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September 7, 2004In at least one national publication, Allen Park's Derek Brighton is ranked as the state's best junior.
After watching him last Friday at Romulus - where the Jaguars romped, 49-10 - I'd be surprised if that is actually the case. Nevertheless, the 6'0", 170-pounder is clearly a gifted, versatile athlete whose best football is ahead of him.
Brighton, whose brother, Bryan, is a freshman football player at MSU, lined up as a tailback, wingback, safety, punt returner and on kick coverage for Allen Park.
He played every down on defense in the first half, and through the third quarter even after he had been taken out of the game on offense. Maybe coincidentally, or perhaps tellingly, the first offensive series of the first half in which Brighton didn't play was also the first series wheren Allen Park, 2-0, didn't reach the end zone.
Derek rushed for 108 yards and scored on a three-yard TD run. He was always able to make the first tackler miss, and usually the second and third because he accelerates smoothly and quickly. He is deceptively fast because he reaches top speed so easily.
Brighton's speed was perhaps best displayed on the other side of the ball when he ran down one of Romulus' fast receivers to prevent a touchdown.
What I didn't see was that breakaway extra gear, nor that oomph at the end of runs. And on defense he's not a hitter, either, but a technically sound tackler who gets the man down. Basically, that's a microcosm of Brighton's game: An efficient player with the athletic ability needed to get the job done. Sounds good to me.