Friday Night Lights Is Really Impressed

CLAY – Make no mistake about it. Clay-Chalkville is the top-ranked 6A team in Alabama for a reason. Pinson Valley found that out the hard way Friday night, as the Indians fell hard, 65-10, to the home-standing Cougars, with an Ole Miss scout on hand. To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: Going to go with Nico Collins here, but it was a close call. He has a VERY good senior teammate, who is committed to Alabama (more on him later), but Collins is one of Alabama’s top juniors. Like A.J. Brown of Starkville (’16) and Justyn Ross of Central-Phenix City (’18), Collins is thought of by some as his class’s Julio Jones.

“Nico’s a great player, and he’s tall and long. I think he’s doing some things better (than last year),” said Cougars Coach Jerry Hood. “I think we’re seeing improvement at the top of his routes, and his toughness when he’s blocking is a lot better.”

Added Pinson Coach Matt Glover, “He’s tall. He’s like 6-5. He’s a good looking kid You can tell he’s a little bit rawer than T.J. (T.J. Simmons, his senior teammate), but he’s a great player.”

For the game, Collins hauled in five catches for 119 yards and a pair of scores of 60 and 23 yards. He has it all: height, speed, hands, and tenacity. Kind of like Jones did in his days at Foley High.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: As Collins is compared to Julio, Tide pledge T.J. Simmons is pegged as another Kevin Norwood. Still high praise. “T.J.’s a phenomenal player,” Hood said. “He does everything we ask. He has a great attitude, and he’s a different level kid than most high school kids.”

Glover added, “We’ve been playing (Simmons) for three years now, and he has really improved as a receiver. What I like about him is he’s a tough-nosed kid who will block you, play tight end, or split out and catch the football. I like those kind of kids.” (Glover may have one. More on him down the page.)

Simmons caught two balls for 102 yards (unofficially) Friday. He took a kickoff back 98 yards to the house. He would have had an 80-yard kick run back for six points, but a penalty limited that return to 25 yards. Still, Simmons accounted for 207 all-purpose yards. Those who have questioned his speed, needn’t. He and Collins both planned to be in Tuscaloosa for Saturday’s Ole Miss-Alabama tilt.

Collins and Simmons have one of Alabama’s top quarterbacks throwing to them, when he’s not handing off or running the ball himself. Ty Pigrome (5-11, 165) may not be quite that tall, but he is very fun to watch; a kind of a Blake Sims-type quarterback, with offers from Missouri, UAB, Troy, South Alabama, and Southern Miss. He can hurt you with his arm and his feet. Pigrome took the Cougars to last year’s 6A title at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and could well do it again this December at Bryant-Denny. Pigrome accounted for four touchdowns Friday, three by air and one on the ground, a 39-yard scramble.

For the Indians, receiver Errius Collins (5-11, 163) is getting some small college looks.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Pinson’s Torrey Hendrix is a 5-foot-6, 165-pounder who runs hard despite his size. SUPER SOPHS: Two names to watch here for John Garcia, Jr. and anyone else tracking these things. For the Cougars, linebacker D’Markes Davis is already 6-1, 228, and he brings the lumber. The Indians’ tight end/slot receiver Liallen Dailey is a 6-3, 190-pounder who Glover says is already hearing from Alabama and a few other SEC schools. Dailey showed tenacity as a blocker and looked good concentrating on the ball on a 23-yard back shoulder catch down the sideline.

FAMILIAR FACE: He coached Andre Smith of Alabama and the NFL’s Bengals back in the day as head man at Huffman, but now Curtis Coleman is an assistant on Hood’s staff at Clay-Chalkville. Always good to see Coach Coleman.

HOW ‘BOUT THAT PORK: If you are anywhere near downtown Birmingham, you need to check out Saw's Soul Kitchen in the historic Avondale District, 41st St. South to be exact. It’s kind of a dive; okay, it is a dive, but wow, do they have some good food! I tried the pulled pork sandwich combo, and chose devilled eggs (yes, we Baptists do use that term). The meat was tender, the sauce had a sweet and spicy taste, but not too spicy, and the eggs were just the way I like them. The sweet tea was good, too. If you can't find a seat inside, there are several picnic tables on the sidewalk. There are other menu items I plan to try on subsequent visits such as smoked chicken and fried chicken sandwiches. I will be back!

NEXT UP: Prattville visits Crampton Bowl in Montgomery to face Carver, as top prospect Lyndell Wilson of the Wolverines, whose nickname of “Mack” comes because he hits like the truck of the same name, tries to help his team pull off the upset against the state’s No. 2 team in 7A (though Friday’s loss at Phenix City will likely drop the Lions in the poll). As you can guess, the Lions have their share of prospects, too.

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