A Super 6 Day
Let's get right to the categories:
BEST IDEA: Moving the games to college stadiums. Kids got to go through their own "Walk of Champions," like the college guys on Saturdays. Tears flowed. It's a big deal.
One player said, "This was my first time ever inside a college stadium. It was pretty emotional."
A head coach put it this way: "When we found out the Super 6 was going to be in Tuscaloosa, we were very excited. I think everybody who ever grew up an Alabama fan wanted to be a part of something in this stadium."
Folks, you can't buy that kind of publicity. Thanks to Don Staley and the Tuscaloosa Sports Foundation, you don't have to.
GAME THREE: To me, this nightcap was the headliner, as it pitted 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior Alabama pledge Brent Calloway of Russellville with junior Demopolis running back star DaMarcus James (5-10, 198) who is hearing from Alabama and some other SEC programs.
James did not disappoint, as he rushed for 293 yards on 42 carries in his team's 27-14 win. Both teams finished 12-3.
"Got to fight 48 minutes," James said, and then he said it again. "48 minutes." Is the SEC in his future? "I hope so. Good Lord willing."
Said Russellville coach Doug Goodwin: "He's an Emmett Smith-type player. You don't have to watch a lot of film to know he's a great player."
Like two other backs who play at Bryant-Denny, who wear nos. 22 and 3, James rarely goes down on first contact. "Got to keep fighting," he said. "48 minutes."
See a theme?
"He works so hard in practice. He does it every game. He's such a competitor, DaMarcus is a bright kid, and he's got a great future in front of him," said Tigers coach Tom Causey.
One interesting face of this game was that it pitted ex-Demopolis and current Russellville coach Doug Goodwin against his old team. Interestingly, Causey, who is now coaching at "Demop," is the brother of former Alabama center and former American Christian assistant coach John Causey.
Causey said of the state title, "We're here by the grace of God. We came together through our Bible study (as a team)."
Back to James, who you first read about on FNL last season when he shined as a soph, and I'm telling you, this guy can play. It's no wonder college coaches bread a commandment and covet him.
On one play, James ran for 30 yards and Calloway grabbed his facemask for five more. (They still have that in high school.) How good is he? On some of his runs, the press box wags were making those Chris Berman "Whoop!" noises.
"A few plays latuh," (Cosell mode), Calloway stopped James cold on fourth down at the 7.
At the half, James already had 201 yards. He had the state title game record with 24 minutes left.
Another junior from Demopolis you have to mention is Michael Davis, who is effective at both linebacker and fullback at 6-0, 205. He plays much bigger.
One senior you have to mention is 3-way star Ryan Romans of Russellville. Offense, defense, special teams, you want it, Ryan's got it. His lack of offers is befuddling, as Romans (6-0, 173) is a good receiver, a good defensive back and both a return man and kick-blocker. What more could a college coach want?
Sadly, he caught a pass and was then stripped of the ball by Anthony Hardy, who rumbled 74 yards for a 27-14 lead that broke the Tigers' backs.
Calloway finished with 142 yards on 20 carries, and made five tackles from his linebacker post, where he will likely line up when he returns to Tuscaloosa for his college career. He scored twice, on 5- and 2-yard runs.
GAME TWO: Sadly for those who sat in the cold outside or the heated press box, this game was more of a blowout. Brantley (14-1) completed deflated the unbeaten Panthers of Hackleburg (14-1), who played Thursday more like "Missed Tackleburg." Frankly, the Bulldogs "out-athleted" their foes. 28-13. The game was not that close.
Hackleburg junior quarterback Ryan Bullock had enjoyed a solid season until this day. The 6-2, 170-pounder started slowly and finished 12/19 for 130 yards. That was the fourth quarter. Problem: He started 6-16 with two picks and just 37 yards before the final 12 minutes. To his credit, he picked it up in the second half a bit, but the damage had been done. A positive was Bullock's 39.7-yard punting average. Final Score: Brantley 28, Hackleburg 13.
Brantley could have fielded a few relay teams if this had been the state track meet. Speed, speed, speed.
One junior and five sophs caught my eye: Junior runner Devante Porter (5-10, 150) (83 yards on 13 carries, 101 all-purpose yards).
Sophomores who stood out were Hackleburg defensive tackle Tyler Dobbs (6-2, 240) and these four from Brantley: defensive end Clint Kilcrease (6-3, 180), who had three sacks, defensive back Reed Kilcrease (5-10, 160) and linebacker Jared Wiley (5-11, 185), who had seven stops and forced a fumble.
GAME ONE: Fans on hand for this one saw a classic overtime game for the 3A title. Most 'experts' thought Cordova would roll over Piedmont, but things didn't work out that way. Despite a great game by Kentucky commitment Ryan Smith (6-2, 200), Cordova lost to Piedmont, 35-28 in one extra period.
Smith projects as a safety for the Wildcats, but on this day he rushed for 125 yards on 23 carries and two scores. He caught two passes for 59 yards. He returned a kickoff for 52 yards. He picked off a pass.
Alas and alack, Smith fumbled with his team down a touchdown on the only possession Cordova got in the extra period. Game. Set. Match. Cordova finished 13-2, while Piedmont is now also 13-2.
Not a ton of underclassmen jumped off the charts in this game, but I'll give kudos to Cordova juniors Jake Howton, a 6-2, 180-pound quarterback, and Maleki Harris, a wide receiver/and linebacker who goes 6-3, 195. Howton only threw seven times, but completed five for 69 yards. He added 73 yards rushing.
Harris made 10 tackles, one for a loss, and caught one pass for two yards. He is likely a defender in college.
Piedmont junior Jamal Johnson put his name on the map outside North Alabama with 43 yards rushing, 29 yards receiving, and six tackles. Johnson is 6-1, 190, and a fine defensive back.
FOOTBALL FOODIE: Here is a reason I was excited when I heard the games would move from Legion Field to Tuscaloosa. I just KNEW the food in the press box would be better. Gone are bland chicken fingers and generic stadium dogs. Gone! In are Mexican unch from Moe's and pork sandwiches for dinner from Full Moon BBQ. Welcome to "The Eat-down in T-town." What will Friday bring? We shall see, at least for lunch.
FRIDAY FARE: FNL, due to some other obligations, will cover only the 11 a.m. game between Jackson and Cherokee County for the 4A title. It will be interesting to see possible Tide greyshirt or walk-on quarterback Coty Blanchard, who has thrown for 2,760 yards in 14 games. That's pretty good. Jackson has prospects, too, and you will read about them tomorrow afternoon.
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