This year's pool of talent in Louisiana is especially deep and that has caused some extraordinary players to linger below the recruiting radar in terms of scholarship offers. One such player is Riverside Academy quarterback Darnell Rachal, who shouldered the load on offense last season for the Rebels.
At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Rachal will make the transition to a new position in college, but there should be no dispute concerning his ability to make things happen on the football field. For example, Rachal scored all three of his team's touchdowns in last year's 21-14 victory over Winnfield in the second round of the playoffs. In that game, the senior-to-be rushed for 122 yards on 23 carries, including a 41-yard TD scamper on a broken play.
"We were losing at the half in that game," said Rachal, "and I motivated the team at halftime. I told them that we had to pick it up and we stepped up in the third quarter. I had the ball on a rollout (on the 41-yard TD run) and was looking to pass, but I had someone chasing me and so I kept the ball. I got a great block on the play and scored."
In the quarterfinals the following week, Rachal and the Rebels lost for the second time in 2009 to district rival John Curtis Christian. Riverside was outscored 68-10 in those two games and that doesn't sit well with Rachal.
"I think we can beat John Curtis this year," he said. "We lost eight starters to graduation, but we have a bunch of juniors returning. We need to pass the ball more effectively and we'll need to stop the run."
Riverside recorded a 6-4 mark in the regular season last year and entered the playoffs as a No. 25 seed. However, the Rebels were able to go on the road and upset No. 8 Donaldsonville in the first round.
"We wanted to make it further than the first round of the playoffs last year," Rachal explained. "I did badly in the Newman game (35-27 loss in Week 10) and I didn't want to let the team down again. I think we'll beat Newman this year. Last season, Ronnie Vinson (LSU signee) was able to make all the plays against us, but we were able to contain Odell Beckham fairly well."
Despite his gaudy junior numbers (1,065 yards rushing, 1,576 yards passing, 37 TDs), Rachal doesn't have any offers to date.
"I'm working really hard and I have a 2.9 GPA with an 18 on the ACT," he said. "I've received some letters from Southeastern, Ole Miss, Nicholls State, Mississippi State, TCU, and Texas A&M. People call me a dual-threat quarterback, but I'll play slot receiver or cornerback in college. I would prefer to play receiver, because I like to have the ball in my hands."
Rachal, who has 4.6 speed, was named all-metro and honorable mention all-state last year. He does have some experience catching the football as well (two receptions, 76 yards, two TDs) in 2009.