The Guyer football program was dealt a significant blow Thursday when star running back Noah Cain announced he is leaving the school to attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Cain, a 5-11, 205-pound sophomore, is 247Sports’ top-rated running back in the national class of 2019 and already has 15 offers from programs such as LSU and Oklahoma after two phenomenal seasons at Guyer.
Cain said IMG coaches have been in touch with him for a while and he has several friends who play at the school. He made his decision Thursday morning. Cain will leave for Florida on Jan. 16.
“It was definitely a hard decision,” Cain said. “It wasn’t easy. It came down to the last minute. My parents and I discussed it so much. We thought it’d be a good opportunity for me athletically and academically to try it out and see how it is down there.
“The first thing I wanted to do was talk to [Guyer coach John] Walsh out of respect for him, because without him I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today. I’m grateful to Guyer for being the starting point of my recruiting trail and my high school career. I’ll forever be grateful to them, especially coach Walsh, who’s the man who started this all for me. He’ll always have a special place in my heart.”
Cain has lived in Denton since the third grade but attended Plano Prestonwood starting in sixth grade. He resumed attending school in Denton in eighth grade when he went to Crownover Middle School. He had a breakout freshman season at Guyer, in which he rushed for 1,058 yards despite missing four games.
The Associated Press second-team all-state selection went on to rack up 1,683 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground for Guyer this fall while leading the Wildcats to the area round of the Class 6A playoffs.
No running back at IMG had 50 carries on the year. Cain averaged 17.5 carries per game in 2016.
“You never want to lose anyone in your program,” Walsh said. “I’ve known Noah since the fifth grade, and he’s been a good product of our program and a good product on the field. His presence on the field is going to be missed.
“But no one player or coach will define this program.”
It appeared Guyer was set up with arguably the best back in the country to spearhead its lethal rushing attack for the next two seasons, but that plan is now out the window.
IMG has had a tumultuous relationship with Texas high school football coaches for recruiting some of the state’s best players to its program.
The boarding rate for football players at IMG for the 2016-17 academic year is $72,900 with financial aid available, according to the school’s website. Cain said the school will cover his full tuition. The school sells itself as a better way to prepare elite athletes for the college level in a variety of sports.
Cain said his mother took a job in Seguin that will require some travel, so the boarding option was a selling point for IMG.
“We looked really deep into the program and what they had to offer with the meal plan and boarding, and we liked the college structure of it,” Cain said.
Brenham coach Glen West, a former president of the Texas High School Coaches Association, wrote an open letter to the state’s football coaches in Texas Coach Magazine last year with a clear message of his stance on schools such as IMG.
“It’s not necessarily against IMG, it’s just for years in the state of Texas we have been the advocate for our kids, where the college coaches come through and it’s been a really good situation for hundreds of years,” West told The Dallas Morning News after the letter was published. “The idea of athletes being raised through your program in your community, being part of your community, until later in their career [they] think they need to go to a specialist, we don’t agree with that.
“We’ve sent a lot of people on to college and the NFL. We think we do a good job of sending them there. We’re with them from day to dark. I will stand strong on [the fact] that I think our coaches do a great job.”
In October, Crosby assistant coach Marvin Nash, who coached at Guyer during Cain’s freshman season, publicly chastised IMG coaches on Twitter for contacting one of his players through social media — recruiting practices he felt were unethical.
“I kind of have mixed feelings about this,” Nash said Thursday. “I know Noah thinks he’s doing what’s best for him and his family. I hate to see private schools come to different areas of the nation and cherry-pick the players they want. I’m very old-school in the fact I believe in playing for your hometown school and representing your community.
“Maybe it’s just because I’m an old-school, small-town guy, but I will never believe that’s the best thing for kids to do. But I do wish him the best, and I support him in everything he does because he’s a special kid with a great family. I’m still kind of shocked.”
Walsh said he has no hard feelings toward Cain or his family but did say he agreed with the common assessment of IMG after several coaches came out and said they would no longer schedule games against the school in nondistrict play. IMG played no Texas teams last season after playing DeSoto in 2015.
“I think if I was going to answer any question about IMG honestly, we’d need a talk show on HBO,” Walsh said.
Cain’s absence leaves an obvious void in Guyer’s offense, but Walsh said a few players will be candidates to step into the Wildcats’ rushing attack that annually averages well over 300 yards per game.
Those players include junior Devin Jefferson, who rushed for 125 yards and a score on 10 carries in limited mop-up duty this fall, as well as sophomore Kaleel Rhoden and freshman Harrison Bohannon.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for some young players and some guys who haven’t had many opportunities because of the road block Christian [Moore], Myron [Mason] and Noah put up there,” Walsh said. “It was hard to see the field with those guys. I got asked how we’d do it when [former quarterback] J.W. [Walsh] left, and then there was Jerrod [Heard]. It happens every year. There’s kids in this system for years. Good programs have their personnel built up from the fifth grade, and we know who our guys are going to be for the 2020 season.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.