ESPN2 will make a rare appearance on St. Thomas’ campus Friday, but not to highlight the Tommies.
Cretin-Derham Hall high school’s defensive end Jashon Cornell is the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit for the class of 2015 and one of the main reasons the Raiders’ homecoming football game against Stillwater high school at O’Shaughnessy Stadium is one of 13 high school games to be broadcasted nationally on ESPN2 this year.
“I wish I could say (ESPN2 is) here for other reasons, but it’s too much of a coincidence that they’ve named our junior the number one prospect in the junior class nation-wide,” Cretin-Derham Hall football coach Mike Scanlan said. “I think if Jashon was enrolled in a different school, there’d be a different game being televised besides ours.”
While it’s not common for 16-year-old Cornell and the Raiders to have their games nationally broadcasted, Cretin-Derham football is used to playing on St. Thomas’ Palmer Field.
“Us being able to play our home games at St. Thomas is great. The school has been nothing but accommodating,” Scanlan said. “It’s all very generous, and from our end it’s very much appreciated.”
William Carter, Public Safety’s special projects manager, said ESPN2’s on-campus presence will be make for an “elaborate production” when the Raiders (1-1) kick off against the Ponies (2-0) at 7 p.m.
“We did not realize until the day after Labor Day when I talked to the (ESPN2) producer that this was a full production,” Carter said. “We are experienced with different games and different producers that used smaller equipment, and that’s what we were expecting. This is the same size production that ESPN brought in for the semifinal football game for St. Thomas last year.”
Carter said the crew brought in auxiliary lighting, a large generator, its production truck and much more as part of its two-day setup.
“People at St. Thomas came together to discuss what needed to be done and who was going to do it, and people have pulled together to provide information to ESPN,” Carter said. “Beyond that, (ESPN2 has) been pretty self-sufficient because everything’s been contained in their trucks and they do it all the time.”
While all the hype is exciting for students, Cornell said he is hoping the network’s presence doesn’t steal his players’ attention.
“Football teams, and coaches–we’re creatures of routine and we don’t like distractions, but it’s like, ‘come on! This is ESPN nation-wide, live TV!’, you can’t squawk about it, you just have to adjust,” Scanlan said.
An adjustment his players have been handling well, he said.
“The kids have been doing a nice job in terms of paying attention to and then enjoy kind of the experience that basically nobody in the state of Minnesota ever had and might not ever have again,” Cornell said. “We’ve had better teams that have not gotten this much exposure, so enjoy it while you’ve got it, baby.”
St. Thomas senior Riley Dombek is an alumnus of the Cretin-Derham Hall football program, and he said he is proud to see his alma mater get some high-level media attention.
“It is really cool to see my old team on ESPN2,” Dombek said. “Usually when you think of ESPN, the NFL or major college football comes to mind. It’s exciting to see my high school covered in the same way.”
The extra attention is nothing new for Cornell, who Scanlan said has about 30 nation-wide collegiate football offers. Dombek said he never had a chance to play on a team with the standout defensive end, but added that ESPN2’s auxiliary lights shouldn’t be the only thing lighting up Palmer Field Friday night.
“From what I have seen and heard, he seems to be a very special player that has a bright future.” he said.
Molly Sigler contributed to this report.