In the small, rural town of Middleton, Md., located between Frederick and Hagerstown and just a stone's throw from Antietam National Battlefield and historic Harper's Ferry, a Class 2-A state championship football team is a pretty big deal.
Back-to-back is even better.
In winning one of Maryland's small-school titles in both 2011 and 2013, Middleton High's Knights have put themselves on the map of college recruiters, who have gathered often to see Justin Falcinelli and Rick Leonard play the game.
The duo - Leonard a defensive end and Falcinelli an offensive and defensive lineman - came to Clemson's attention as the Tigers put together a blueprint for their 2014 recruiting class, a group low on numbers where every place counts.
Falcinelli and Leonard - both described as country boys by their head coach - visited Clemson last month for a session of Dabo Swinney's high school camp. Both arrived with Clemson offers, and both left impressed with the school, the program, and the opportunity.
Last week, Falcinelli - a 6-5, 300-pound consensus all-state, all-classification offensive lineman - made his decision to commit to Clemson. On Monday, he made his decision public, and became the 14th member of what is expected to top out at a 15 or 16-man class.
Leonard will likely announce his decision in the next couple of weeks between Clemson and Florida State, where he has family connections.
Middleton coach Kevin Lynott told Palmetto Sports' Phil Kornblut Monday night that Clemson is very much in the picture for the 6-7, 250-pound Leonard.
"Clemson has been and still is a major leader on his list," Lynott said. "He makes that very clear. Ricky is more of a country boy. He lives on a farm. He loves the whole Clemson atmosphere and what it's all about. And he's a strong Christian."
Clemson is expected to take no more than two defensive linemen in its 2014 class, and have none committed at this point. The Tigers also have offers out to No. 1-ranked Lorenzo Carter of Norcross, Ga., Kentavius Street of Greenville, N.C., Andrew Williams of McDonough, Ga., Kenyon Brown of Wauchula, Fla., and Lorenzo Featherston of Greensboro, N.C.
In adding Falcinelli as their second offensive line commitment (joining Taylor Hearn of Williston, S.C.), the Tigers picked up a player who excels as a run blocker while playing mostly at the left tackle position in high school. He's projected as a guard at the college level.
Falcinelli had offers from Boston College, Stanford, Marshall, Maryland, Nebraska, Penn State, Rutgers, Virginia and West Virginia.
Following is a look at some of Falcinelli's awards and accolades, from his personal website:
• 2012 Maryland Consensus All-State Team, Offensive Line -- The Consensus All-State team represents the top 30 vote-getters from the Big School and Small School all-state teams, which were determined through a vote by Maryland media members.
• 2012 Frederick News Post, All Area Football, First Team, Offense
• 2012 All-Gazette Football, First Team, Offensive Line
• 2012 All-MVAL Football, Piedmont Conference, First Team, Offensive Line
• 2012 All-MVAL Football, Piedmont Conference, Second Team, Defensive Line
• 2011 Maryland All –State Team, Defensive Line
• 2011 Frederick News Post – All Area Football, First Team, Defense
• 2011 All-Gazette Football– Second Team, Offensive Line
• 2011 All-MVAL Football, Piedmont Conference – Honorable Mention, Defensive Line
• National Honor Society
• APEX Scholar - The APEX Scholars Program is designed as a four-year course of study in which a select group of academy students follow a comprehensive curriculum combining accelerated honors level and intensive advanced placement level course work.
• Honor Roll/Highest Honors – Freshman & Sophomore years