BIRMINGHAM – Both teams are bound for the playoffs, but it still seemed like somewhat of an upset when the home team, Briarwood Christian’s Lions, defeated the Pinson Valley Indians at Lions Pride Stadium just off Alabama Highway 119 Friday. Why? Because Pinson had a few more SEC-type quality recruits on its roster.
That said, venerable Briarwood coach Fred Yancey had his team ready, and his Lions improved to 8-2 with a 23-13 decision over the visitors. Matt Glover’s Indians (6-4) will still host a first round playoff game against Hartselle, while Briarwood will entertain Eufala Friday.
To the categories:
TOP PROSPECT: That would be Pinson junior running back Nick Gibson, who has grown up in several ways since FNL saw him torch Chelsea as a 5-9 freshman two years back. Gibson is now 6-0, 195, and has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in ten games.
“After his ninth grade year, he tore a labrum, and couldn’t lift,” said Glover. “Last off-season, he was fine and he got in the weight room and added 15 pounds of good muscle.”
Coming off a game where he rushed for nearly 400 yards, Yancey and his troops knew they were in for a challenge. “(Gibson’s) an outstanding runner,” the veteran coach noted. “He’s the most dangerous guy we’ve seen, possibly in the state. We haven’t played anybody like him.
“You can’t put him in anybody else’s category. He’s just that good.”
Not knowing “Roc” Thomas of Oxford would go for 409 yards against Spain Park last night, I asked Yancey if that list of comparisons included the Auburn pledge, but Yancey said he had not seen Thomas.
Briarwood stacked the defensive box all night to try and limit Gibson, and he still ran for around 150 yards and a late six-yard score. I say “around 150” because myself and a pair of other writers stopped keeping Gibson’s numbers with four minutes left when he apparently left the game in favor of younger brother Chris. We learned later that was not the case, as a Pinson source told us via Twitter that Nick Gibson’s no. 8 jersey ripped, and he put on Chris Gibson’s no. 46. I can tell you that no. 8 ran for 115 yards on 22 totes, caught two passes for 12 more, and ran a kickoff back for 27. No. 46 had a good final drive and scored from the six to cut the deficit to ten very late.
Nick Gibson had a 400-yard game earlier this year, and was visited at his school Monday by Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal, who recruits Birmingham and South Florida. (Cristobal also paid a call to two recent FNL alums at Shades Valley, nose tackle Daron Payne and runner/receiver Keith Mixon, who scored four times in a rout of Pelham Friday night.)
SENIORS WHO SHINED: Briarwood linebacker Ethan Simmons’ college future is said to be baseball, but the 6-foot, 200-pounder shined on both sides of the football Friday. He shadowed Gibson from his linebacker spot, and ran the Wildcat (Wild Lion?) from short yardage to score from one and two yards out. His teammate, receiver Braden Housel, is a solid high school player whose uncle is former Auburn Athletic Director David Housel.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: Pinson receiver Spencer Underwood had several first down grabs and got open for a 28-yard touchdown catch.
Briarwood defensive lineman Jacob Shirley (6-4, 220) had a huge fourth quarter sack.
SUPER SOPHS: FNL touched on then-backup quarterback Walker Lott of Briarwood when the Lions were crushed at Homewood earlier this season. He’s now starting, and he beat the Indians both on the ground and through the air. Lott ran 26 times for 133 yards, and completed 11-of-21 passes for 121 yards. He had what should have been a 35-yard touchdown dropped, but did throw for another score to go with one pick.
Pinson safety Keenan Toney was pointed out to FNL as one to watch by Glover, and he got a pick early. Toney has SEC potential.
TELL KIRK I SAID “HEY”: I got to meet two former Tiders from different generations who both wanted me to send a warm “Hello” to our own Kirk McNair. The first, Lions secondary coach Chris Donnelly, knew Kirk when McNair covered Donnelly’s 1992 Bama national title team. The second man knew McNair as a member of UA’s media relations department. That would be the man who sat in front of me for the second half, who introduced himself as Bucky Berry and offered to hug me for remembering his game-winning kick in a 9-7 Tide win at home over a then-hapless FSU team in 1974. Berry said he saw the first half of recent FNL alum Ronnie Clark and Calera’s win over Chilton County before heading to Briarwood. (By the way, former Alabama defensive tackle David Hannah coaches Briarwood’s offensive line.)
HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: Briarwood still has Birmingham’s best hamburgers. They are still hot off the grill and have that char-broiled flavor. They may be the states best, as confirmed by a host on a scoreboard show that airs in Huntsville and Birmingham I was on briefly after the game.
NEXT UP: It’s playoff time, and FNL will take the short ride to Vestavia Hills where running back Jordan Johnson (who we wrote about last year as a soph) and his Rebels host Decatur.