Tide Commitment Suffers Injury

ADAMSVILLE-- It was a scene Alabama football fans are all too familiar with. With 4:14 left in the first half of the high school game between host Minor and Tuscaloosa County, a hush fell over the crowd. Minor's best player lay on the turf after a hard hit from his safety position.

Chris Jones was down. Like Wesley Britt and Tyrone Prothro, he left the field on a stretcher, briefly extending his index finger giving the crowd a No. 1 salute.

Minor coach Randy Cook says Chris Jones' helmet to helmet hit "caused a concussion." A report on Birmingham radio said Jones returned to the stadium late in the contest, and had indeed suffered a slight concussion, but neither Andrew Bone or I observed this appearance.

Not that it seemed to matter, but Tuscaloosa County won the game, 42-13.. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: You get three guesses. The first two don't count. Jones, who is committed to Alabama, is a ticking time bomb that can explode at any time. He's 5-11, 180. The words "He can fly" seem trite and don't do enough justice.

"He's able to play so many different positions," said Cook. "He can play the "˜X' receiver. He can play the H-back. He can play quarterback. We've probably used him more on offense than we have on defense. Defense is where he really cut his teeth, but he's got such good ball skills."

When he's on defense, Jones plays safety. "I've had some people talk to me about putting him at corner," Cook said,, "but my response is, "˜The other two-thirds of the field is too valuable.' I want him in the middle, where he can play sideline to sideline.

"He's got a great work ethic. He's a good kid. He's the best football player that I've coached. He's a game-changer. I wish his conditioning was a little better, so maybe we could get him 25-30 touches (per game) and 60-65 snaps on defense."

Said Tuscaloosa County coach Lee Gibson, when quizzed on Jones: "What stands out is his speed. They give him the ball in every position they put him in. He's a difference maker. He's probably one of the fastest kids in the state, and I'd say he's probably one of the best players in the state. "

Jones entered the contest with a six-game total of 278 rushing yards and five scores to go with 71 yards receiving and a 98-yard kick return for six points. He finished the game Friday (before the injury) with 65 yards rushing on seven carries. He broke up a pass. He also punted. In the words of radio hosts Mark and Bryan, talking then about Bo Jackson, "He run the ball, he throw the ball, he kick the ball, he do it all." Jones does. He threw one pass, and caught two. Hopefully, he's OK.

SOLID SENIORS: Tuscaloosa County has two guys heading to an all-star game in January. They would be linebacker Malik Chin (6-0, 210) and defensive lineman Vodrick Luscious (6-4, 240).

For the Tigers, linebacker A.J. Edwards is listed at 5-10, 186, but can probably find a job at the next level as a strong safety. He hits first, and asks questions later.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Tuscaloosa County is feeding its 11th graders something right. The Northport school has a few guys to watch, like running backs Darieon Ranson (5-8, 160) and Patrick Henderson (5-10, 180). There's also defensive back Xavier Harris (5-11, 180), receiver Jay Gay (5-10, 170) and linebacker Kendelric Barnes (6-0, 205). Barnes reminds some of ex Wildcat and Tide linebacker Terrance Jones. Henderson's 58-yard run set up the Wildcats' second TD. Harris had a very impressive pass breakup.

SUPER SOPHS: Quarterback Tyler Gates has come from nowhere to being a huge factor on Gibson's offense, Listed at 6-0, 160, the still-growing Gates has learned to lead at a young age.

"He's just a competitor. That's probably the biggest thing about Tyler," Gibson said. "He goes out, and tries to be a leader. For a tenth-grader, that's tough, but he does a good job. The kids respect him and listen to him.

"He just goes out and tries to do what he can to help the team. He doesn't go out and try to things above his ability. That says a lot about him as a young man."

Gates finished 9-of-15 passing for 167 and three touchdowns. For comparative purposes, he reminded me of a 10th grade John Parker Wilson.

Minor runner Ladarious Waldrop is a 5-10, 185 guy who advances the chains. He's also quick.

HOW "˜BOUT THEM BURGERS: Having not covered a game at Minor for six years, it was time to re-sample the grilled offerings. The fact that I was famished did not hurt their chances. The fact that multiple condiments were readily available was also good. The burger was a bit lukewarm, but the char-grilled flavor remained.

CRIMSON CONNECTIONS: "You better call Tyrone." It was once a song title. It was also an FNL headline. I urged "˜Bama and Mike Shula to do so six years ago in this space, after watching Tyrone King, Jr. play for Minor. They did not, but he ended up at The Capstone after a year at Minor. King is now a substitute teacher and volunteer assistant coach at his high school alma mater.

"I've seen both sides of Tyrone," Cook said,. "I've seen the player, and I've seen the boy have to become a man when his dad (former Tide player Tyrone King, Sr.) was dying of cancer at age 50. Football-wise, he stuck it out, ended up at Alabama, and I was happy to see him playing in the national championship game,"

Another crimson connection is "˜Cat's safety Riley Colburn, the spitting image of his dad, Rocky, who played for coaches Paul Bryant and Ray Perkins at the Capstone. Younger brother Ted, a 5-11, 210-pound sophomore, certainly bears watching, too. He's already a leader on the Wildcat defense. Both kids are eligible for Bryant Scholarships, should they want to go that route. Riley is a standout in baseball, though.

NEXT UP: A bye week for FNL, followed by four straight Fridays of playoff action.

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