FNL: Vestavia at Briarwood

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- High school football is a funny game. With top-ranked 5A power Briarwood Christian at 4-0 hosting 6A Vestavia (1-3), most thought it was just a matter of how respectable the Rebels could keep the score. Well, a heavy dose of an Alabama baseball commitment made for a respectable score indeed: 35-14, Vestavia. It's easily one of the bigger upsets of the 2011 season in Alabama.

To the categories:

Top prospect

I'm going with Briarwood junior wide receiver Daniel Robert, listed at 6-3, 200, and he may be a tad taller. Robert has good hands, and several other qualities that college coaches look for in a receiver. Said Lions coach Fred Yancey, "He's a terrific athlete, who works hard in practice, and comes up big in games. (Robert) is relaxed in games. He's a fast kid, and he's a big boy. He's a unique combination of a lot of good things."

On this night, Robert caught five passes for 29 yards. There were three other balls he had a shot, but was stripped or hit so hard the ball was jarred loose. He looks to be a good stalk-blocker on run plays.

Seniors who shined

He comes from good blood lines, as in the Salems of Alabama football lore, so it was good to finally see Vestavia running back Georgie Salem (5-11, 197) tote the rock for the Rebs. Salem, whose dad George played for Paul Bryant, is good for a reason. "He works very hard," said Rebels coach Buddy Anderson. "He does all the little things to make himself a better football player, and he's the same way in baseball."

That's probably why Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard took Salem's pledge and will get his signature in November for an SEC scholarship.

Count Yancey as one who's glad he's seen the last of Salem after this school year. "Whoo! He's a good one, He ate us up last year until he got hurt against us, but they put a kid in (Stuart Jacobs) who's just as good. Both of them have great size and speed.

"Salem has great speed, but he's also a smart runner. He's got a great sense about what he ought to be doing. Great running backs like him, you can't tell them how to run. They know how to run."

Salem carried 20 times for 231 yards against the Lions. He went 80 on the first snap, and also scored from 27 and 47 yards. He can fly. He may steal as many bases at Bama as Emeel Salem did.

Briarwood has a very good senior class. Quarterback Ben Craft is a 6-2, 200-pound UAB commitment. Corner Kalan Reed (5-10, 175) was first featured on FNL two years ago and has only gotten better. Southern Miss is heavily involved.

Juniors to watch

The guy Yancey mentioned above is Jacobs, a 5-10, 171 bowling ball who starts at fullback and is quite tough to tackle. He will become the go-to guy next year, but he gets totes now. Vestavia corner Marcus Ward (6-2, 185) did a great job covering Robert and is good in run support.

Crimson connection

The Briarwood staff features former Bama defensive lineman David Hannah and former safety Chris Donnelly. Both men own national championship rings earned at the Capstone. Both have a great change at earning 5A state title rings later this year at the AHSAA Super 6, which is played at Bryant-Denny Stadium this year, a place well-known to both men.

Another ex-Tider spotted on the sidelines was Darryl White, a receiver at UA whose son Reagan is a junior fullback for the Lions. Also spotted was former Briarwood and Alabama player Simeon Castille, whose NFL career is apparently finished.

Buckin' up

Anderson loves to tune into Tide football games and watch his former star, Hardie Buck, cover kicks for the Crimson Tide. "I'm brimming with pride," grinned the grizzled veteran. "Here's a guy who nobody gave a chance to, and (Buck) is out there playing for the University of Alabama. I'm just real proud of him."

How ‘bout them burgers

Briarwood is known by FNL as having some of the best game-day hamburgers in the state, much less the Birmingham area. On this night, the patty was lean and tender, and practically melted in my mouth. Lions Pride Stadium knows burgers.

How 'bout that barbeque

The newest addition to the Hoover barbeque scene is Brother Zeke's, at intersection of Lorna Road and U.S. 31. After I got done giggling at the old signs on the wall proclaiming serpent handling at a tent revival, I tried on one trip the ribs and a later trip, the pork plate. For the most part, the food is good, and a good comparison in the area is Johnny Ray's. The pork was better than the ribs, but the ribs weren't awful. The onion rings are big in both size and amount of breading used. It's worth a try, and both times I went, it was busy. Somebody besides me likes it.

Up next

Next week's FNL is supposed to go to Chelsea at Pinson Valley, for our first look at PVHS star junior receiver Earnest Robinson. He injured an ankle a week ago, and doubtful for that contest. For both Robinson and FNL, it could be a game-day decision.

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