FNL Checks Out Fultondale Star

FULTONDALE -- When cohorts from other Bama sites show up to a high school game FNL is covering, that's a good sign a good prospect is about to take the field. Such was the case Friday when one of the top athletes in the state (who happens to be committed to the top-ranked team in the land) led his Fultondale Wildcats against the visitors from Woodland, a tiny hamlet in Randolph County.

The visiting Bobcats won this cat fight, 25-24 in comeback fashion against the top-ranked team in 2A.

To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: Both coaches had plenty to say about Tide pledge Ardarius Stewart, a 6-foot, 181 fellow who is rather hard to get a hold of.

"He can outrun us, he can out-throw us and he can out-hit us," smiled Woodland Coach Larry Strain before the game, as if he knew what was coming. Turns out, he didn't, because his team was able to slow Stewart down a bit.

Coach Strain had a question for me: "Coach (Nick) Saban doesn't offer them if they're not great players, right? Well, he's a great player."

That he is. At least, usually. Despite coming with a nearly 20-yards per carry average, on this night, Stewart ran 12 times for 68 net yards, but lost ten on a bobbled snap to hurt those numbers. He threw for 154 and two touchdowns, and returned a punts for 14 (but it should have been more). My favorite Stewart play of the game didn't count. He took a punt back 55 yards for an apparent score, but a flag reduced the official yardage to 14. Still, one could see the skills as Stewart wove through traffic and made his way to pay dirt.

Remember, former Tide receiver/kick returners David Palmer and Marquis Maze were also quarterbacks at Jackson-Olin and Tarrant, respectively.

Turns out, Stewart's athletic ability may not be his best attribute, according to his coach, Keith Register, who said "He's just a leader. It's his attitude. I came out here to the field the other day, and guess who was pushing a mower on that big bank over there? No. 13 (Stewart). Now, how many SEC-committed Division One prospects do you see doing that?"

Not too many. But, as the stats show, he can play ball, too, this Stewart kid. "He's explosive," said Register. "He can play quarterback, receiver, safety, and return kicks and punts. Wherever we put him, or wherever Alabama puts him, he's going to be a great player."

Friday, Stewart had a pair of huge hits at free safety, but Register said he thinks Alabama will first look at Stewart as a slot receiver, which makes sense when you consider that's where the Tide staff had him at camp this summer. Stewart told BamaMag.com at that time that "there wasn't anyone who could cover me. I felt like I did good (at receiver). It's a big transition for me.

"Coach (Mike) Groh (Bama's receivers coach) talked to me. He said I did good, (but) I just need to work on beating the jam better when I first come off the line."

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Woodland running back Michael Howard (5-10, 185) can juke and jive, while Fultondale fullback Dante Stanley is a fireplug at 5-6, 155 who is tough to bring down. Much speed was shown by Khyree Robinson (5-8, 150) when he took a screen pass from Stewart 58 yards for six.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Fultondale offensive/defensive lineman Kadarrius Lawrence (6-0, 290) will likely see time at the next level. The same is true for Woodland quarterback John Wes Adcock (5-11, 170).

SUPER SOPH: Watch out for young linebacker/running back Justus Herring, who is 5-10, 195. His 4.8 40 time will get better in the next two years. Then there's Coby Spears, a 5-7, 160-pounder who returns kicks with a lot of heart.

LARRY MUNSON "MY GOD, A FRESHMAN!" AWARD: Keeping in the family is freshman Jared Stewart, younger brother of Ardarius. He is 5-9, 140, and has already caught the eye of several SEC schools, including the one his brother is committed to. Jared plays defensive back and slot receiver. He had a pair of passes broken up.

HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: It was only fair on this first trip to Fultondale to try both the stadium burger and hot dog. Well, the burger was fine. You could tell it had at least been grilled. I think the hot dog was boiled. Minus points! By the way, if you've never tried mayo on a hot dog, you should. It almost rescued this one. On the way home, I found out Whataburger has a 44-ounce shake, and, that if one drives slowly enough, it can last from Gardendale to Hoover.

GUEST QUARTERS: I camped out in the visitor's press box, which until the sun went down was like a convection oven. I appreciated the Woodland fan who pointed out the wasp nest behind me. Fortunately, the insects treated this visitor with respect and did not attack or sting. I thank them for that. I guess they knew about the boiled hot dogs.

NEXT UP: It's hard to say which aspect of Hoover at Northridge I'm looking more forward to, the match up of the state's top two juniors (Northridge running back Bo Scarborough and Hoover corner Marlon Humphrey), or the pre-game meal at legendary Northport eatery City Café. I will have to get back to you on that one.

BamaMag Top Stories