Editor’s note: This is an opinion column.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association announced the roster for the annual Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Game today, and three very talented local football players made the statewide squad that will play against Mississippi at noon on Dec. 11, 2021 in Hattiesburg.
Hewitt-Trussville’s Justice Finkley and Omari Kelly made the squad. So did Marquavious White from Clay-Chalkville. They are absolutely deserving of the honor, but their selection reminded me that there are a lot of seniors out there playing football in this area who are overlooked.
Start with the obvious: James Hammonds is quicker than a hiccup, and he has carried the load for Hewitt-Trussville on the ground over the course of this season. A tremendous and dedicated athlete, Hammonds may not have the numbers of some of his contemporaries, but his importance for the Huskies’ offense can’t be denied. Riley Quick, Ryan Gunter and Harrison Asbury can be bulldozers on the offensive line, and Connor Thomas doubles as a DB and RB; he rarely fails to make an impact.
Overlooking Clay-Chalkville quarterback Khalib Johnson seems downright silly. The Louisville commit passed for nearly 300 yards two weeks ago, and is a huge leader on the Cougars’ team. And Ed Osley not getting a look at running back? Wow. No, Osley isn’t the fastest guy in the backfield in the area (that’s probably Mike Sharpe over at Pinson Valley), but Osley is incredibly productive. He’s also probably the most underrated athlete in The Tribune’s coverage area. College programs sleeping on Osley are missing out. Period.
At Pinson Valley, there’s Zach Pyron, who recently committed to Georgia Tech after previously being committed to Baylor. Sharpe is committed to Arkansas State; Jaylen Taylor is going to ball out somewhere next year — he’s too good not to. On the defensive side, BJ Diakite is a monster on the defensive line, and Mekhi Anderson at linebacker.
Over at Leeds, there’s Rametrius Yelverton. He’s not a huge back, standing all of 5-7 and coming in under a buck-sixty on the scale. But he has meant so much to the Green Wave. He’s got nine touchdowns in the last two games, enabling Leeds to use a ground-and-pound offense and allowing quarterback Jarod Latta to pass when he needs to. Center Jackson Bartee is an absolute truck for the Green Wave and a credit to any team he’s a part of, and Mekhi Jones and Josh Ruff (not Huff!) provide senior leadership at wide receiver.
Moody has a remarkably young team, but a couple of seniors stand out. The first is middle linebacker Matthew McDonald. He’s totaled 36 tackles in his last two games, and has become adept at sniffing out the run, shooting the gap and making the tackle. While he doesn’t have great size, he reads the offense well and gets the to ball. McDonald is the tip of the spear when it comes to the Blue Devils’ defense. And then there’s Logan Suggs, who does double duty on the OL and DL. He’s a baller, and in many ways he’s the heart of this Moody team.
For Center Point, senior linebacker Demario Hicks can play with anyone. He’s one of a handful of Eagles seniors with a chance of making history over the next two weeks. Jaden Jones is another, as well as If Center Point can win either of the next two games, this senior class will have been to the playoffs four years in a row. At a program like Center Point, where George Bates is building the solid foundation of a good program from the ground up, that’s an incredible achievement. The Eagles’ Deraiven Crawford can put defenders on the turf, too, and he’s a key to the Center Point running game being effective.
Over at Springville, there’s Johnnie Wolf and Jamel Williams and Patrick Bennett, to say nothing of quarterback Ashton Frye. There’s plenty of senior talent dressing out in the Tigers’ jerseys on Friday nights, and first-year head coach Jon Clements has those seniors leading the charge to make a late run at a playoff spot.
My point here is this: It’s an absolute honor to be selected for an all-star team or an all-region or all-area team. But we have such a wealth of talent in The Tribune’s coverage area that someone is going to get left out. Even in this column, where I’ve tried to acknowledge guys who may not get the headlines they deserve, I guarantee you that I’ve missed someone.
I watch a lot of football. Not only in person on Friday nights, but often during my downtime I’m looking at hudl.com highlights. There’s really, really good football being played at a variety of places around our area, and the seniors you see on Friday nights may be making a difference for someone else on national TV next year.
Bobby Mathews is sports editor of The Trussville Tribune. Reach him at email@example.com or @bobbymathews on Twitter.