Friday Night Lights: Where ya Ben?

MONTGOMERY, Ala -- Its been said many times that timing is everything. Apparently, FNL needs to work on its timing, at least in regards to which week to see prospects play. Take Selma star Ben Obomanu, for example.

Two weeks ago against Sidney Lanier, Obomanu had one rush for a 45-yard touchdown, four receptions for 81 yards, and a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown. He also made a leaping grab of a two-point conversion pass. Playing safety on defense, Obomanu had nine tackles and one interception. Selma won that game, 34-20.

This week, the Saints basically didn't show up. Though the 6-2, 180 pound Obomanu finished with three catches for 29 yards, he got only one for three yards versus the Generals starting defense. Ben ran a reverse, which lost nine yards, and fumbled the opening kickoff to Lee, which scored two plays later en route to a 42-0 romp. Ben did return one kickoff cleanly for 20 yards.

Despite having an off night versus a quality Lee H.S. team, the multi-talented Obomanu remains one of the top two or three prospects in the state, and a primary target for the Tide staff.

FNL travelled to Cramton Bowl hoping to see Ozzie Newsome. What we saw, at this early point in Ben's career, was something less. With coaching, experience and weight training, Ben will be fine. We just picked a night where a fine prospect didn't show up.

"Several times, Ben had a situation to make some plays," said Selma Head Coach Jerome Harper. "Over on the sideline (when Ben dropped a flea flicker pass he had to wait on after beating the Lee backup corner)...We just didn't play. For whatever reason, he didn't play, and nobody else played (well)."

Harper will be the first to tell you this was not par for the course for his star. "Ben is the man. He's the straw that stirs the milk. He normally makes things happen."

To his credit, Ben certainly showed his athleticism by making several nice open field tackles and catching a Lee runner from behind at the six yard line. Alas, the Generals scored the next play. On to the categories:

SENIORS WHO SHINED: For Lee, tailback Antonio Jones (5-10, 180) continues to shine. Jones had 15 carries for 141 yards and now has 395 yards in four contests, despite sharing tailback duties with fellow senior Damien Gray (5-10, 188).

It would be tough to express in words the job General senior CB Demetrius Derico (5-11, 175) did on Obomanu. Locked up man-to-man on one of the state's top five prospects, Derico held Ben to one catch for three yards through three quarters before Generals' Head Coach Bill Granger cleared the bench.

"We put our best on their best," said Granger of his plan to contain Obomanu. "Demetrius Derico is one of the best 'technical' cornerbacks I've ever coached. He does every little thing right. We knew tonight he wouldn't go for any bluffs or fakes. He's also a great tackler and a good hitter. We felt like, the jukes (Obomanu) gives off the ball, if he'd stay at home, let him do that, and just stay at home he'd have an opportunity (to shut Ben down)."

Obomanu's combination of size, speed and intelligence have scouts drooling over his potential as a college receiver.

Granger says Derico is hearing mostly from Alabama State and Tuskegee, but recently Troy State and UAB have inquired.

For Selma, Darius McCarroll (5-9, 186) showed flashes in the secondary, and Cedric Johnson (6-2, 260) is a load on both sides of the line.

JUNIORS OF NOTE: For Selma, Jarvis Williams (6-1, 196) showed Brooks Daniels type quickness in patrolling the width of the field from his OLB post. He made about half the tackles for the Saints, it seemed.

For Lee, Pedro Bennett (6-4, 330) is big, but was agile enough to harass Selma quarterback Jai Miller all night. Miller, a 6-4, 183-pounder, is an agile QB who is said to be quite the basketballer. In fact, Jai is buddies with current Tide hoops recruit Chuck Davis of rival Southside-Selma.

SUPER SOPHS: Lee backup OL Antoine Caldwell (6-2, 245) just needs that last growth spurt. Many feel Tony Seawright (5-9, 156) will be the starting tailback at Lee for the next two seasons. Saints' OL/DL Kendall Dixon (5-10, 340) needs a growth spurt too, just the upward-only variety. Jeremy Carter (6-2, 203) is a specimen at TE/LB.

FANTASTIC FROSH: Its not every week FNL gets to use this category, but we couldn't help but notice Selma MLB Tommy Williams (6-0, 240), a darn good player for any grade, much less ninth. DB Robert Childers (6-0, 134) needs to put on weight, but he's athletic. K'Chebe Boyd (6-0, 313) needs the above-mentioned upward growth spurt.

Lee doesn't use ninth graders, as the Montgomery City schools have those kids in junior high, where feeder schools Capitol Heights, Goodwyn and Georgia Washington provide the future Generals. On this night, the cheerleaders from those three schools got hte join the Lee varsity and JV squads during the pre-game tribute.

BEST TRIBUTE: That would have to be the trumpet solo of God Bless America by the young man from the Lee band. It was quite well done and held the crowd's attention.

HOW 'BOUT THEM BURGERS: FNL knew from previous experience not to expect too much from the burgers at the Cramton Bowl concession stands. However, FNL also knew from years past about the fine burgers just two miles east of the stadium at Poppa T's Sports Pub. In fact, Tommy and Carolyn, the owners of Poppa T's, have been providing the Lee football team's pre-game meals for home games for years. Arguably the capitol city's best burger, Poppa T's serves em up warm, grilled just right, moist and garnished just how you like 'em. Toss in hot, crispy fries and some of the best sweet tea around, and you'll never hear the words "bad meal" and "Poppa T's" in the same sentence. As usual, they didn't disappoint.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: At least Selma can say it won something this night. Its rare for the Marching Generals to be outperformed, but they didn't quite have the bounce in the boogy-steps the visitors did. Bonus points for a stirring rendition of the school fight song, the old reliable "When the Saints Go Marching In."

NEXT WEEK: Open Date, as FNL will be on the way to Columbia, SC to assist in coverage of the Tide/Gamecocks tilt. Coverage resumes two weeks from now with a review of the Mountain Brook/John Carroll Catholic game. Spartans' senior Grant Brigham continues to put up big numbers and consider the Tide, so we'll take a first-hand look.

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