Friday Night Lights Were On In Georgia

SUGAR HILL, GA. – In a rare out-of-state trip by FNL, we took in the matchup between the Gainesville Red Elephants and the upstart Lanier Longhorns, a key Region 8-AAAAA game at “The Ranch.” When the clock hit all zeroes, the win went to Lanier, 26-23. This is rather big for the Longhorns program, as Lanier became a school in 2010 and is in just its third year of full time varsity play.

Gainesville is the alma mater of Alabama quarterback Blake Sims.

To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: Though both teams have a fine senior class, it’s Lanier junior Derrick Brown (6-5, 290) who has the best offer lists. Brown, a quick and strong defensive lineman, has verbal offers from Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Clemson and several other high D-1 schools. After watching him play a full game, it’s easy to see why. In this contest, Brown had several tackles for loss. He batted a ball down. He ran a fake punt up the middle for a first down. He picked off a short pass that a wide receiver bobbled and took it for a 48-yard touchdown.

And that was just in the first three quarters. In the final stanza, Brown got two program-defining sacks, one as time expired to preserve the win.

Said Lanier Coach Korey Mobbs, “Derrick has done a tremendous job for us. He’s not only grown in stature, but also from a leadership perspective. When he walks on the field, he’s the guy that is eye-popping just because of his size, and he has definitely elevated his play from his sophomore year to his junior year. We expect that to continue.”

Boy, has it. Added veteran Gainesville Coach Bruce Miller, “He’s a big boy, who can move. He is very impressive on film, and I can understand why he has so many SEC offers. He’s a very good player.”

Brown seems to be in no hurry to narrow the list. He really enjoys the recruiting process. Kirby Smart is his recruiter for Alabama. When Brown gets on a roll, he looks like a young Jadeveon Clowney.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Miller has several guys in his senior class already committed to D-1 schools. That list includes linebacker Jedarius Sosebee (Charleston Southern) receiver/running back Michael Byrd (Illinois State), receiver/corner Chris Williamson (Louisiana Monroe) and safety Lewis Cousins (Troy). Each played well Friday.

For the Longhorns, running back Tario Fuller (5-11,190) recently pledged to Purdue. He can be tough to tackle. Meanwhile safety Stefan Ball (5=10, 175) is putting together a stellar season. He came into the game with six interceptions to go with 54 tackles.

Also, I don’t mind telling you part of my motivation for covering this contest was a chance to see my nephew, Lanier long snapper James Clark (6-2, 200), who will tell you he benefitted greatly by taking my advice to attend Nick Saban’s Specialists Camp this past summer, where he got instruction from snapping guru Chris Rubio. Rubio has taught many of the top snappers in the game, several of whom are now in the NFL.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: For the Longhorns, Ashton Barnes (5-9, 180) is a quick, tough-running back.

For Gainesville, Messiah Dorsey was nearly the savior as he hauled in a long touchdown pass to tie the game at 23 with three minutes left. He’s 6-0, 180 and rather fast.

SUPER SOPHS: Lanier middle linebacker Juwan Jones (6-2, 220) is one to watch. He understands the game and brings the lumber. His teammate, running back Marcko Baity (5-10, 180), showed flashes, too.

CRIMSON CONNECTION: Miller was happy to share a few Blake Sims stories during a recent radio interview which is archived at . I asked him about the athletic Sims’ kick return exploits at GHS. Miller said, “When he was a senior, about the seventh or eighth game, we were non-existent returning kicks and punts. I said I was going to put (Sims) back deep. Everyone questioned my sanity, but in the state semifinal game, we were struggling and down 14-0. They kicked to us, and Blake returned it for a touchdown. It ignited us. Blake was an excellent punt and kick returner in high school.”

HOW ‘BOUT THEM RIBS: The name alone drew me to Lard Have Mercy, located on Buford Highway not too far from Lanier’s stadium. Open just over two years, Lard Have Mercy (love typing that) is located next to a church in a strip mall. It features a varied menu with ribs comparable to those at Memphis’ legendary Rendezvous. The ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, but served dry, with a choice of six sauces. The house sauce is sweet and tangy, and suited me well. Trust me: at my age it’s best to go as non-spicy as possible. I also enjoyed the pork (it was a combo) and the stuffed eggs. The baked beans were a tad too tangy, as was the lemonade. The sweet tea, however was great. I’m talking Taco Casa/Chick-fil-A great.

HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: The Ribs were a late lunch, so by the middle of the third quarter of the game I was ready to sample the stadium burger at Lanier, as this was my first official trip for a regular season game. (I had seen a couple of spring games, but didn’t write about either or try a burger.) My thoughts? Not disappointing. It had clearly just come off the grill, as the meat was warm and moist. Condiments were readily available. Much the same could be said about the burger I had Thursday night at the Briarwood Christian eighth grade game at McAdory. It, though, came with hot, crispy fries as part of a combo, with a drink. That contest featured another nephew, Will Pratt, who got a half-sack in a tough , 6-0 loss. One of his teammate’s dads is Birmingham radio personality Rick Burgess, who used his booming voice to keep the officials in line. To hear Rick tell it, McAdory held on every snap.

NEXT UP: It’s always fun to cover games at Leeds. Bruising junior running back Tre’ Nation and athletic quarterback Tadarryl “T.D.” Marshall will try to lead their Green Wave over visiting Childersburg. Leeds will probably not be in a good mood, as Bama commitment Anfernee Jennings and his Dadeville squad handed the Green Wave their first loss of the season Friday night. Interestingly, Jennings and Dadeville are on the FNL docket for later this season.

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