Jamarcus' Journey

BIRMINGHAM--They came from Tuscaloosa, Calera, Mobile, Birmingham, Alexander City, Moulton, and North Shelby County. They came to see a high school playoff game featuring two of the top junior prospects in the state of Alabama. Welcome to Jamarcus Russell vs Tim Castille, round two.

Last year, Castille and Briarwood Christian went on the road and lost Russell and Williamson High, 34-14 in Mobile's Ladd-Peebles Stadium in a third round contest. This year, the two met in round two of the 5A state playoffs, and Briarwood was the host team. Both sets of Lions knew they'd be in for a catfight.

Neither star player disappointed, and this year the Briarwood Christian Lions turned the tables, winning 31-6 to advance to round three. Castille led a second-half surge that helped the home team pull away from what looked for a while like it might be a barn-burner. To the categories:

QB Jamarcus Russell waiting on the play call

TOP PROSPECTS: Russell, all 6-5, 220 pounds of him, looked like a thinner Rohan Davey in the eyes of more than one journalist at the game. His head coach, Bobby Parrish, put his star quarterbacks skills in perspective, saying that Rusell "has great talent. His arm strength has improved. We ask a lot of Jamarcus, and he's matured. He can pick out a secondary receiver, and he has the ability to tuck it and run."

Exactly. FNL had not seen Russell in person since his freshman season when the Lions fell in the 5A championship game to Carnell Williams and Etowach. He's bigger and better,now, and Jamarcus was pretty good then. Russell displays a quick release rarely seen in a high school senior, much less a junior. Russell went 18/33 for 192 yards, one touchdown and one interception. This young man has a gatlin gun attached to his right shoulder.

As to Tim Castille, it was more of the same for the sterling tailback/wideout. In what many who have seen Tim play for the last four years might call "another night at the office," the 5-10, 212 pounder ran 20 times for 147 yards, including touchdown jaunts of five, 18 and 17 yards. While Tim has made most of his hay in high school as a receiver, he is expected to play tailback at the next level by most analyst. And, FNL feels he'll be a good one.

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Earlier this season we talked about BCHS LB Mark Miller (5-11, 205). Miller was Russells' worst enemy Friday, sacking him and bringing Jamarcus down in the open field short of the first down marker more than once. Miller will play somewhere next year, as will his fellow LB Steve Tennin (6-2, 200). Grant Nailen (5-10, 160) played well in the secondary, picking off an errant Russell pass. Chris Morrow (5-10, 160) did a good job on the WHS receivers, too. Williamson is a junior-laden team who will certainly be in the hunt for a deeper playoff trip next season, but we did notice OLB Michael Taylor making plays for the visitors.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: We have to give this category entirely to Williamson. They have what has to be one of the state's top junior classes. In addition to Russell, we noticed mammoth OL Tony Scott (no hts/weights were available on WHS players, but think Dennis Alexander size-wise, maybe bigger). Steven Ely is a fine DB. WR Cochise Pettway caught a ten-yard touchdown pass from Russell for the vistors' only points. DB Karl Lucas made a nice, diving interception.

CB Simeon Castille in his stance

SUPER SOPHS: We told you earlier about BCHS CB Simeon Castille. Simeon is a lock-down, in your face, man-to-man cover corner. He routinely shuts down the opponent's top receiver. Already 6-0, 165, Simeon is going to be the tall cornerback college coaches drool over. Many already are. Like his dad, Jeremiah, Simeon doesn't mind coming up on run support and laying the wood to a ballcarrier. And, like his dad and brother, he's a class act. Williamson is a class team, but one player was frustrated late and shoved Simeon. The younger Castille shrugged it off, but the officials saw it and it cost the visitors 15.

Briarwood QB Joe Craddock (5-10, 155) is having a stellar season. On one play, he faked to Tim Castille and kept the ball for a 51-yard touchdown sprint. He has an accurate arm, too. Kinda like a young Tyler Watts, but needing that one last growth spurt. He's got time.

JUST A FRESHMAN: Everyone raved about the performance of Williamson DE Antonio Coleman. When we discovered the young man was a ninth-grader, we were even more amazed. Coleman is adept at both stuffing the run and rushing the passer. You'll be hearing about him, trust us.

BRANDON BROOKS LOOKALIKE CONTEST: This one was easy. WR Thamus Davis, a junior at WHS, looked to be about 5-4, 135. Guys like Davis are what high school ball is all about.

FAN SUPPORT: In recent weeks we've discussed the lack of fan support for inner-city football teams. Williamson High would be the exception, as about 500 fans from the Port City were on hand to support their Lions.

MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY: Two quotes from one Briarwood assistant coach summed up this game. "We'd play Williamson every year if it was up to me," he noted of the rivalry. "Jamarcus, you're a heckuva player," he added while shaking Russell's hand postgame.

LB Steve Tennin waiting on the snap

HUGS AND PRAYERS: Talk about Mutt and Jeff; we were amused when the 6-5 Russell bearhugged opposing qb Craddock at 5-10. Also, kudos to senior Charlton Hollon of Briarwood who led a fine postgame prayer involving both teams at the behest of head coaches Parrish and Fred Yancey.

HOW BOUT THEM BURGERS: They're always good at Briarwood. We knew that. But the true test of a high school stadium burger is not how it tastes right off the grill, but at halftime. The folks on Highway 119 passed that one, too. With flying colors. We awarded bonus points for having pickles on the condiment table.

NEXT WEEK: Even though BCHS is hosting Wilcox County and Tide commitment Chris Browder, FNL will be heading to Prattville for the matchup between Tide comitt Kyle Tatum and his possible future teammate, Daphne DL Jeremy Clark. Both teams are unbeaten, and the winner of this contest will have the inside track to be at Legion Field representing the south region at the Super Six.

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