Saints, Tigers Tangle in Rd 2

AJ McCarron

BESSEMER, Ala. -- Round two of the AHSAA often brings intriguing matchups, and such was the case at historic Snitz Snider Stadium Friday in 5A action. The Saints of St Paul's Episcopal brought their prospect-laden squad north up I-65, which is the same route from Mobile to Legion Field.

Would the Saints defeat the athletic Purple Tigers of Jess Lanier and advance to round three? Yes, by a 44-14 margin.

To the categories:

TOP PROSPECTS: No way to name one in this game. Just too many. For St. Paul's the usual suspects: Mark Barron, Ivan Matchett, Destin Hood and Louis Watson. All can play. All showed it.

Hood was especially effective in the first half, when the human target caught a pair of TD darts from AJ McCarron of 10 and nine yards to help the Saints to a 14-3 at intermission.

Hood may still spurn the Tide if he gets the right pro baseball offer. He caught five balls for 67 yards Friday. He added an interception in a cameo role on defense. The guy is phenomenal.

Matchett had another Matchett night at the office with 23 carries, 253 yards, and touchdown runs of 15 and 52 yards.

Barron was his normal assassin self at safety with a big hit on a short yardage play. He also played some offense and had a 24-yard TD run.

Suffice it to say that Jess Lanier senior linebacker Nicholas Bell (6-4, 225) mans the middle, but can do more if need be.

"He can play on the outside," said first year Tigers coach Billy Woodham. "He has wheels for it. He's got size, and everything that (scouts) are looking at."

SUPER SENIORS: David Cash is a 5-10, 200-pound linebacker who plays a bit like his cousin DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans in the NFL. As in, with a mean streak. Cash is also a bruising fullback.

Speaking of good blood lines, o-lineman Justin Rhodes (6-2, 265) is the younger brother of New York Jets safety Kerry Rhodes. He will play some where at the next level. Woodham says Alabama, LSU and Tennessee have inquired about all three of his star seniors.

JUNORS TO WATCH: This just in: AJ McCarron is a baller. You know him. You'll read about him for years. He's St. Paul's ace quarterback. Quick release. Great accuracy. More than adequate arm. McCarron went 7-for-13 for a pair of scores and 71 yards in the first half. He finished 7-of-16.

His teammate Mike Thomas, has Wallace Gilberry-type skills as a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end. His half sack in this game gives him 8.5 on the season, and he broke the 100-tackle mark, too. Thomas drew a holding call in the end zone that resulted in two points and a safety.

And then we have safety/linebacker Andrew Miller, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder.

"Andrew's been a solid performer for us all year," said Saints coach Mike Bates. "He's one of our leaders on defense. He understands our defense. He gets people line up right every time. He's a solid tackler, and a real good defender against the pass."

He also takes good tackling angles, a must for a second-line defender. Miller is an outstanding baseball player who sports several offers already in that sport.

The Tigers' Brian Nelson (6-0, 175) was a big part of the running game and will play a larger role next year.

SUPER SOPH: Jess Lanier missed the services of injured receiver Varian Hubbard as the 6-2, 170-pound soph was out with a collar bone fracture.

HOW BOUT THEM BURGERS: Never a disappointment, the aptly-named Stadium Grill came through again pre-game. Located just across from Snitz Snider, the Grill has burgers cooked to order, fresh, with a special sauce that helps ‘em melt in your mouth. The chocolate shake is just the right thickness and texture. Good stuff. I'll be back. Again.

NEXT WEEK: Two words: Foley. Prattville. Two more: Julio. Lions. ‘Nuff said. See 'ya at the city park down in Autauga county, as the top-ranked Lions entertain those other Lions of possible Rush Propst replacement Todd Watson, who'll be at Foley at least as long as Julio is. source for Alabama high school football.

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