Friday Night Lights Views Arabian Knights

ARAB – This small, Marshall County town in north Alabama is not well known for football, but the Arabian Knights may be in the process of producing quite the quarterback prospect. Friday Night Lights journeyed up to check out him and a visiting running back already committed to an SEC school. Oh, and there’s catfish. Southside of Gadsden dominated the hometown Knights, 45-7. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECTS: Yes, that’s plural, because Auburn pledge Alaric Williams (6-0, 198) of Southside and Arab quarterback Daulton Hyatt (6-4, 185) are both juniors worth watching. Williams committed to Auburn in late July, but Alabama is not throwing in the towel.

“Alaric has done a great job for us,” said Southside Coach Ron Daugherty. “The biggest things are his leadership and work ethic. We know what he’s going to do running and blocking. He’s getting better and better. A lot of people don’t realize that he’s a young junior. He’s got two more years of high school ball.

“He’s stepped up in every drill we’ve asked him he do. He never tries to duck out like a ‘superstar,’ so to me, that’s the most important thing for him.”

Asked about Hyatt, Daugherty likes what he sees. “What we look at is how he can throw the ball all around the field. He sticks it in somebody’s belly where they can catch it. The kid can make every throw, and not to mention his legs. He can take off and hurt you there, too. It’s tough to stop him.”

Of his quarterback, Arab Coach Adam Gilbert said, “(Hyatt’s) doing well. We lost 17 starters, and the first couple of games, he put too much on his shoulders. He’s making his reads great. He didn’t press the ball last week. He started that game 11 for 13 for 140, and finished 12 of 18.

“He’s just a winner. He’s trying to do what he can do to lead our team. His film work has progressed, and I think you’ll see that.”

Of Williams, Gilbert said the film says it all. “As a coach, the first thing I look at in a running back is, can he pass protect, or is he a selfish player. (Williams) is an all-around player. When he’s asked to block, he blocks his butt off, which is impressive to see. Of course, he runs the ball well, and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. He’s an all-around great back.”

Williams ran for 100 yards on 14 tries and one score, and he caught a 58-yard touchdown pass. Hyatt finished 9/26 for 85 yards, and his receivers dropped five catchable balls which could have added around 50 yards to his totals. He did not have a touchdown or an interception. He has a fine arm.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Arab tackle Colton Smith (6-2, 280) is a D-2 prospect who will sign somewhere. For the Panthers, kicker Kristian Wilmore made a 32-yard field and all six of his extra points. He’s a soccer player learning football who could progress. Then there’s linebacker Hunter Armstrong, a 6-1,235-pounder who would be more heavily recruited had he gone to camps instead of having to work summers, according to Daugherty.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: See above, under “Top Prospects.”

SUPER SOPHS: Arab running back Connor Smith (5-10, 162) is a tough, gritty runner who grinds for all he can. He has a chance to be at least a Division II prospect.

For the Panthers, tight end Gavin Orr is 6-3, 255 and likely a top 10 player in his class in the state. Going against current Auburn freshman Tyler Carr in practice made Orr a tough guy.

LARRY MUNSON “JUST A FRESHMAN!” AWARD: That goes to Southside’s’ reserve running back Kenneth “Cat” Bothwell, who rumbled for 95 yards on seven touches and a score off the bench. Write his name down.

HOW ‘BOUT THAT CATFISH: It’s always good to catch up with longtime friend and former Tide basketball manager Henry Matuszak, as I did at Albertville’s location of Catfish Cabin for a hearty pre-game meal. Located on U.S. 431, this eatery features good service and great food. I always go with the catfish on the bone with a steaming hot baked potato. There is rarely, if ever, room for the hot fudge cake, but we have Shoney’s for that. Plus, room must be saved for a certain stadium halftime delicacy and a category we call…

HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: As always, a first time FNL stadium visit means a sampling of the concession stand burgers. This week, the burgers were probably better before half time, when I indulged. This version had a high school cafeteria after taste. That despite adding mustard, mayo, ketchup and some BBQ sauce.

CRIMSON CONNECTIONS: Arab High sent 6-11 basketball center Mark Farmer to the Capstone from 1981-85. Shortly after that, Southside produced former Tide quarterback and current SEC referee David Smith. Former Tide offensive guard Larry Rose is an assistant on the Southside staff.

There’s more: Farmer’s high school hoops teammate. Jimmy “Choo Choo” Lowery, had a son, Will Lowery, who played first at Hoover then as a Bama walk-on DB. Then you have Wayne Trimble, who was a great all-around athlete for former Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Trimble played at several positions, notably linebacker and backup quarterback. Trimble, a long time Arab head coach, still attends games in retirement, as he did this one.

NEXT UP: FNL heads to Clay-Chalkville, where visiting Pinson gets to try to figure out how to cover “high school Kevin Norwood,” aka Bama pledge T.J. Simmons, and his teammate, “high school Julio,” Nico Collins. Good luck with that!


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