October 17, 2011
Coaches always teach defensive players to try and strip the ball when they reach a ball carrier, hoping to "steal the ball." On Friday, Lakewood (Calif.) High defensive back Jaleel Wadood took that concept to the extreme, ripping the ball out of Long Beach (Calif.) Polytechnic High quarterback Chaiyse Hales' hands and taking it back 64 yards to the end zone.
While Wadood's speed and brute strength might be the first thing you notice on the play, his presence of mind to hold on to the ball as he rips it away rather than just punch at it when he bore down on Hales was impressive in itself.
It's also worth noting that Wadood is only a sophomore, breaking into the Lakewood rotation because of his ability to make plays precisely like his theft from Hales, who happens to be a battle-tested Poly senior. In fact, Wadood's touchdown wasn't even his only big play of the game; according to ESPNLA, Wadood also single-handedly thwarted a sure-fire touchdown in the second quarter by knocking away a pass sent toward Josiah Blandin.
But in the end, Wadood's heroics weren't enough to thwart Poly, which rallied in the second half behind a more formidable offensive front and a handful of pinpoint passes down the stretch, easing to a 38-21 victory in a key L.A.-area rivalry faceoff. That final score hardly dimmed the intimidating effect Wadood had on the proceedings, with Poly coach Raul Lara admitting to ESPNLA that he had to encourage his offensive players to be more assertive at halftime after they were pushed around by Wadood and the Lakewood defense in the first half.
"We were playing lackadaisical, like we're not here," Poly coach Lara told ESPNLA. "It seemed like guys were afraid to make plays. We had a nice little speech for our offense at halftime."
For one play, it really did look like the Poly offensive line wasn't there at all. Of course, that should give even more credit to Wadood for making his manhandling of Hales look so natural.