Chase Claypool is ready to light up the Subway Bowl before starting his NCAA career

 

 
 
 
 
Chase Claypool caught 52 passes for 1,367 yards — and ran up a pile of other eye-popping stats — in the 11 games of his Grade 12 season.
 
 

Chase Claypool caught 52 passes for 1,367 yards — and ran up a pile of other eye-popping stats — in the 11 games of his Grade 12 season.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNg

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As one of the most hotly recruited high school football players ever out of British Columbia, receiver Chase Claypool could easily have developed a swelled head, especially after verbally committing to storied U.S. college powerhouse Notre Dame last summer.

But even back then, his head coach at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, Jay Fujimura, was lauding his transcendent star’s team-first attitude.

And now, after a playoff tour de force in November — a remarkable 556 receiving yards, eight touchdown catches and three rushing TDs in three games — to help lift the Panthers into Saturday’s Subway Bowl double-A final at BC Place Stadium against Carson Graham, Claypool would still rather talk about teammates than himself.

“I think it’s just team unity,” Claypool said when asked about his play and how the Panthers have dispatched Pitt Meadows (58-8), John Barsby of Nanaimo (50-36) and Langley (50-29) in the post-season.

“And we have one of our best D-line and O-line players back, Taylor Mante. He’s been a big part of stopping the run. He was out for almost the whole season with a concussion, but he comes back against Barsby and has one of his best games. That was huge for us.”

OK, it’s wonderful that he wants to single out the unheralded six-foot, 280-pound Mante as a key run-stuffer and blocker in the last two games.

But the Panthers, who last won a B.C. title in 1984 and whose program was shut down for a while in the early 2000s, clearly wouldn’t be where they are without the dynamic Claypool.

The 6-5, 210-pounder has had a spectacular, do-everything Grade 12 season. He’s apparently so versatile that he’s undefinable. Claypool is the only player on the team roster listed on B.C. High School Football’s website who doesn’t have a position, or positions, beside his name.

In 11 games, Claypool has caught 52 passes for 1,367 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 536 yards and eight touchdowns on 43 carries and returned two punts and a kickoff for TDs. As a safety on defence, he’s contributed a team-high 70 tackles, with two sacks and five interceptions.

Claypool says that as a young kid he liked to watch NFL quarterback Michael Vick because he was a “hybrid type of player who could do multiple things.”

More recently, he has taken to watching record-setting Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who’s also 6-5, and is noted for, as Claypool says, his ability “to get the ball at the high point.”

Claypool doesn’t have burner-type speed, but he’s fluid, changes direction well, is an explosive leaper and plays with an edge.

“He’s as harsh and as fierce a competitor as I’ve ever seen,” Fujimura says. “He knows he has his role … but he wants the team to be successful.”

And that’s why after being ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct in an early-season 23-22 loss to Holy Cross, Claypool had a quiet talk with himself and decided he couldn’t let that kind of loss of poise affect the Panthers’ potential to accomplish something special.

“I know there was some eyes on me and that there was going to be a ton of pressure,” he says. “I’ve had to deal with it all season, but I’ve got used to it. It’s all about how bad you want to make your last season (in high school) worth it. You want to go out on positive note.”

The Panthers have a decent runner in Richard Tshimpka (9.1 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns). And Grade 11 quarterback John Madigan (2,699 yards, 31 touchdowns) has done a good job of spreading the ball to other receivers. But his easiest play is to just heave the ball up in Claypool’s direction and let the long-limbed receiver go get it.

“Athletically, he has as much potential as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Fujimura says.

Opposing coaches have been just as impressed.

“He is a special, special athlete,” Langley co-coach Ryk Piche told The Abbotsford News after last weekend’s semifinal loss to the Panthers when Claypool scored in each quarter. “With his body type, he looks like a third-year university player.

“We had two guys covering him, one high, one low … and there were times they would just throw a ball up in his general direction and the young man would come down with the ball.”

Claypool insists he chose Notre Dame as much for academics — he’s entered into the school’s acclaimed business program — as football. But he concedes his visit to the South Bend, Ind., campus where legendary coaches Knute Rockne and Ara Parseghian once patrolled the sidelines and where Touchdown Jesus and the golden helmets are iconic symbols, was an influencing factor.

“Just to feel the tradition, the history, that was a big deciding factor. Them being a top football powerhouse was the bonus part of it,” he said.

While there have been B.C. high schoolers who have flourished at U.S. universities, many of them big-body linemen, a handful of recent stars — running back Terrell Davis, safety Tyler Loffler, receiver Lemar Durant — wound up leaving Arizona State, Boise State and Nevada, respectively, to play at UBC and SFU.

Fujimura said he believes Claypool has done his research and, for a number of reasons, Notre Dame is “the best opportunity for him to stick it out. They have the people in place to help with school, to keep him on track.”

Claypool said he’s not worried about the competition or going across the continent to attend university.

“If I was worried about that,” he said, “I would have committed to Washington. I’m used to the independence part of it. For the last couple of years it’s just been me and my mom (at home). I think I’ll be fine.”

He’s been better than fine in Abbotsford. And on Saturday, the kid so often pictured with a football clutched above his head hopes to do the same with a championship trophy.

gkingston@vancouversun.com

Here is the schedule for Saturday’s B.C. high school football finals at BC Place Stadium:

Grade 8 final

9 a.m.: Vancouver College versus Seaquam (North Delta)

Double-A JV final

11 a.m.: Windsor (North Vancouver) versus Mission

Triple-A JV final

1:30 p.m.: Mt. Douglas (Victoria) versus New Westminster

Double-A varsity final

4 p.m.: Carson Graham (North Vancouver) versus Abbotsford

Triple-A varsity final

7 p.m.: Mt. Douglas (Victoria) versus Vancouver College

 
 
 
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Chase Claypool caught 52 passes for 1,367 yards — and ran up a pile of other eye-popping stats — in the 11 games of his Grade 12 season.
 

Chase Claypool caught 52 passes for 1,367 yards — and ran up a pile of other eye-popping stats — in the 11 games of his Grade 12 season.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNg

 
Chase Claypool caught 52 passes for 1,367 yards — and ran up a pile of other eye-popping stats — in the 11 games of his Grade 12 season.
Abbotsford Panthers #21 Chase Claypool taps his chest after a play against the Langley Saints in a triple-A Sr. Varsity Semifinal High School football game at BC Place, Vancouver November 28 2015.
Abbotsford Panthers star Chase Claypool scores a touchdown against the Langley Saints in their varsity semifinal game at BC Place on Nov. 28. Claypool scored in each quarter of the 50-29 win, leading Langley co-coach Ryk Piche to declare the Grade 12 player is ‘a special, special athlete.’
 
 
 
 
 
 
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