When a high school football program re-starts, it is usually in for a long, slow rebuilding process. One need only look at recent examples like Houston (Texas) Lee High's first year in 2010 to see how much work traditionally goes into a new prep program.
Yet that might not be the case this fall, when Dallas (Texas) Wilmer-Hutchins is reopened for academic business in late August. The school's football team will go into its first season with two of the nation's most sought after recruits on its roster: Running back LaDarrell McNeil (pictured above) and wide receiver Damien Lawry.
According to the Dallas Morning News, both top-rated recruits are also expected to start at defensive back as well.
Perhaps the most interesting fact about the duo's sudden arrival at Wilmer-Hutchins is that it's a public school. It would be one thing if an established private academy was able to attract two national-level recruits in its debut football campaign, but it's another entirely when an inner-city public school manages to pull off that feat.
So, how did Wilmer-Hutchins end up with such a bevy of riches before it even opened its doors? The answer appears to have everything to do with the ongoing budget issues that continue to plague school districts across the country.
At the end of the 2010-11 school year, longtime Dallas high school A. Maceo Smith closed its doors for the final time. Both McNeil and Lawry had spent the first three years of their high school careers playing for coach Elzie Barnett's Falcons. When A. Maceo Smith closed, the team's two biggest stars were suddenly in the same boat that all the rest of their teammates were in: They had to find a new school.
Both players happened to live in the boundaries for the newly created Wilmer-Hutchins School, yet they could have possibly tried to petition to attend a different school if they felt it was necessary.
Yet any chance of that disappeared quickly when Wilmer-Hutchins hired Barnett to be its new coach, giving a job to the man who was left without a position when A. Maceo Smith closed.
Now, that rather complete game of musical chairs has landed a coach and his two best players at the same school, albeit with a program that has yet to play a single game or even hold a fully sanctioned practice. Somehow, the appearance of all three on the sidelines for the Eagles would seem to give them a significantly better chance of snatching a victory or two than most first-year teams could ever hope for.