AJ McCarron, considered one of the nation's top junior quarterbacks from Mobile-St. Paul's, (Ala.),…
FNL: St. Paul's vs. Vigor
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TOP PROSPECT: It was kind of funny, really. A St. Paul's assistant coach approached Vigor head coach Kerry Stevenson pre-game with some sage advice regarding Stephenson's top, player, Burton "B.J." Scott.
"Coach y'all need to hold the man out one more week," grinned the young assistant. "Shoot, I didn't want to hold him out last week," smiled Stevenson. Scott missed part of one game and all another with a back injury, but was cleared for action Friday.
"He's so fast," said Saints head coach Mike Bates. "(Scott's) just got incredible speed."
That he does, coach. Moves, too. Hands. Skills. That's the only way to put it. Though the Saints bottled him up most of the evening, Scott's talent is undeniable. He took a pretty hard lick on a screen pass from Saints linebacker Josh Lancaster, but hung in there.
Burton is a fine DB, and a decent high school punter and kicker. Many feel receiver is his destination at the next level. Maybe, but corner or safety would not shock me. One more thing: the young man is TOUGH.
He didn't have to play this game. Could have sat out until region play resumed next Friday against Gulf Shores. He got shook up in this game. All that meant was he went from quarterback to receiver. He scored a two-point conversion with just over six minutes left to make it a one score game at 24-16. He made a lot of tackles. He rushed four times for nine yards.
SUPER SENIORS: It was no fun for Stevenson and staff watching tape of St. Paul's. Just listen: "Ivan Machett. Whenever you can go and run for back-to-back 200-yard games, and the only reason you didn't get 200 yards in the rest of them is they quit giving it to you. that speaks a whole lot about the talent that kid has.
Matchett is 5-11, 202,and he ran for 170 yards on 21 carries for a TD and a two-pointer. He did have a lost fumble and battled an ankle injury. Think pre-injury Kennneth Darby. He's looking like a great pickup for the Tide.
"Mark Barron. He's just a versatile kid. He goes out there on defense and runs you down to make tackles. Then he goes over on offense, and runs over you to make touchdowns. He's very impressive, just to see how he moves, and his size (6-2, 220), that's pretty good.
Look for Barron at either strong safety or outside backer at the next level. Barron did drop one pass, but he's very dangerous on reverses. He took one for a long TD and then Matchett ran in for a two-point conversion to put St. Paul's up 24-8 early in the final stanza.
Barron then picked off a pass and returned it 25 yards for the clincher. He ran for 165 yards on 12 totes with a TD, and spelled Matchett at tailback. Receiver, taillback, safety, linebacker. He's good at all of ‘em.
"Destin Hood: I didn't realize he was as tall as he is. He's about 6-3, with clutch hands and runs real good patterns." The possibility of Hood playing pro baseball rather than or before playing college football still looms large. For the night, he had three catches, 102 yards with a long TD.
Track star Louis Watson of the Saints is also a fine safety and receiver. He wants to play football at the next level. He will. But it doesn't appear he'll join his teammates in Tuscaloosa.
Other than Scott, the other Vigor senior who caught my eye was 6-3 wide receiver ,b>Daniel Stone, who uses his height and hands well on occasion.
JUNIORS TO WATCH: For Vigor, a pair of 11th-graders have caught the eyes of college recruiters around the Southeast recently. Keep an eye on both Jalston Fowler, a 6-foot, 230-pound running back, and Kendall Houston, generously listed at 5-11, 195. Alabama, Auburn, and a host of other schools have made inquiries.
It's easy to see that Houston runs hard, and Fowler hits hard. Runs hard, too. When he joins Houston in the backfiield, its double-trouble. Also standing out was 5-10, 164-pound Keith Ray, who caught a 67-yard pass from the lefty Scott, and then replaced B.J. at QB when the latter was briefly shaken up. Ray is quick.
For St. Paul's, it all starts with AJ McCarron, a 6-4, 190-pounder known not so much for a Brodie Croyle-type rocket arm, but for his accuracy and for being a student of the game.
"He's grown. Both as a player and a person," said Bates of his prize signal-caller. "He's gone from athlete, to football player, to leader. He's not really known for a cannon arm. He's able to hit the deep out."
Again, the film room-weary Stephenson: "A.J. McCarron. He's just as accurate as they come. He doesn't throw it many times, but the times that he does throw it he makes them count."
He can read defenses and use his vast array of weapons (listed above), too. McCarron will be a battle royale for college recruiters, though Alabama and Nick Saban are definitely in the hunt, if not the lead. Auburn, LSU and FSU, among many others, are right there.
McCarron was already 7-of-10 for 186 yards and a long TD to Hood at the half. The Saints didn't throw much in the second half. He finished with 200 yards on 9-14 passing, and no interceptions. He threw one TD pass.
With Barron and Matchett, there was no need to throw much in the final two quarters. The score came on a very well-blocked screen. McCarron indeed demonstrated his ability to hit the out route, and throws a beautiful ball. Not a 90 MPH fastball, but a very accurate and catchable spiral.
Also noticed on film by Stephenson was a new member of the St. Paul's football family. Mike Thomas, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end who transferred in from Woodham High of Pensacola over the summer.
"He's athletic, quick and strong," Stephenson noted.
Guys like Thomas are why FNL exists. I'm not qualified to say for sure he will play at the next level, but coaches on both Vigor and St. Paul's say he will. He's the co-leader for sacks for the Saints.
SUPER SOPHS: Vigor has quite the 10th-grade group these days. Few sophs are as big as 6-foot-5, 330-pound offensive lineman Quinterrius Eatmon. Next time I'm in Mobile, and looking for some ribs or catfish, he's my man! Thing is, he can have a future on the gridiron if he works at it, per Stephenson.
One of Eatmon's opponents each day in practice is 6-3, 240-pound defensive end Joshua Lawson. The two will only make each other better (while making opponents miserable) the next two and a half years.
For the Saints, playing time is hard to come by for for the sophomore class these days.
HOW BOUT THEM DOGS: Well, no burgers at St. Paul's. Downer. The hot dogs were okay, but I like ‘em a bit more well done. Fall has fell, and that means hot chocolate, but I didn't stir it enough so most of the powder was at the bottom of the cup. It was lip-scalding hot, though. I'll give ‘em that.
NEXT WEEK: An off week, as this FNL's author celebrates his 49th birthday at Greensboro's Buck's Steakhouse. Looking forward to my first trip there. Yup.
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