Friday Night Lights: Junior Jamboree

BIRMINGHAM-- An overflow crowd estimated at 13,000 showed up. So did scouts from Alabama, Middle Tennessee, Memphis, Jacksonville State and elsewhere. Why? Hoover vs. Huffman. Nuff said. <br><br>Hoover needed to beat the Vikings on their own turf, historic Lawson field, to try and defend the Bucs 6A title. Hoover did, 23-8.

Curtis Coleman has done a fantastic job rebuilding the Huffman program and refusing to listen to the "city school" excuse. Last year the Vikes reached the 6A quarterfinals, and this year they hit the semis. Hats off to Coleman for a job well done. To the categories:

SENIORS WHO SHINED: Jeff Allen is a large individual. Huffman's 6-5, 305 pound man-mountain is a name familiar to most college recruiters. Jeff will play on the o-line somewhere next year, perhaps not in the SEC, but definitely somewhere. A name not so well-known is that of LB Jonathan Bonner (6-0, 245). This guy is a playmaker who will knock your head off. He plays sideline-to-sideline and his two interceptions show he knows coverage, too. He, also, will be on the field next year somewhere.

Hoover DL Ryan Harbuck (6-3, 240) had a spirited battle with Allen all night, and they embraced, classily, postgame. FNL considers Buc S Bryce Etheridge (6-0, 180) one of the top DBs in the state. This guy does not miss tackles. Kudos as well to FB Charlie Morgan (5-9, 199) who punished the Vikes late in the game with first down runs.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: This game was a cornucopia of eleventh-grade talent. A veritable plethora. Get out your pads and pencils, as this will be an exhaustive list and there may well be a pop quiz later:

For Hoover, OL Adam Truitt (6-4, 260) is an up-and-coming star whom the scouts are well aware of. Adam should have a stellar senior season next fall. DBs Justin Ray (5-9, 180) and LaBrose Hedgemon (6-0, 180) played well, as usual, and Hedgemon had a pair of picks. Then there's that Jackson fellow.

"That kid is something special," Coleman said of Bucs WR Chad Jackson, whom FNL and many others consider to be the state's top junior. "He has size (6-2, 200) and speed." Jackson broke the game open on a 78-yard yard kickoff return.

Huffman OL/DL Dominic Lee is 6-3, 295 and excels on both lines of scrimmage. He has a chance to be ranked in the top tier of the state's prospects in a loaded signing class of 2003. His strengths? "Size and athletic ability," said Coleman. "He's going to have to be a leader (next year)."

TE Kevin Moore (6-2, 245), DB Marcus Stoudemire (5-9, 175) and QB/ATH Chris Coach (6-2, 175) all appear to have collegiate futures, as does RB Carl Johnson (6-1, 195) and OLB Alfred Bryant (5-10, 210).

SUPER SOPHS: Huffman DL Demetrius Moore (5-10, 185) needs a growth spurt, but he has time. Bucs LB Curtis Dawson is already 6-1, 235, and could project at either MLB or DE at the next level. Dawson loves contact. Scouts already love him.

JUST A FRESHMAN: It says a lot about Huffman's Tyron Pearson that he's a first-teamer at the 6A level as a ninth grader. This 6-2, 245 DE is one to keep an eye on.

HOW BOUT THEM BURGERS: They didn't have 'em. And they ran out of hot dogs by halftime. The hot chocolate was tasty but lukewarm. After spending an evening surrounded by our least favorite color (orange) we headed down the road from Lawson Field to a well-known establishment and tried their burger. Orange is the dominant color there, too, and the place is really more known for its wings and waitresses, and not necessarily in that order. We're glad to report that a Hooters' burger cooked medium with bacon, mushrooms and a dash of Jack-a-roo bbq sauce hit the spot. The fries were hot and crispy but somehow the burger beat 'em to the table. A television at the far end of the room had high school highlights on so we could check scores.

CRIMSON CONNECTION: Bama D-line coach Stan Eggen was on hand to see the two talented teams go at it. Coleman spoke to Eggen afterwards on a first-name basis. Eggen, like all tide recruiters who hit the road, is developing excellent relationships with the coaches in his area. Folks like Coleman, Hoover's Rush Propst, and Briarwood's Fred Yancey all know Eggen well already.

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: Hoover never stood a chance here. Heck, the Huffman uniforms are the same colors as those of well-known high-steppers F.A.M.U. at the collegiate level. And, a Florida A & M-type lively performance is what they gave, to the delight of the home crowd.

SUPER SECURITY: Its not often you see metal detectors at high school games. Sadly, the trend will likely continue. Kudos are due the Birmingham Park Board and the Birmingham Police Dept for handling the crowd and traffic. No one seemed to mind the shortage of seats, as evidenced by those sitting on the "grassy knoll" next to the home stands or circling the fence around the field.

BOOK 'EM: "You wanna put some money on this game?" yelled one gentleman outside the stadium into his cell phone. We'd like to think he was joking, but we've heard that type thing goes on in Memphis, so who knows?

NEXT WEEK: FNL becomes TNL, as we cover the Super Six matchup for the 4A state title. Mobile's UMS-Wright, alma mater of Bama head hoops coach Mark Gottfried, takes on Tide DE Todd Bates' alma mater, Cleburne County. CCHS features perhaps the states top cover corner of this year's junior class, Tyrone Prothro.

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