"Iron Bowl" Preview

Friday night at 7 p.m., the Iron Bowl returns to Legion Field for the first time since 1998. Well, not really, but the Class 5A state championship game pitting two teams with one loss between them will seem like a preview of future Alabama-Auburn match-ups.

The St. Paul's vs Briarwood game, which does indeed feature a likely pair of future Iron Bowl QBs., in Briarwood senior Barrett Trotter and junior AJ McCarron of St. Paul's.

That's not to mention two of the nicest, classiest, and yet winningest coaches in the state, Mike Bates of St. Paul's and Briarwood's Fred Yancey. Coach Bates' neckties themselves are worth the price of admission, and his team is must-see TV (and web).

The Saints feature three Alabama commitments, safety Mark Barron, wide receiver Destin Hood, and running back Ivan Matchett. Then, the Saints throw at you an unsung pair of juniors in defensive end Mike Thomas and safety Andrew Miller.

Many wonder if Hood will forego college football for pro baseball, and a few others wonder if Miller may end up the college diamond rather than the gridiron.

And then, there's the 6-foot-4 McCarrron, who a few have compared to Eli Manning. That's very strong company. Track star Louis Watson, an ace defender in the St. Paul 's secondary, could also play football at the next level. This team is loaded, with a capital "L."

Briarwood Christian has the afore-mentioned 6-foot-1 Trotter behind center, and he is pledged to play his college ball on the Plains. Think a slightly more mobile Brandon Cox, here, though Trotter is a righty with an improved fastball.

"I'm really just excited about the opportunity to play in a state championship game," Trotter told "Hopefully, we'll get another ring. It should be a lot of fun. We're going to be well-prepared and ready to play, for sure."

Trotter has thrown for over 1,000 yards, just since the playoffs began four weeks ago.

Up-and-coming speedy sophomore Caleb Castille is a thin 5-10, 150, but he has become a threat at receiver and on kick returns for Yancey's Lions, just when you thought 'ole Fred was about out of Castille sons.

Senior Matthew Gordon is Trotter's favorite target, and with good reason. Gordon's got a nice combo of football speed, height, hands, and route-running skills. Jonathan Sillers leads the Lions' ground game.

Yancey says his team may be unbeaten at 14-0, but he'd like to see better tackling by the defense. On offense, he's happy with the "big uglies" up front.

"The offensive line came into the season totally unproven, and the guys have risen to the occasion," Yancey told the Birmingham News. "They have fought extremely hard. They have given us a chance to be a better team because of their desire to improve."

Speaking of famous sons, the sophomore son of ex-Bama and NFL player Sam Shade starts at linebacker for the Lions, and Justin Shade (5-9, 200) really knows how to bring the lumber. When he hits you, you don't get up fast.

I normally don't look forward to trips to Legion Field at night, in all honesty, but I'm fired up to cover this game.

Will the Saints be delivered from the Lion's den to go marching home to Mobile? Or will Yancey and Co. claim their first state title since Simeon Castille's senior year of 2003, and fourth overall? Or will the Saints reel in their first big trophy?

Stay tuned to FNL for the answers to these and more questions. source for Alabama high school football.

Support great high school football coverage by subscribing to for as little as $6.95 a month which includes all premium content across the network and all video. Join here.

(return to front page here)

Preps AL Top Stories