FNL: Piedmont Downs Ashville

ASHVILLE -- They've got a pretty special player who is just a junior at Ashville High School. He's got a new head coach and is running a new offense. He's a big-time prospect as a quarterback, or, should he choose otherwise, a few other positions on either side of the ball. Friday night, said prospect and his Bulldogs hosted Piedmont, which feature a solid defender itself.

Final: Piedmont wins the battle of the Bulldogs, 36-13,in a 3A region game. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: That would be quarterback E.J. Moss, all 6-3. 223 pounds of him. Moss opened the season with 90 yards passing and another 227 on the ground in a win over Springville. On this night, Moss went 8-14 passing for 107 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He punted rugby style five times for a 40.6 average, with a long of 51 yards. He played a number snaps at linebacker, where he had a handful of tackles including a sack.

"He‘s grown up. He‘s become a man. He‘s become a leader, and our kids look up to E.J.," said first-year Ashville Coach Mark O' Bryant, who was the offensive coordinator at Oxford before taking over the Bulldogs' program. E.J. is a special talent. He can be as good as he wants to be. He is a great kid, and that is his best quality."

O'Bryant, an ex-Navy Seal, also has served as Moss's personal trainer since January, four months before he officially took the Ashville job. Moss has gained 23 pounds of muscle since then. In addition, O'Bryant put Moss and his new team through a mini- but grueling boot camp at Fort McClellan in Anniston, with conditions that resembled Junction, Texas. The camp was manned by actual Army drill sergeants, and O'Bryant's old team Oxford (and star junior runner "Rock" Thomas) participated alongside Ashville. Ashville's roster dropped from 53 players down to 30. Players were there three days and two nights, and allowed two hours sleep per night. One of the drill sergeants from the camp comes to games and joins the team on the sidelines. At the boot camp, and in life, Moss was, and is, a survivor, as the young man lost his father unexpectedly less than two years ago.

Moss will visit Mississippi State Saturday for the Auburn game. He's considering both programs, along with Alabama, where he's camped a few times. His mom, Kim Moss, who doubles as team photographer, said she and E.J. would be in Tuscaloosa for a home game at least once this year.

"I have been to Alabama a lot," Moss said in a recent interview with his hometown newspaper, the St. Clair Times. "I've seen a lot of Crimson Tide games." He added that he's visited Tennessee twice, and even has an Oregon offer, though Moss is not seriously considering the Ducks. The fact that they are interested in him speaks volumes of his athleticism.

Moss is not done growing. It would not be a shock to see him at linebacker or tight end/H-back in the SEC. He wears a size 15 shoe, so another two inches in height and 30 or so pounds in good weight are possible. His best 40 time recently is 4.8, but he will get faster.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Piedmont linebacker Jamie Major (6-2, 226) plays sideline-to-sideline. He sports committable offers from Indiana, Jacksonville State, Idaho State, and Alabama's Saturday foe, Western Kentucky. That list could grow if Major continues to get it done this season. He helped spearhead a defense that held tough runner Moss to but 14 net yards on 17 carries.

"He‘s pretty dog-gone good. He plays physical. He's got great range. He‘s just so scoring, said O‘Bryant of Major.

For Ashville, 5-11, 165-pound Jordan Looney plays receiver and defensive back, both well.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Piedmont receiver/defensive back Tareek Spears is listed 5-10, 145, but even with a slight frame has got some quicks. He scored on a 25-yard run.

Ashville's Ethan Fuller (6-1, 165) can beat you as a receiver or crush you as a linebacker.

SUPER SOPHS: Bulldog Alex Looney (6-1, 160) contributes at both corner and wide out, and the same can be said for Piedmont's running back/defensive back Rodriqueaz Thompson (6-0, 176)

LARRY MUNSON "MY GOD! A FRESHMAN!" AWARDS: Darnell Jackson is a fast back for Piedmont at 6-feet tall, 176 pounds. He looked the part on a 41-yard TD scamper.

Ashville receiver/defensive back Kenny Brady (5-8, 145) is fun to watch. He opened the scoring by taking a pick-six 45 yards to pay dirt.

EIGHTH GRADE ALERT; O' Bryant coached Rock Thomas and knows a great future running back when he sees one, and he sees one in sub-freshman Alaric Williams, who is already 6-feet, 173 pounds and contributing heavily on the varsity, in the backfield and on returns.

HOW ‘BOUT THEM TACOS: I had not been to Birmingham established eatery Superior Grill for years. Like, ten. By night, it's a singles meet/greet spot. By day, it has a heck of a lunch, which I'd forgotten until Friday. Server Katie caught grief last Saturday night as a Michigander, to no surprise, but is very efficient. The beef enchilada was just right, the chips were hot, the soft taco was fine, and the refried beans were as good as any I've had, probably better. They weren't just a tasteless mush. I will be back!

For dinner, the grilled burger at Kin Logan Stadium was fine, but the highlight was the half-time shaved ice, flavored with a mix of pineapple and mango syrups. Refreshing.

NEXT UP: After waiting nearly a year, FNL makes its first trip to Fultondale to see super athlete _Ardarius Stewart as his Wildcats host Woodland. John Garcia had an excellent take on Stewart two weeks ago, and I'm looking forward to being able to share my take.

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