Talent Displayed In Nail-Biter

IRONDALE – Many felt this game featuring unbeaten Shades Valley hosting Hewitt-Trussville would be a laugher. Turns out, it was a nail-biter, as the Mounties needed a late interception to seal a 42-35 wacky win in a contest that nearly lasted three hours, despite 12-minute quarters. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: I had hoped going in to see a Mt. Cody-, Jesse Williams-type nose guard manning the middle for Shades Valley in junior Daron Payne (6-3, 320). So much for preconceptions. What I saw was more a Josh Chapman, Brandon Ivory-type middle plugger, who draws lots of double-teams but still finds a way to disrupt the action.

"Daron's worked hard in the weight room, and he gained 20 pounds of muscle this past off-season," said Mounties coach (and former Alabama punter) Bill Smith. "He also improved his quickness. He's a young junior who just turned 16. I've been a strength and conditioning coach since 1992 and he was the first 15-year old I ever saw who could bench 400 and power-clean 300 pounds.

"He's elite level in both strength and potential (as a player). Oh, and he can still dunk a basketball."

Said veteran coach Hal Riddle of Hewitt: "(Payne's) big and quick, and he's a presence out there in the middle for them."

Payne had a couple of tackles for loss despite being double-teamed. He also notched a batted ball and had a Suplex body slam on a Husky runner that would have made LaMichael Fanning proud. Just picked the guy up, carried him to the sidelines, and deposited him on the ground. Colleges will be fighting toot and hail over Payne, but Alabama has established itself as his early leader.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: I did not realize that Mercer University of Macon, Ga., had a football team until Riddle told me senior defensive end Austin Wysor had committed there. He will need to add weight, but has good lateral movement.

For the Mounties, Smith says a pair of young men getting looks are safety Mike Carter (6-1, 215, 4.48), who had an interception, and left tackle Lanard Bonner, who will be a guard at the next level at 6-3, 315.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: While Payne is probably the highest rated SEC prospect who played in this game, his teammate and fellow junior Keith Mixon (5-8, 172, 4.43) was the most exciting.

Playing both running back and receiver, he scored four touchdowns and had a fifth called back due to holding. "He's averaging over 13 yards per carry and over 23 yards per catch," Smith said, and that's not hard to believe after seeing Mixon rush for a 47-yard score and take a screen pass 68 for another. He had an 86-yarder (also a screen) called back. Word is that Mixon joined Payne on an unofficial visit to Alabama for the Ole Miss game. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level, and is also a gifted kick returner. Mixon is one of those players who brings the crowd to its feet each time he touches the ball.

For the Huskies, quarterback Zach Thomas had some bright moments. He has the size to become a factor in recruiting should he work hard. (Official heights/weights were not available for all players.)

SUPER SOPHS: Shades Valley receiver/punt returner Anthony Conwell has hands and quickness. His teammate, defensive back Lil'Maine Patterson, has parents with a sense of humor.

HOW ‘BOUT THAT CHICKEN SANDWICH: When I got in line at a concession stand selling Bojangles, I was hoping for a leg and thing, but they weren't on the menu so I settled for a sandwich. While a tad spicy for my taste, two packs of mayo made it palatable. The sweet tea was spot on.

NEXT UP: Lee (Montgomery) at Carver: He's got one of the more fun names of the '14 class, but Carver linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton is a firm Tide pledge who brings the lumber. He's got some talented teammates, too.

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