Friday Night Lights Has Thursday Game

CENTER POINT – Friday Night Lights had never visited the still fairly new Center Point High School until a rare Thursday contest when the Eagles hosted Shades Valley. Each team has some prospects, though the one that won the game 27-0 has more of the SEC variety.

In case you were not aware, Center Point High used to be known as Erwin, and is still the Eagles wearing blue and white, but the new school building and athletic complex is quite nice. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT(S): We’re going to call this a draw, even though big Daron Payne (6-3, 320) has a little better offer list than his pal Keith Mixon (5-9, 180). Mixon has nine touchdowns in Shades Valley’s three games (all wins) under Head Coach (and former Alabama punter) Bill Smith. Smith had a LOT of good things to say about each of his senior stars.

“(Payne) has worked, and he’s put in the hours. He had a great summer. He spent about a third of his summer away (at camps and combines) on paid trips that the five stars get to go on. Anytime you go against great competition, it makes you better. Daron wanted to go to the same places that (Lester Cotton, featured in last week’s FNL) went. It was a challenge. I was reading that Lester Cotton had 22 pancakes last week (against Brookwood). That’s outlandish! We’re looking for big things out of Daron.

“Keith (Mixon) is a workaholic. Not only is he genetically gifted (with several 4.4 40’s at camps in Tuscaloosa and Starkville), and God’s really blessed him with ability, but he works. Sunday, he’ll be at the ballpark, and he’ll have his ladders. He’ll be doing ladder drills and quickness drills. He’ll probably have about 10 or 15 of his teammates with him, too. He makes everybody better. I don’t have to preach it at Keith. Keith is his own toughest critic, so he pushes every day to make himself better.”

Center Point Coach Bennie Hall had good things to say about both young men, as well. He said watching film on Payne makes him use “every adjective you can to describe an excellent, D-1 prospect. He’s big, strong, quick, and his motor’s running all the time. A heck of an athlete.”

Hall said Mixon is a “quality athlete with SEC-type skills. Thai’s why he’s being recruited, and why he’s going where he’s going. I’m impressed with his shiftiness. He can stop on a dime, cut, and make people miss in the open field. You’ve got get a lot of hats (helmets) to him, and try to keep him contained in one spot.”

Mixon caught four passes for 77 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown on a middle screen. He also had a deep catch for 33 yards. He ran for a four-yard score behind the blocking of situational offensive man Payne. Payne made three tackles (unofficially), had a quarterback hurry, but his highlight came later on goal line offense, when he lined up at tight end and caught a four-yard touchdown from Rashad Louie.

Mixon confirmed that he and Payne will travel to Tuscaloosa Saturday for an official visit to Alabama’s game against Florida Atlantic. Mixon is committed to Mississippi State, but an Alabama offer would likely change that and wrap up Payne, his close friend. For comparison purposes, Mixon resembles the high school version of Tyrone Prothro or Marquis Maze. Mixon caught a 68-yard pass on fourth down late in the game to propel the Mounties over Florence and Tide commitment Keaton Anderson two weeks ago in the opener. Payne is a lot like Josh Chapman. He often draws double teams and frees his teammates up to make most tackles.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: For Center Point, quarterback Keilan Knight is athletic at 6-2, 205 and hears a lot from UAB, Southern Miss and Jacksonville State. He threw some nice passes, but many were dropped. He moves well in the pocket. Running back/linebacker Antonio Johnson (6-1, 180) hears from Alcorn State (offer) along with UAB and Jacksonville State.

For the Mounties, offensive tackle Josh Williams (6-4, 310) is hearing Louisana-Lafayette, West Alabama and Kentucky. He can move for his size.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Shades Valley quarterback Claude Newell is 6-3, 205, and has a strong arm. He normally backs up Louie, but started on this night and the two split time. He tossed a pair of TD’s and, for the most part, showed good pocket presence. He showed good touch on a 37-yard deep ball to fellow junior, wide receiver Anthony Conwell (5-8, 175). Their teammate, linebacker Lilmaine Patterson, is a two-year member of the FNL All-Name Team at 5-10, 225. That is short for his position, but he’ll hit you.

For the Eagles, defensive end Antonio Rolley is 6-1, 220 and quicker than many linemen he faces.

SUPER SOPHS: For Center Point, he’s not the biggest fellow on the field but running back Chestin Jones (5-9, 180) is one of the quickest, and he has good hands out of the backfield.

For Shades Valley, watch for young defensive tackle Quenterrius Ward, who hopefully has one more growth spurt in him at 5-10, 240. He was active all night.

HOW BOUT THEM BURGERS: The first trip to a stadium always means sampling the concession stand’s hamburgers. Its music to this writer’s ears when the girl taking his order asks “Are the burgers ready yet?” and gets the response “Yes, the first one is just coming off the grill.” Oh, yes, please. And it did not disappoint. Moist, juicy and cooked just right (medium), I was quite happy with this one.

NEXT UP: A bye week, but in two weeks a Friday trip to Alabaster is planned as junior nose guard T.J. Rayam (I think you remember his dad) and his Thompson Warriors host prospect-laden Hoover.

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