FNL: Prattville Bounces Back

PRATTVILLE, Ala. -- A few people made silly statements about 6A power Prattville being "a program in decline" after the Lions were upset on the road last week by Stanhope-Elmore. As ESPN's Lee Corso loves to say, "Not so fast, my friend."

The ninth-ranked Lions bounced back big-time with a convincing 36-14 defeat of former 6A power Robert E. Lee of Montgomery. With all due respect to Hoover, this game was a basically a battle of the 20th century's top 6A program in Lee and the 21st century's co-best, Prattville (though Hoover fans would and could argue that).

Junior athlete/quarterback Justin Thomas is injured but his backup, senior Jalen Whitlow, directed six touchdown drives and another field goal march as the Lions upped their record to 2-1, 1-1 in area play. To the categories:

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Prattville receiver Kardeem Poole continues to emerge, as we discussed in last week's FNL story. He had a 51-yard touchdown catch Friday. His cohort, 6-2, 175-pound Cal Rogers, held just long enough on to a deep post despite being clocked just before the half for a key touchdown. Another Lion to watch is kicker/punter Chris Kennedy (6-0, 180), who under the tutelage of renowned kicking coach Mike McCaleb has improved a ton since his junior season. His kick-offs regularly hit the end zone, and his punts have more height and distance this year. Kennedy had a PAT blocked last week, but he has come miles. Look for him to punt and kick off in college. Not sure where.

For the Generals, tight end Mantez Holmes wears no. 8 and is listed at 6-3, 190. He hauled in a 30-yard scoring pass to give Lee an early 7-6 lead. Jersey no.8 has become the new No. 2 among high school players in Alabama, as the David Palmer generation has ended and the Julio Jones era has begun. Alabama receivers seem to set the standard. Quarterback Breyuane Sanders (6-2, 188) played solidly, as did running back Christopher Pettway, a 5-7, 210-pound plodder.

A late-blooming defensive back to watch is Lee's Schavolwski Scott (5-11, 180), a challenge to both opposing receivers and spell-check. A rare three-way performer is punter/defensive end/fullback Terrence Smith, listed at 6-1, 185.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: We'll spotlight a pair of Lions here, both of whom hold Alabama offers. One took on a new position this week, one that Prattville coach Jamey DuBose feels with benefit 6-5, 275-pound Caleb Gulledge in the long run.

"We're moving Caleb to the o-line this week," DuBose said. "He's going to play offensive tackle. We needed help there, and we feel that's his position at the next level. I think he could be a left tackle in the (National Football) League one day. He's a student of the game, a good player, and we're expecting some leadership from Caleb on the offensive line." Gulledge swapped jersey digits from 82 to 79. He actually played right tackle Friday.

Lee coach Larry Ware called Gulledge "just a fantastic player." That assessment came from watching the quick feet of Gulledge play defense on film.

Still playing defensive line for the Lions is big Justin Shanks (6-3, 270), a man who can play multiple spots on the front four. Said DuBose, "He‘s doing well on the production chart, and he‘s playing some at end but mostly at the nose. He‘s shown up great on the production chart, and we think nose is where he‘ll play at the next level, at around 285 pounds or so."

Also deserving mention for Prattville are two ace kick returners: receiver Jeremiah Gardner (5-7, 163) and defensive back Lawon Debardelaben (5-8, 154). Gardner took a kick-off 86 yards to the house last week, and a pass 48 yards to pay dirt this week. Debardelaben handles punts. He brought an interception back 50 yards this week to the Lee 20 to set up a clinching score. Both can fly.

Lee features shifty Wildcat quarterback Toddrick Nickerson (5-9, 180) and compact running back Marquell Beckwith (5-7, 160).

SUPER SOPHS: Lee's top wide receiver, 5-10, 160-pound Patrick Perry, has a combo of speed and hands that make him a name to file away for recruiting buffs. He also returns kicks.

Not a lot of tenth-graders earn playing time at Prattville, as NFL players like Roman Harper and Bobby Greenwood were rare exceptions. That's why I took note when I noticed former backup Patrick Parks (5-10, 162) at safety for the Lions. The same goes for 5-9, 153-pounder Jaiel Gilbert.

He's a sub for now, but when Prattville running back Stanley Mays (5-8, 153) comes in, he makes things happen with his speed. Austin Golson (6-5, 250) is a still-growing offensive tackle with a future.

BENEFIT CONCERT: Former Prattville, Alabama and NFL fullback Kevin Turner continues to fight ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Thursday night in Prattville at the new Marbury High gym, country star Ty Herndon will put on a benefit concert at 7:00 p.m. to help raise money for ALS research. Admission is $20, and tickets can be purchased by calling (334) 799-1402.

THE LARRY WARE FACTOR: Former Lee and Georgia running back Ware restored football at Montgomery Carver a few years back before deciding to return to his alma mater. He had turned the job down two years earlier, but when it came open again last year, Ware accepted. "Tradition," he said. "History. Man, this is where it all started for me." Ware has gotten a lot of kids who didn't play football out of the hallways and onto the practice field. Don't be shocked if he has the Generals back in the playoffs -- and not just round one -- sooner than later.

HOW ‘BOUT THAT ‘Q: Big ups and mad props to Fat Man's Smoke House, a Prattville staple, whose ribs and wings are so good I may need to get my stomach stapled. Smoke house flavor, melt-in your mouth good. I highly recommend it. I love that Fat Man's caters the Prattville press box at Pratt City Park's Stanley Jensen Stadium.

NEXT UP: McAdory at Hueytown: Two of the states top 2012 kids, McAdory defensive back Marcus Turner and Hueytown signal-caller Jameis Winston face off. Turner, Winston, Gulledge and Shanks all planned to attend the Penn State-Alabama game Saturday, as did Prattville athlete Justin Thomas. All five sport Tide offers.

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