubarb between city boys and their country cousins.
•Town Creek (Ala.) Hazelwood vs. Courtland. These neighboring towns along the Tennessee River have more state titles than stoplights.
•Odessa (Texas) Permian vs. Midland Lee. The series that helped inspire the book Friday Night Lights. In 1985 Odessa's NBC affiliate, KTPX, preempted a National League playoff game to show Permian's 13-7 victory.
•Bremen (Ind.) vs. Jimtown. Every game in this 12-year series has determined at least a conference champion.
•Ely (Fla.) vs. Fort Lauderdale Dillard. Reams of talent (alums include Houston Oiler Lorenzo White, Auburn's Frank Sanders and three current Florida State players) and two lively bands highlight the game that participants call the Soul Bowl.
•Biddeford (Maine) vs. Thornton Academy. Separated by the Saco River, the two mill towns first played in 1893.
•La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat vs. Sante Fe Springs St. Paul. For this duel, Amat's Lancers call themselves the Dogs, and St. Paul's Swordsmen call themselves the Slime.
McCutcheon's success on the field has led people to compare him to his father, the former Ram star.
From gang leader to team leader: With the help of football, Jones left his checkered past behind.
Blue-chippers Couch (left) and Redman are airing it out in the Bluegrass State.
Players of the Week
Corte McGuffey, a senior at Riverton (Wyo.) High, completed 27 of 34 throws for four touchdowns to lead the Wolverines to a 33-27 win over Lander in the state 3A title game.
Cornerback Aaron Steiner, a senior at Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) High, intercepted four passes in the Black Tigers' 27-21 come-from-behind win over conference rival Stow.
Senior Don Galovich of Stevenson High in Sterling Heights, Mich., returned two punts for touchdowns in the Titans' 13-6 victory over Utica Ford in the Class AA playoffs.