ATLANTA – My days as a Stone Mountain Pirate are long over. I still remember catching a pass on a fake field goal on JV, and intercepting a pass near the end of my last game in pads against Decatur in 1976. I remember running a 4:45 mile in May of 1977, a hundred pounds and a hundred years ago. Those were good times.
Truth is, though, we weren’t very good in football. My two varsity years, we went 5-15. We lost to teams like Avondale with future Clemson and Atlanta Falcon player Cliff Austin. I tackled Cliff on a kickoff by what would now be flagged as a horse collar. But he went down.
One spring, we lost a jamboree game to Columbia, whose staunch defender made our usually tough and cocky center cry on the bus ride home. Suffice it to say he never again wants to lay eyes on former Alabama and Green Bay linebacker Randy Scott. Oh, and we lost to Marist, who featured the Aaron boys: linebacker Hank Jr, who had a pick-six to open matters, and Lary, who was an excellent cornerback.
Our coach, former Tennessee Tech quarterback Tom VanTone, used to tell us during PE what it was like playing against Terry Bradshaw and Louisiana Tech. I now want to know what it was like playing against Bradshaw’s predecessor, Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. I could go on, but it was really neat to see my alma mater play Friday against Pace Academy, a school which knows a thing or two about producing offensive line prospects. Pace crushed the visiting Pirates, 44-20
To the categories:
TOP PROSPECT: Jamaree Salyer is a 6-4, 308-pound true offensive guard. He has lots of college options, with his leaders being Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State. Others under consideration include Alabama, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida, and Michigan State. All have offered. He’s Scout’s number nine junior and top offensive guard. He’s got a motor. He’s kind of like Chance Warmack.
“He just works extremely hard every week, and every day. He just gets after it,” said Pace Coach Chris Slade of Salyer. “He studies film. He’s one of the hardest working guys on the team. He just improves every day.”
Added Stone Mountain Coach Utavius (no kin to Mark) Ingram: “Salyer’s got size, and great feet. He’s good at blocking the point of attack, and he plays with great leverage.”
As Scout.com’s Chad Simmons pointed out earlier this week in a Salyer story, the big man “burst onto the scene as a freshman. He came out of middle school as a big offensive lineman, then he hit the camp circuit, he impressed, and he quickly started picking up scholarship offers. He was just one of a handful of underclassmen to compete at The Opening Finals in July, and he very much held his own.” Chad knows his stuff. I try to, and I concur with these findings.
SENIORS WHO SHINED: One thing in Kirby Smart’s favor with Salyer is that UGA has a pledge from offensive tackle and good friend Andrew Thomas (6-5, 305). That, and Athens is just 45 minutes up the road for both young men. Also headed to UGA is wide receiver Trey Blount (6-3, 200). Duke commitment/running back Deon Jackson (6-0, 205) shined as a runner and receiver, scoring both ways.
For Stone Mountain, outside linebacker Darian Bernard (6-4, 225) has offers from Cincinnati and Tulane, and interest from Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Virginia. Running back Larry Brooks (5-8, 180) has over 400 yards in four games and his 4.4 40 has mid majors interested. Tight end Thomas Incoom (6-4, 225) has a Troy offer and he benefitted this night from an Ole Miss-Auburn type tip drill touchdown he caught and ran for 76 yards. Also, wide receiver-defensive back Isaiah Jennings (5-9, 175) has a legit shot at the next level. All four started as juniors for Ingram. That squad went 0-10. This year the Pirates beat rival Clarkston 47-0 two weeks ago to end a 26-game losing skid.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: Pace features linebacker Realus George, a 6-1, 240-pound heavy hitter.
For the Pirates, Ingram has linebacker Mason Litt (5-11, 222) and corner Ashton Collins (5-10, 190).
SUPER SOPHS: Stone Mountain has outside linebacker Micah Ash (6-2, 195) and he’s quick to the ball.
For the Knights, Coach Slade uses running back Keashawn Perryman (5-7, 185) and got a 20-yard touchdown rush from him this night. Kicker Patrick Markwalter (6-0, 200) made all four PAT’s he tried, a 22-yard field goal, and booted five kickoff touchbacks.
LARRY MUNSON “MY GOD, A FRESHMAN!” AWARD”: Ninth-grader Mbiti Willems (5-10, 165) transferred form Archer and plays a lot at corner, receiver, and covering kicks. It’s a name to remember.
CRIMSON CONNECTION: It would be easy to say that Falcons owner Arthur Blank supports Pace (the middle school is named for him), and he writes checks to Julio Jones, Courtney Upshaw, and Blake Sims. Ah, but FNL digs deeper than that. In my interview with Stone Mountain Coach Ingram, I learned that Ingram had been a three-year Bama walk-on from 2002-2004 under coaches Franchione and Shula, before transferring to West Alabama for his final two seasons to get playing time. He played at Opelika High.
DIRECTIONALLY CHALLENGED: Remember last year when I showed up to Central High in Phenix City and found out they played down the road at a city stadium? Welcome to this year, when I showed up to Pace Academy in Atlanta to find out the Knights play at their own sports complex a county over in Cobb. Add a half hour to that trip. Still got there 25 minutes before the kick, but only because most Georgia games kick off at 7:30 as opposed to 7 in Alabama. Sheesh.
HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: Wow. Not good. Burnt, dry and tasteless. No mayo available. B-A-D.
HOW ‘BOUT THAT BARBEQUE: For many years, Atlantans have flocked to Old Hickory House in Tucker on Northlake Parkway, Known for its not too hot homemade sauce, this place has lots of repeat business. I hadn’t been in 19 years until Wednesday, and I had the quarter chicken special with fired okra and Brunswick stew. I like the sauce because it’s just sweet enough to please the palate. The garlic bread is spot on, and they’ve been around long enough to know how Southerners like their sweet tea. The chicken was tender and tasty, too. I will be back. Often. It’s a short drive from the day job.
NEXT UP: Lithonia (another old Stone Mountain foe) travels to Westlake, where this year’s team features junior safety Myles Sims, who is getting several D-1 looks. Oh, and there will be restaurant and burger reviews, too, if you were wondering.