McCarron Marches Saints Past Rams

MOBILE, Ala. -- Two future teammates in Tuscaloosa faced off in the Port City Friday night, and when the clock at St. Paul's E.E. Delaney Memorial Stadium hit all zeros, it was a happier time for quarterback AJ McCarron, whose St. Paul's Saints held off Faith Academy, 23-16.

AJ McCarron finished 10-for-21 passing for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Thing was, when the game was on the line and his team up by seven late, McCarron used his legs, not his powerful right arm, to keep the clock rolling until it expired.

There was the two-yard sneak on fourth-and-one, then the 30-yard scramble, and finally, a six-yard run on third-and-six to ice the game.

On the other side, Faith cornerback Gerald West had 20 yards on two kickoff returns, and one rush for nine yards. He made a handful of tackles, but the times he shut down his man, McCarron simply found someone else open.

The game was nearly over in the first quarter. St Paul's jumped out to a 20-0 lead behind a 24-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Scott Crow. Then, a pair of costly turnovers cost Faith 13 points. First, a five-yard Andrew Miller run following a blocked punt by Marc Powell put the Saints up two scores. Shortly afterwards an interception by Bishop Mostellar led to a two-yard Miller scamper.

Miller's role has increased this year to the point that he plays the part current Alabama freshman Mark Barron did last year, which includes, tailback, wide receiver and safety. He also returns punts.

Faith got on the board with eight minutes left to go in the half on a 22-yard dash by Jeremy Williams.

The 20-6 score stood through intermission. Williams later raced 38 yards for another score.

TOP PROSPECTS: McCarron and West, to be sure, were a big reason fans braved a pre-game rain that was brief, but heavy. Though McCarron (6-4, 190) does not have near the supporting cast he did when he helped the Saints to last year's 5A title, he is still a better player now than a year ago.

"His footwork has really improved from last year, from what I've seen," said Faith coach Robbie James. "He has a really strong arm, and just makes good decisions. He makes all the throws. He's a heck of a talent."

The fact that McCarron has added 15-20 pounds of good weight due to his work with a personal trainer paid off on the clutch keepers. He's a stronger player now.

As for the 5-foot-11, 170-pound West, it appears that Davidson's loss is Faith Academy's gain.

"He's good feet, and moves well. He's a guy that can take away (the other team's) best receiver. He can do that if we want him to."

"He also brings a little bit to help us with our punt returns, and kickoff returns. He's helped us in that respect, and with his speed, we need to use him."

"He's a good tackler," said Saints coach Mike Bates of No. 19 for the Rams. "He's a good cover guy, and when he gets the ball, he's hard to catch, so that's a pretty complete package right there."

SUPER SENIORS: FNL was among the first last year to mention St. Paul's defensive end Mike Thomas (6-4, 250), a Pensacola transfer who became Mobile's top sack man.

Thomas, who reminds some of former Alabama star Wallace Gilberry (now a member of the New York Giant's practice squad), has committed to Houston Nutt and the Ole Miss Rebels.

"He's stronger, and he's quicker, and he's more physical," said Bates. He's worked hard in the weight room. He's good against the run. He's got a good first step off the ball."

Thomas had a pair of sacks, a PBU [pass break-up], and several pressures.

Alabama baseball commitment Miller is still a leader at safety and receiver for St Paul's as he was last year, but will compete on the diamond only at the next level.

For Faith, Warren Collier (5-11, 175) is flying under the radar a bit, but is a dangerous man with the ball in his hands at running back.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: For the Saints, defensive backs Dominick Francia and Patrick Myles have a shot as players at the next level, as does linebacker Adam Dyas. Rams running back Jeremy Williams (5-10, 175) is an intriguing story as a first year player.

Williams' dad, Darrel "Lectron" Williams, ruled Mobile football before signing with Auburn and seeing an injury end his career. The genes are there.

SKILLED SOPHS: Remember this name: Darien Thomas, wide receiver, Faith Academy. At 6-3, 190, Thomas is still picking up the game that's new to him, but when he does….

"He's got a lot of talent and ability as a first-year player for us," James said. "He could be somebody that we really depend on. He's definitely good hands and good speed. He can exploit some secondaries. He's learning fast, and he's got some time. He's got to keep working hard on his routes, but he's going to be a good one."

Thomas gained 45 yards on four grabs.

He's built like and plays like Auburn corner Jerraud Powers, and you'd best remember the name D.J. Johnson. This guy is about 5-9, but he has the ball-hawking skills you look for."

Saints tackles Chris Boudreaux and Cameron Mobley have a chance to develop with big off-seasons, as does safety Nathan Morris.

LARRY MUNSON AWARD WINNER: Few who heard it will forget the call made on the radio by the legendary UGA announcer when a young Hershel Walker bulled over veteran and future NFL star Bill Bates in Neyland Stadium in 1980.

"My God, he's just a freshman!" Munson screamed.

It's very rare you find a ninth-grader at the 5A level of football who is already making a name for himself, but receiver/defensive end Chris Casher (6-3, 215) is doing just that for the Faith Rams.

Look for Casher's name to come up a lot over the next few years, and if so, remember where you read it first: FNL. This guy can catch the pass and catch the passer. He's good at receiving and rushing (the quarterback).

HOW BOUT THEM BURGERS: Very few people would buy a stadium hot dog and put a mixture of mayo and Polynesian sauce on it. But hey, you only go round once. So I tried it. And it was dang good.

UP NEXT: This writer for FNL is off a couple of weeks, but will return with a bang Sept. 26 with another trip to Mobile County, my first ever to Bayou la Batre. That's where Ronnie Cottrell and the Alma Bryant Hurricanes play host to Escambia Co of Fla. which features a running back named Trent Richardson, an Alabama commitment.

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