You know how most athletes far prefer home games? Well, when Gratz opened its season Friday with a Public AAA clash vs. Martin Luther King, Davone Cornish did not mind at all that the site was Germantown's Benjamin Johnston Memorial Stadium.
That's because Johnston is close to his home, on Barringer Street off Stenton Avenue, and it's where he partnered with his older brother for numerous summer workouts.
How numerous? Well, the pair toiled three times a week for as long as 3 hours each visit, until Ravone had to return to Shippensburg.
"It's great to have an older brother who's been through everything in your same sport and has made it to the next level," Davone said. "In fact, I was on the phone with him [Thursday] night. He told me to go out and play my game. So, when I was out here, I just kept thinking, 'Stay calm. It's just like playing here with Ravone.'
"The workouts were great. I was getting my arm ready. He was getting his hands ready. He would always push me. He liked to say, 'You've got to make me believe you can play college football!' I'd throw short ones as hard as I could. And he'd make me throw deep ones, too [for accuracy]. I thought I did nice."
As Gratz stormed to a 43-0 victory, Davone Cornish, a 6-foot, 170-pound senior, spent the half the game as a spectator. That's what happens when the intermission score is 41-0.
Cornish passed 4-for-7 for 113 yards and two touchdowns, a 16-yarder to Joe Williams and a 43-yarder to Cornelius Middleton. His best completion, a 45-yarder, also went to Middleton. Like the 43-yarder, it came on a screen play.
Ravone Cornish, it turns out, is not the only gridder with whom Davone has a great relationship.
"Cornelius Middleton, he's like my brother," Davone said. "You saw the show he put on today."
Middleton, a 5-10, 180-pound handyman, turned four touches into 148 yards and three TDs. His rushing scores covered 15 and 44 yards.
"Every time I throw Cornelius a screen, I say, 'Get me my yards!' " Cornish said. "He's always saying he's got me, that all I have to do is throw him the ball.
"We call each other on a daily basis. We always talk about making each other better."
Cornish then revealed how those phone chats always start, at least when Middleton initiates.
"The first thing he always says is, 'Bro, throw me the ball,' " Cornish said, laughing. "That goes back to when we were playing in the summertime 7-on-7 tournaments [Gratz won two of those]. Anytime I wasn't feeling it, or maybe my confidence was down a little, he'd come into the huddle and say that same thing, 'Bro, throw me the ball.' He was a slot receiver. Almost always he made good yardage and got my confidence back up."
Thanks to a roughing-the-punter penalty, King slapped together a decent thrust on the game's first series. Saeed Sheard's 10-yard sack removed all juice, however, and Gratz took over on its 42. Daqwan Freeman's 19-yard burst immediately preceded Middleton's first TD, the 15-yarder.
The Bulldogs frolicked in the second quarter, roaring to five TDs. The defense contributed two scores on end-zone recoveries - Anthony Troy-Brown's of a muff on a would-be punt return, and Nydair Rouse's after Mir Bostic blocked a punt.
Thanks to a little-known (and rarely used) part of the mercy rule, which allows the clock to run even during timeouts and injuries if both coaches agree, the second half flew by at warp speed. There were only 19 scrimmage plays in 31 real-time minutes and the last was a safety; Joseph Giddings and Brenton Oakley combined to sack Khaleel Stewart.
King coach John Sheroda, whose young squad is very much feeling its way, said he opted for the nonstop clock "because I didn't want it to be 70-0."
Cornish last year passed for 599 yards and seven TDs. His better tapes were sent out, as were those from 7-on-7s and even the Bulldogs' two recent scrimmages.
Interest so far has come from New Haven and Delaware, and Davone even traveled to the former to meet with the head coach and admissions director.
"I know playing QB in college brings a lot of pressure, but I think I can handle it," he said. "If I have to try somewhere else, wideout would be fine."
He wants to major in nursing and minor in business administration.
"I get the nursing thing from growing up with my mom [Katina Cornish] and grandmom [Barbara Cornish]," Davone said. "They're the type who always want to help people. My mom works as a nursing administrator. She always talks about she wishes she would have gotten a college degree, so she could have done even more in her field. She always pushes me to stay in the books and make the most of my opportunities."
Contact Ted Silary at firstname.lastname@example.org.
High school coverage online at www.philly.com/rally.