Speed The Thing In Upset Game
The 35-34 thrilla' was far from vanilla. It was also the first time in a dozen years the Mustangs had beaten their archrivals in "The Battle of the Interstate," as in I-85, which splits the two aforementioned counties.
There were but 14 ticks left on the clock when, on a play eerily similarly to the winning score in last year's Alabama win over Auburn, sophomore quarterback Brandon Wilson found senior running back Austin Sanderson out of the backfield on fourth-and-goal from the seven to tie the game. Ironically, though the play went to the left instead of the right, Sanderson wears -- you guessed it -- the same No. 5 as one Roy Upchurch, who caught the winning touchdown pass against Auburn.
Despite a celebration penalty, the 35-yard PAT by junior Dalton Van Coor was good, and the 'Stangs had the shocker.
To the categories:
TOP PROSPECT: This is a tough call, but for this week we'll go with Prattville junior quarterback Justin Thomas (5-11, 170), who runs a blistering sub 4.3 40. He is likely the fastest high school player in Alabama. He already holds a Tide offer.
"Justin's a special kid. He could play DB , he could play wide receiver, he could be a kick-returner," said Lions coach Jamey DuBose. "He's one of those kids you love to have on your team, because he's a playmaker, and he can run. He's got great athletic ability, and he's a leader. He's a quarterback for us, because our system requires that type guy, but he can play anywhere at any of the skill positions. He's been clocked with us at 4.25 (in the 40), and at Hoover's combine, he ran a 4.31 on radar, but he slowed down the last 10 yards because we were scared of letting him re-injure a hamstring. He's a legit sub 4.3 guy."
Said former Tide linebacker and current Mustangs coach Jeff Foshee, "He's quick, quick, quick. Great straight ahead speed. Not a quarterback in college, but could be a receiver, DB or a running back."
Thomas showed that speed on a 59-yard scoring scamper early in the fourth quarter. He left shortly after with an injury, which may have cost his team the game. If it didn't his fumble that may not have stood had there been replay on a dive from the two into the end zone may have cost the Lions the contest, too. It was recovered by Stanhope-Elmore in the end zone for a touchback, but to the naked eye it appeared Thomas had scored to cap a third quarter march. Those seven points --or the lack thereof -- proved costly.
Thomas rushed unofficially for 104 yards and threw for another 150. He'll not be under center at the next level, save a Wildcat package.
SENIORS WHO SHINED: Another speed-burner in the state of Alabama is Stanhope-Elmore senior Pat Milliner (a wiry 6-1, 170). "He can run. That's the first thing you notice," said DuBose. "If he gets outside on you, he can make some things happen."
And that happened, to the Lions' demise. Milliner bounce outside in the fourth quarter for an 86-yard scoring scamper, part of his 150 yards rushing. DeMarcus' younger brother came up big.
As strange as it may sound, last year Milliner played at about 15 pounds less. "In the off-season, he worked extremely hard in the weight room to pack on somewhere between 12 and 15 pounds of muscle," Foshee said. "He got stronger. That was a big thing. He didn't get to play last week because of some cramps."
For Prattville, a man who's the classic late-bloomer, and who we first learned about from Andrew Bone during the summer flag circuit, is wide receiver Kardeen Poole (6-0, 170).
"Kardeen Poole has just come out of nowhere," Dubose said. "He's got great leaping ability, wonderful hands, and is just fearless going across the middle. He's turned into a great blocker, and he's just kind of fallen into that role of playmaker for us on the outside. He's got real good speed, and he doesn't mind playing physical. All those things have made him a great player."
Poole had two catches for 34 yards, including a 16-yard TD.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: Prattville's duo of Caleb Gulledge (6-5, 275) and Justin Shanks (6-3, 270) both hold Bama offers, and we'll have much more on them in next week's FNL story. Suffice it to say for now that both are forces at the 6A level, and could project on either side of the line in the SEC.
For the Mustangs, a guy to keep an eye on is 5-9, 170-pound back Fred Harris. There was a weird play, one which state director of officiating Greg Brewer has I'm sure heard about by now, where it appeared the play was dead, but Harris kept churning and got a 34-yard TD out of it.
SUPER SOPHS: For a team like Prattville, it's tough to get playing time as a 10th-grader. In Millbrook, however, a guy to keep an eye on is quarterback Brandon Wilson (5-10, 150). Said Foshee, "Brandon's got a lot of ability. He's just young. I'm glad to have him for three whole seasons. He's going to be a great player."
Wilson was fairly silent until he led a pair of fourth quarter drives, twice completing long passes (50, 33) to set up the afore-mentioned fourth down game-winner. He is a gamer who can scramble a bit, too. Those two long throws help put him around the 120 mark. He'll long be remembered for being the starter when the 12-year drought was broken against Prattville.
LARRY MUNSON "MY GOD, A FRESHMAN!" AWARD: No contest, here. Mustangs running back Kenterris Tyre, who is already 5-11, 175, ran for 73 yards against one of the state's top defenses.
NOISE ALERT: I got behind a car driven by a female in Millbrook. It was an SUV decorated in Bama regalia. License Plate: RMPLDY. Anyone know if the legendary Ramp Lady at Bryant-Denny hails from Elmore County?
HOW 'BOUT THEM BURGERS: I had to wait nearly half an hour in line, but when I finally got my burger it had a unique aftertaste that was pleasant, somewhere between school cafeteria and Bubba Burgers from the grocer. Not bad. And the fries were hot and crispy, but needed salt. Minus points for the home side concession stand running out of drinks, forcing a cross field walk for liquid refreshment.
NEXT UP: Prattville hosts Carver-Montgomery next week. The Wolverines feature sophomore quarterback Jeremy Johnson (6-4, 185).
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