Friday Night Lights In Tuscaloosa County

BROOKWOOD – In a contest that featured some 24 penalties and took nearly three hours to play, the Brookwood Panthers held off hard-charging Central of Tuscaloosa, 20-15, at Billy Joe Young Field Friday night. The visiting Falcons reached the Panther 28-yard line with six seconds left, only to see the game end on an interception as time expired.

The game featured one big-time Division One prospect committed to his hometown school, and a bevy of players that could see time at some level of college football. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: That would be mammoth offensive tackle Lester Cotton, all 6-5, 325 pounds of him. He has committed to Alabama. When the Falcons need yardage to convert on third or fourth down, they run behind this man-mountain, who shows good footwork, leverage, and knows how to use his hands legally. There’s the occasional pancake, but there’s effort on every play, even when Cotton subs in at defensive tackle.

“Lester’s a captain and he’s a leader,” said Falcons Coach Dennis Conner. “He’s a big part of our team (physically and emotionally). “He’s worked hard on his agility, he’s more physical, and he’s a whole lot stronger than he was when he came here in the tenth grade.”

(Conner and his family returned to Tuscaloosa after a stint in St. Louis two years ago.)

Said Brookwood Head Coach Ricky Bush: “We’ve been able to watch (Cotton) play for the last few years. You go back and look at the things he’s done, and how he’s progressed, and you know that you’re going to see one of the most physical specimens that you’re going to face all year. You look at him and you see his attitude, his work ethic and the way that he finishes each and every play, is remarkable.”

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Devonta Jenkins of Brookwood is one of the tops athletes in West Alabama. “The guys believe in him, we (coaches) believe in him, and he believes in himself,” Bush said. “He’s just a pleasure to coach.”

One can see why. Jenkins (6-3, 178) converted several big third downs with his arm and his legs. He threw a touchdown pass of 31 yards, and scored twice on the ground from nine yards out an on a one-yard sneak. He also threw a 49-yard pass to the 1-yard line to set that sneak up. He was the difference in the game. Left tackle Ethan Howard (6-5, 270) helps protect and clear the way for Jenkins.

For the Falcons, Malik Hamner (6-5, 230) is listed as a tight end but he splits out wide most plays. He uses his body as a shield well and has good hands, which he showed on a nine-yard touchdown catch.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Brookwood receiver Grant Larson is a 5-10, 160-pounder who will break your heart on possession downs, and he caught the aforementioned 31-yard TD and 49-yarder to set one up. He also had a sliding catch to convert a third down in the fourth quarter and take time off the clock. Kid’s a gamer. His teammate, linebacker Nathan Larson, is hearing some from Jacksonville State, though he’s listed at 5-9, 150. He may project as a safety.

For the Falcons, running back Eldrick Jones is 5-9, 175 but runs like he’s Derrick Henry’s size. He has quickness, speed, and a lot of toughness. He was well over 100 yards, and lost a few more on flags.

SUPER SOPHS: Central’s starting center Tom Brown made his first varsity appearance. He’s listed 6-0, 243, but likely has one more growth spurt left.

For the Panthers, safety Brandon Johnson (5-8, 130) had two picks, including the game clincher.

HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: No trip to Brookwood is complete without a stop at Henry’s Burgers and Cream, on Highway 216. They cook the meat just right, it’s tender, and comes with all the fixins’. The onion rings are crispy, the tea is sweet and cold, and the milkshakes are just the right thickness. Yum!

NEXT UP: One of two Thursday night games on the docket, as big Daron Payne and Shades Valley travel to Center Point to take on the former Erwin Eagles.


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