Committed Players Shine In Opener

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The mood was sort of reserved pre-game. The Northridge Jaguars were playing their first home game without one of their biggest fans in the stands: Susan Kines Langston. She perished in an early-summer car accident, but present and accounted for in her stead were husband Keith, the Jags receivers coach, and son Matthew, a freshman receiver dressing for his first varsity game.



     "You never forget. You keep praying and you just try to move on," said Jags Coach Mike Smith. "We've just focused on the job at hand, each day, each practice, and now, each game. We'll always remember (Susan)."

     As for the football game, visiting Walker overcame a slow start to thump the home team, 28-7, behind a senior committed prospect and a junior to keep an eye on. Brandon Douglas a senior running back, scored twice and is believed to be the first No. 25 for Walker to do that in Tuscaloosa County since Linnie Patrick did it back in 1979. To the categories:

     TOP PROSPECTS: We'll call it a draw between Jaquese Kirk of Walker and the Jags' Vinnie Sunseri. Both are committed to D-1 programs, the former to Louisville and the latter to Alabama.

      Sunseri, a 6-0, 215-pound linebacker, wasted little time in establishing himself a defensive leader after arriving from North Carolina a few months back. Said Smith, "He works 24/7. When he leaves here, he goes over (to the UA campus) and works with his dad. "The other kids respected him right off the bat, when he came out here and worked so hard."

     Then, the pads came on. "He's pretty danged good," grinned Smith. "He's hard to beat. He rarely makes mistakes, and when he does, he doesn't make the same one again."

     Unofficially, Sal's boy made  10 stops. He had a quarterback hurry, and rushed once for four yards. Officially, he spent much of the night in the Walker backfield. Vincenzo, an Italian name if there ever was one, also cameos as a short yardage back. He's a stalwart on special teams, too, and that may be his early ticket to playing time at the Capstone.

     Kirk is a 6-foot, 175-pound defensive back for the Vikings. Said Walker coach John Holladay, "Jaquese is a special player for us. He‘s the only player we have that plays on both sides of the ball."

      Kirk wasted no time stepping up. He blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt just three minutes into the game. He's really concentrated on his game, and making himself better."

      JUNIORS TO WATCH: Walker quarterback Carson Roberts, a 180-pound, 6-1 junior, has caught the eye of several big-time schools. "He puts the ball where their guys can catch it. He makes good audible checks. He reads the defense well, and throws a tight spiral," said Smith.

     Holladay, himself a former UAB quarterback, concurred. "He‘s matured as a quarterback, and he plays a lot of attention to detail in the things he does. His work ethic is second to none."

     Roberts indeed has uncanny accuracy. He went 8-14  for  160 yards and a TD. Most of his long completions (33 and 27 yards), were to Kirk, who doubles as a receiver.

     For the Jaguars, defensive back Fred Carter, running backs  Trey Prewitt and Antonio Easterwood, and lineman Deronte Bright could all play at the next level.

      SUPER SOPHS: None start for Walker, but Northridge features big lineman Keyshaun Watkins and sure-handed wide-out James Cox.

      LARRY MUNSON "MY GOD, A FRESHMAN!" AWARD: Smith's youth movement for the Jags includes starter Bo Scarbourgh. This kid can fly! He took a kickoff back for a touchdown in last week's jamboree game against Hoover. He's a solid receiver, too.

      OLD TIMES REMEMBERED: It was good to see Mike Smith again. I remembered him as an intramural softball teammate at UA's Paty Hall many years back. I just wish he listed heights and weights on the rosters made available in the press box and on the web. He's old school.

     BAMA CONNECTIONS: I'm not sure how he finds time, but Curt Cignetti is listed as a running backs coach by Northridge. Also on Smith's staff is former Tide outfielder Travis Garner, who is head coach of the Jags' baseball team.

      HOW ‘BOUT THEM BURGERS: I was quite happy when the mom's from the Jags band boosters arrived mid-second quarter with burgers, dogs and chips. I didn't even care that condiments were not available. That char-grilled piece of meat hit the SPOT. Lacking time to hit the ATM, I was hoping and praying for some home team charity. The Lord -- and the moms -- came through.

     NEXT UP: They're holding a football game next Friday at Stanhope-Elmore, but don't be shocked if a track meet breaks out. The Millbrook school features mercurial wide receiver Pat Milliner (who is DeMarcus's younger brother). Prattville counters with quarterback Justin Thomas, arguably the state's speediest man behind center. Actually, per Andrew Bone, it's not much of an argument. Should be fun.