Defensive Stops Key Victory

BIRMINGHAM – If you love hard-hitting defensive football games, Lions Pride Stadium at Briarwood Christian School was the place to be Friday night. The home-standing Lions held off the visiting Shelby County Wildcats, 14-6, on the strength of four stops on fourth down in their own territory in a game that had a distinctive Bama flavor. To the categories:

BAMA CONNECTION: Briarwood's senior class features two sons of ex-Alabama football stars, and neither has made a final decision on his college destination. Linebacker Justin Shade had 15 tackles unofficially, and shook off cramps in the second half to help his team make key defensive stops. Justin Shade is 5-foot-9, 222 pounds, and plays sideline to sideline. But, those measurable have limited his D-1 offers, according to his dad, former Tide defender Sam Shade.

"Because of his height, I think that affects him recruiting-wise. He understands it. He's not hearing from SEC and ACC teams, and we're OK with that," said Sam Shade, now an assistant coach at Samford (which has offered). There are some guys probably on some people's boards rated ahead of him. Once some guys come off some boards, he might get some more offers."

Sam Shade added that Justin is hearing regularly from Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech.

The recruitment of wide receiver Caleb Castille has slowed a bit. "He's got some people looking at him," said Caleb's dad, Jeremiah Castille. "Caleb's just said, ‘Dad, I'm going to go through the process.'

"It's a little bit slower than with the other two boys (Tim and Simeon). " Jeremiah Castille says his son is hearing from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Southern Miss. Caleb Castille is eligible for a Bryant Scholarship in Tuscaloosa should he choose that route.

"He's worked real hard. He's been faithful to the workouts. He's in the weight room, and on the track," said Yancey of the youngest Castille son. "We're going to count on both (Shade and Castille) to be good players for us this year if we're going to go anyplace."

Caleb Castille (5-11, 170) did not start the game, but played a lot at wide receiver. Both catches he made were for first downs: a 39-yarder and a 9-yarder. He can fly, and is also a kick returner.

A bit more news on the Castille family: though fullback Tim was released this week by the Arizona Cardinals, chances are good he'll rejoin ex-teammate Brodie Croyle in Kansas City. And Simeon Castille has made it to the last cut with San Diego, and hoped for a solid Friday night performance of his own to lock down an NFL roster spot for a second straight year after the Bengals released him earlier.

One last Tide aside: Yancey's volunteer secondary coach is ex-Tider Chris Donnelly.

SOLID SENIORS: Briarwood quarterback Paul Barber had a fine game running and throwing, including a 30-yard option keeper to open the scoring. Much like Shade, Southern Miss pledge/linebacker Zeke Walters (6-3, 230) is always around the ball.

Shelby County's 6-5, 175-pound Kevin McNorton is a do-it-all footballer but is more known as a baseball prospect. Could have fooled me: he caught a 53-yard touchdown pass late, but missed the PAT kick. Did I mention McNorton punts and plays defense? Running back Tae Lewis (6-1, 205) and quarterback Braten Dill are football prospects at the next level, especially if you run the Georgia Tech or Navy spread option.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: Shelby County receiver Chad King (5-9, 155) played well, as did Briarwood linebacker Phillip Ketchum (5-11, 180). Ketchum made his share of stops, and put Briarwood ahead by two scores with a late 3-yard scoop and score of a Wildcat fumble. Defensive back/place kicker Wilson Whorton (6-0, 160) also had a solid game.

SUPER SOPHS: Briarwood's sophomore class is quite good, and one member had a genuine coming-out party. In fact, safety Kalan Reed (5-8, 155) hit a Wildcat receiver so hard he had to come out of the game. (Actually, both guys did.) Reed is a name to watch, and he is likely to grow into an SEC prospect if he sticks with it. One thing's for sure: he will stick you!

Shelby County Denzel Williams' mom may or may not be a Denzel Washington fan, but at 5-9, 155 he is fine defensive back who moonlights in the offensive backfield. The same is true of freshman Brandon Johnson (5-10, 185), though he is currently a linebacker on defense.

FOOTBALL FOODIE: One thing I like about Briarwood that has been true since Tim Castille played there: they have some of Birmingham's best Friday night burgers. This year is no exception. The most shocking thing was I had only one.

AROUND THE STATE: FNL is glad it was in Hueytown last week and not this, as the Gophers' loss at home to Jess Lanier was marred by gunshots just outside the stadium. Order was restored, but not before both sets of fans hit the deck, terrified, according to someone who was there… A sub-freshman (translation: eighth grader) at Lynn High school has returned three kick-offs for scores in two weeks of play. It seems we need to remember the name Brodie Meeks… And, did you know that David "Deuce" Palmer, he of Jackson-Olin, Alabama and Minnesota Vikings game, was now an assistant coach and special-ed teacher at Parker High School?

NEXT WEEK: It's off to FNL's first trip to Gadsden City High, home to prospects like senior cornerback Dale Trimble and junior receiver Darryl Collins. The Titans will host Pinson Valley, featuring dark-horse Tide prospect Carlos Gray on the d-line.

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