Friday Night Lights Checks Pats-Lions

Briarwood Christian's Lions and Homewood High's Patriots share many things. Two of those are a proud football tradition and playing in Class 5A, Region 4. On this night in Homewood, the rivalry also featured one of the state of Alabama's top – and youngest – senior prospects. Homewood won the game, 38-14, to gain the early lead for the region crown. To the categories:



TOP PROSPECT: Without question, that would be 6-foot-4, 340-pound man-child Jordan Sims. Though a senior, Sims just turned 17 a few weeks ago. He plans to get down to 320 pounds, and his top three schools right now are Florida, Auburn and Ole Miss. His dream school is Alabama, but the Tide wants to see senior film before extending a committable offer.

This is not uncommon with offensive linemen, an example being former Tide and NFL player Antoine Caldwell. Sims, due to his young age for a senior, could be a prime greyshirt candidate should he want to go to college in Tuscaloosa, but even that is yet to be determined.

"He's graded in the high 90's in both (Homewood) games. He's had more than six ‘pancakes' (blocks where Sims took his opponent to the ground) in both games," said Pats Coach Doug Goodwin in a pre-game interview with Birmingham's ABC 33-40. "We couldn't have asked for him to play any better than he's actually played."

Added senior running back Orlando Swann, "(Sims) opens up a big hole. He'll just move three or four people out of the way. Every play,"

Briarwood Coach Fred Yancey has been at this a while. He first won a state crown with a seventh grader who played in Tuscaloosa and then the NFL, and is now an Alabama grad assistant named Tim Castille.

Yancey has sent many players to the SEC. He knows talent when he sees it, and he sees it in Sims.

"Good night, nurse! He could start for us," a grinning Yancey told FNL. "He's a great player. Nobody's going to be able to deal with him all year long, until he gets to college."

Sims projects as a guard/center in the SEC. On this night, he had a few pancakes and showed good leverage, fine footwork, and nice but legal use of his hands. He seemed to be hobbling a bit, and was pulled at the half as it was clear the Pats had the game in hand.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Six foot, 217-pound hard-running Homewood running back Walter Rutledge is getting some college looks. The same is true for Briarwood center Jake Bracewell (6-1, 220) and linebacker Ethan Simmons (6-0, 200).

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Sims isn't the only man on the Pats' offensive line drawing the attention of college recruiters. Watch out for right tackle John Yarbrough, who is 6-5, 260 and nimble, too. He and Sims make up arguably 5A's best side of an offensive line.

For the Lions, Yancey moved last year's quarterback Chandler Wilkins (6-0, 195) to cornerback to get his best 22 men on the field at once. Another Lions' junior to keep an eye on is Jacob Shirley, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound defensive end.

SUPER SOPH: Though not yet a starter, quarterback Walker Lott has a great future according to Briarwood insiders. He is currently listed at 6-2, 200, and sees action in most games. Friday, he entered with just under five minutes left, and used both his legs and arm to lead a touchdown drive. Lott could be pushing to start by year's end.

CRIMSON CONNECTION: Veteran Tide fans will recognize the names of two Briarwood assistants. David Hannah coaches the offensive line, while Chris Donnelly tutors the secondary. (By the way, Hannah's older brother, Hall of Famer John, is a volunteer offensive line coach this year at Gardendale High.)

LANDMARK WIN: Elsewhere, Vestavia Hills' veteran coach Buddy Anderson led his Rebels to a 30-8 win over Huffman Thursday night. The victory was Anderson's 300th in his long and storied career. FNL sends Anderson a huge congrats, and thanks for taking time to speak with us so many times over the years.

HOW BOUT THAT STEAK & SHRIMP: In the past, FNL has written about a restaurant called Legends Smokehouse, which had locations in Clay and Trussville. That tasty eatery closed, but its owner, Randy Walls, has joined with three partners to open The Choppin' Block in Springville. Walls' late father Clay alternated at quarterback with Bart Starr under Ears Whitworth before serving as a grad assistant for Paul Bryant. Randy Walls knows how to run a restaurant, and I was again reminded of that when I had lunch with him Friday. I tried the 6-ounce filet with a fried shrimp. Both entrees were quite tasty, as was the sweet tea to wash them down and the cool, crispy house salad. The Choppin' Block is open Wednesday through Sunday at 11 a.m., and serves lunch and dinner.

NEXT UP: Prattville at Thompson. The Lions feature unsung running back Kamryn Pettway, an Auburn pledge built like Bo Jackson, who scored four times Friday in a win over Wetumpka. Also, Prattville and Thompson have some underclassmen FNL wants to check out.

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