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October 17, 2012

Trio leading First Baptist's revival

In Texas, where private and public schools (for the most part) compete in different athletic associations, recruits often transfer from private to public schools to 1) Get more exposure and 2) Play against better competition.

Trae Hart has taken the opposite route. The 2014 receiver from Dallas First Baptist transferred from nearby North Mesquite after his sophomore season. A quick glance at his statistics this season -- 1,087 yards and 16 TDs on 64 receptions -- shows how smart of a move it was.

"Not to say anything against North Mesquite, but in their (first game of the season) I think they threw for 40 yards or something like that," said First Baptist coach Jason Lovvorn. "We just have a different environment for Trae to show his skills. Not different as in 5A versus private schools, but just a difference in offenses. We throw it around around, and teams will learn they'll have to double cover him. He runs great routes and he's the fastest kid on the field. I was expecting big games from him."

Hart, listed at 5-11, 155, may be small, but he has blazing speed and very good hands. He impressed at a Rivals.com Underclassmen Challenge earlier this summer and camped at TCU, Texas and Baylor. A receiver at the latter school, Baylor junior Tevin Reese, is the best comparison Lovvorn can come up with for Hart.

"He can fly," he said. "We're going to work on getting him to the 160 range so that when he goes to camps, he has the stats and highlights, he just needs to pass the eyeball test. He's hard working, so his height is good for his speed, he just needs to bulk up so he can take the hits.

"For us, he plays on the outside, but I see him playing the slot. He runs jet sweeps for us and he's our return guy. I would compare Trae, even though Tevin Reese is a superstar, to Reese."

Just as Hart leads the Dallas area private schools in receiving, his battery mate, fellow 2014 recruit Max Partlo, leads all passers with 2,130 passing yards and 28 TDs. The statistic that most impresses Lovvorn, however, is the the six interceptions Partlo's thrown.

That number is down from last year, the product of a lot of work in the offseason refining his mechanics.

"The thing I was watching in his game film (from the season opener), compared to last year -- last year he had a long step and long release when he would trow the ball," Lovvorn said. "We've shortened that step when he's leading with his left foot and he's coming through so much faster. That makes everything so much faster. He's just getting used to his size."

Partlo has the prototypical frame for a pocket passer at 6-4, 215. He has a strong arm, but he'll need to find a destination at the next level, Lovvorn says, the emphasizes his strengths, "which is being smart, reading defenses, making throws and not using him to run. It will be somebody that says we don't need a quarterback to run around, because that's not his strength," Lovvorn said.

As for that football IQ, Lovvorn talked about a play in the season opener that really demonstrated Partlo's intelligence.

"We had a deep route called, the first play of the second half, and they had a 3-4 with two safeties very deep," he said. "Instead of snapping the ball, he turned and looked to me and held up two fingers, pointing out the two deep safeties and basically suggesting we call a run. So he checked to a run and it went something like 50 yards for a touchdown. He understands running the ball helps open things up for him passing."

Partlo is also on college recruiter's radar, thanks in part to his inclusion in the Top 100 Juniors in the summer edition of Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine, an annual preview and recruiting publication. The talent evaluator for that magazine, former Texas assistant coach Randy Rodgers, included Partlo in the list not just because "Max is big and has numbers," Lovvorn said, "he ranked him in the Top 100 based on his sophomore film."

For a school with less than 50 boys enrolled in the high school, having two impressive juniors goes against the odds. But there's actually one more 2014 recruit to watch, Justen Tatum, who was Hart's best friend at North Mesquite and followed his buddy to First Baptist. Tatum's arrival bolstered the First Baptist defense, as the Saints rank fourth in the area in rushing defense.

This trio is also helping turn the program around overall. Last year, the school had to play an independent schedule because of a lack of numbers to compete. That 2011 team had just one senior on the roster.

A year later, First Baptist is 6-1, the only loss coming by three points on the road, and the playoffs are almost a sure bet.

"Toward the end of last year we kind of gained some momentum going into this year," Lovvorn said. "We ended with two wins and rode that momentum. Losing only one senior, we knew we'd be better."

The future is definitely bright at this small school in the middle of downtown Dallas.


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