Anytime 6A powers like the defending state champion Daphne Trojans and Prattville Lions tangle, one can expect not only a ton of prospects, but a highly competitive football game.
Such was the case Friday night at an electric, standing-room-only Stanley Jensen Stadium, where a bevy of recruiting reporters and college scouts were on hand to check out what turned out to be a tight, completive game.
When all was said and done, Prattville took care of business and advanced to round three by a 13-3 score.
To the categories:
Top prospectsI'm going to call this one a two-way tie between Daphne's two best players, one on offense and one on the "d." Auburn commitment T.J. Yeldon entered the contest with nearly 2,000 yards rushing, and on this night went for 89 on 26 carries against the Lions. He added 19 more on four catches.
"Last year, T.J. was a slot (receiver) guy who played some running back," said Daphne coach Glenn Vickery. "Now, he's bigger, faster and stronger, and this year he's had more chance to spend more time as a runner. That year he's spent as just a running back has helped him."
Yeldon also lines up in the Wildcat, and entered the game three-of-five passing. He's listed at 6-2, 215, and remains a firm Auburn pledge, despite the Crimson Tide's efforts to stay in the hunt for his signature.
On the other side of the ball, the Trojans are led by Ryan Anderson, a 6-3, 240-pounder who plays middle linebacker.
"He's gotten 40 pounds heavier, he's stronger, and he didn't lose any quickness," said Vickery of Anderson's progress during the last year. "He understands the game better, and he's got that year of maturity under his belt. He's always been a student of the game, and he's even smarter now."
Anderson is expected to compete for time at the 'Jack' linebacker position in Tuscaloosa, and could possibly move to end with added weight. He showed both hustle and quickness by chasing down a quick future teammate/Prattville quarterback three times on one possession alone. He showed athletic skills by leaping high to snare a 19-yard pass on a fake punt. He can apparently play tight end if needed. He had around a dozen tackles.
Seniors who shinedPrattville teammates Justin Thomas (5-11, 170) and Caleb Gulledge (6-5, 275) are both headed to Tuscaloosa. Like Marquis Maze, Thomas is a high school quarterback who will likely be on the receiving end of the passes at the next level. He's the Lions leading rusher, and came in with just under 600 yards. Thomas ran for 45 net yards Friday night and threw for 25 more. He lost a six-yard touchdown run to a holding call, and lost a 38-yard touchdown pass on a drop.
Gulledge was originally committed as a defensive lineman, but will likely end up at guard on offense. He plays right tackle for the Lions, and does a good job, according to Vickery.
"He's hard to move, and it's hard to get off his blocks," said the Trojans coach.
Lions defensive lineman Justin Shanks (6-3, 290) is headed to Tallahassee and has been having an inconsistent senior season.
Juniors to watchDaphne quarterback T.J. (a popular name in Baldwin County) Fleeton is 6-0, 195 and runs the Trojans offense nearly flawlessly.
"He's had a great year," Vickery said. "I don't know where he'll fall as a prospect, but he's been a good player for us."
Other Trojan juniors on the recruiting radar could be 6-0, 170-pound receiver Chris Sain and 6-2, 290-pound offensive lineman Robert Alexander. Sain wears No. 11, and on this date 11/11/11, he caught four balls for 72 yards. A guy who is fun to watch is receiver Jonathan McGaster (5-9, 155).
For Prattville, the top 11th-graders include left tackle Austin Golson (6-6, 260) who is currently committed to Florida State but other schools like Bama and Auburn aren't backing off.
Battle of the bannersIt's funny sometimes to check out the smack talk on the large signs the cheerleaders hold up for the players to break and run through pre-game. It will be a long time until I see one funnier than what Prattville came up with this week. Their message to Daphne: "Tell you girlfriend you'll be free next Friday night." Hilarious.
How ‘bout them burgers/dogsThe Prattville radio crew always hooks FNL up with some food, and on this night they called on both Steak and Shake for burgers and Sneaky Pete's for hot dogs. Despite having used my Veteran status for a free meal at Chile's just hours earlier (and those chicken fingers were good), I had to take my Prattville buds up on their offer, and indulge.
The burgers were tasty, particularly the toasted buns. And the hot dogs, well, if you've ever had Sneaky Pete's, you know they're good.. Unlike a stadium dog, these are grilled, not boiled, and it shows in the taste. Thing is, I'll have that jingle, "Sneaky Pete's: The way hot dogs ought to be" in my head for days. But that's OK.