Big Region Battle Goes to Pats

American Christian Quarterback Brad Smelley

TUSCALOOSA-- Two of the top teams in Class 2A, Region 4 met in a regular season game with big playoff implications, and the hometown Patriots of ACA triumphed over visiting Pickens County, 29-19.



The game featured two SEC commitments and at least one junior who will one day play at that level. The key drive of the game came just before halftime when Brad Smelley took ACA 47 yards in 48 seconds following a short PCHS punt.

When Smelley found Johnny Shuttlesworth in the end zone for a 29-13 lead, it made things tough on the conservative offense of the Tornadoes, which is not designed to play catch-up ball. Had Smelley not thrown a pair of picks in the final six minutes to junior Ryan Collier, the game would not have been as close as it was.

To the categories:

TOP PROSPECT: That honor goes to the visiting team's Michael Williams, who looks and plays much bigger than the 6-6, 250 he is listed. The young man has put on muscle since then.

"He looks amazing. I get to see Michael on the basketball court and on the football field, said ACA coach Stephen Hooks. " He's just a man among boys, and it's a real challenge for us to try to do anything to just slow him down."

Williams can catch the ball and block at tight end, and play the run and the pass at defensive end. He's likely a defender at the next level, but tight end, right offensive tackle, defense end and defensive tackle are ll possibilities. He hauled in a 15-yard TD catch on this night. He is HUGE.

SUPER SENIORS: After Williams, the list must begin with his fellow Tide commitment, ACA quarterback/athlete Smelley (6-3, 213).

"He can run the football. He can scramble. He's hard to pin in the pocket. He throws the football well. He makes the reads. He knows the offense. He's just a football player. He‘s pretty good on defense, too," coach Hooks said.

Know this about Smelley: when he runs the ball, HE delivers the blow. His arm is mostly accurate, but at the next level he could end up at H-back, fullback, tight end, outside linebacker, strong safety, or… quarterback.

JUNIORS TO WATCH: One of the state's top five or six juniors on most lists is Pickens County receiver/defensive back Mardrecas Hood (6-3, 180). His coach, Jack Cook, agrees.

"Mardrecas is a tremendously gifted athlete with great speed and leaping ability. He's just another one of those blessed athletes. All he's got to do is just develop in the weight room and do good things in the classroom, and he'll be there."

Hood is buillt similarly to Gadsden City's Dre' Kirkpatrick. His athletic ability is on par with Dre's, as well.

On the same page regarding Hood is ACA's Hooks. "'Dric' is a phenomenal athlete. One of the things that really impresses me about (Williams and Hood) is that they play within the context of the team itself, and it's a direct tribute to (coach) Jack Cook. His kids play with so much class. They're intense. They get after it. There's so much class and character displayed on the field."

I couldn't agree more with Hooks. Both teams competed hard and showed a lot of class all night.

ACA's James Sandlin (6-1, 256) had a pair of huge fourth-quarter sacks for the Pats to help clinch the contest.

SUPER SOPHS: Markeithton Hall is a 5-8, 150-pound athlete who contributes as a receiver and kick returner for Pickens County.

ACA's Blake Brenton is a place-kicker to watch in the coming years. His leg is rather strong for a 10th-grader, as evidenced by a trio of touchbacks.

FROSH OF NOTE: Both teams have ninth-graders to keep an eye on. Running backs Daniel O'Quinn and Dillon Williams of ACA, and quarterback Jematric Curry of PCHS all had their moments, and will have many more.

BRIMMNG WITH PRIDE: When Brad's older brother, Chris Smelley, played at ACA , he knew he was going to be the QB no matter what, for four years. He was that good. And his coach, Hooks, knew it, too. Now, Hooks gets to watch his former field general guide the South Carolina Gamecocks of coach Steve Spurrier.

"I'm just thrilled to see him do well, because he's such a good kid," Hooks said. "I know what kind of character he has, and what kind of young man he is. I get really excited watching him, but I also get nervous."

"I didn't get nervous in our games when he played here. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that I know if you have four or five bad throws in a row, Spurrier will yank him. Up there, he's got a quick hook coming after him."

DADS IN THE HOUSE: On hand to see their sons in action were the following ACA proud pops: Mark Gottfried, UA hoops coach, to see his son, Brandon, a 6-5 sophomore receiver for ACA; Ben Pollard, Mississippi State strength coach, to see junior DB Harrison; ex-UA quarterback Steadman Shealy, checking out Steadman Jr. at wideout, and Carson Newman defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, who watched senior DB Trey play well all night.

All the above kids had good games, and Shealy's 84-yard catch and run from Smelley to put the Pats up 12-7 in the first quarter turned out to be huge.

Mark Gottfried, by the way, had a couple of guests sitting with him that looked a lot like top recruits J'mison Morgan of Texas and Xavier Gibson of Dothan. Both are in town on official visits.

HOW BOUT THAT Q: New to the Barbeque scene in T-town is Lewis' Heavenly Q, located on Hargrove Rd at the corner of 10th Ave. Wade Lewis has some fine ribs with his home-made sauce topping them off, and they melt in your mouth. One thing Wade and his staff offer that you can rarely find is a fried turkey plate, and his fried bird is out of this world. Wade, a bi-vocational pastor of a Bessemer church, caters, too. Check him out at (205) 343-1865.

HOW BOUT THEM BURGERS: ACA never disappoints in that area, and the hospitality of A.D. Dick Spybey is just great. Translation: He gives me free burgers and Mountain Dew. Seriously, I'll be back at the ACA vs. Sweet Water game in a few weeks, Dick. Fire up that grill!

NEXT WEEK: A rare but hopefully fruitful trip to the Port City is planned. FNL doesn't make it to Mobile often, but this matchup between the Vigor Wolves and Burton Scott and the St. Paul Saints, featuring a bevy of prospects, was too good to pass up. Unless it appears Scott will sit out a second game with his back injury. But I still may go. The chance to see A.J. McCarron, Mark Barron, Destin Hood and Ivan Matchett is one FNL just needs to see. BJ: please suit up!

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