INSIDER REPORTS: Pickens County quarterback takes on big leadership role
Wed. September 18, 2013 at 11:52 p.m. | By Andrew Carroll
Devonte’ Simon joined the Pickens County varsity as an eighth-grader. This is his third year to start at quarterback. (Photo by Robert Sutton)
Pickens County senior Devonte’ Simon appreciates the fact that he’s working with talented players and a protective offensive line.
He understands he’s not the only option in the Tornadoes’ attack, but virtually every play starts with the ball in his hands because he’s the quarterback.
Pickens County (3-0) is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A heading into Friday’s Region 5 game against Brilliant. Simon leads an offense that is averaging 49 points and 470.6 yards per game. He returns kicks and rarely leaves the field because he starts in the defensive secondary. He has two interceptions for a defensive unit that is allowing 10.6 points per game.
"I don’t want to come off the field," he said. "I love football. Having fun, to me, is winning."
Pickens County reached the semifinal round of the Class 1A playoffs last year as All-State tailback Jermarcus Brown rushed for more than 2,000 yards. The Tornadoes lost to Marion County 42-41 as their field-goal try was blocked on the final play.
"Last year (Brown) and I did good, but we just weren’t enough to take the team where we’re trying to get to," Simon said. "Now, I’m just trying to create threats and make the players around me better.
"Everybody has a job, and everybody’s expected to do their job. When somebody gets out of line, as a leader you have to get on to them. You have to get onto them in different ways. I know my players. I know how to get onto them."
Simon joined the varsity as an eighth-grader, and this is his third year to start at quarterback. He knows he can hand the ball to the dependable and explosive Brown, who is averaging 236.3 yards per game and has scored five touchdowns. But opposing defenses know that as well.
Simon is a threat as a runner, having gained 389 yards rushing with four touchdowns. He’s thrown for 490 yards and five touchdowns.
"That’s the great thing about our offense," he said. "It allows our personnel to do what we can do and make plays, spread the field and use our speed."
Certain plays are designed for Simon to carry the ball.
"It’s just natural," he said. "When I cross the line, I just turn into a running back and use my instincts."
Simon has a special bond with one of his receivers. His twin brother, Deonte’, has six catches for 131 yards and three touchdowns.
"We’ve been playing together for a long time," the quarterback said.
Jamarcus Smith has three catches for 47 yards. Cordell Plott has two catches for 47, and Brown has scored on an 87-yard reception.
"I feel very comfortable," Devonte’ said. "Even when they’re not open, I know they can make plays. I can put the ball close to them, and they’re going to make a catch. They bail me out on a lot of throws.
"We worked a lot on our passing game, and our receivers are a big help. We had some good receivers last year, but this year we really emphasized passing.
"My linemen work real hard. I know all the attention goes on me and Brown as a running back, but the linemen work real hard to create holes. They’re a big part of our success."
Pickens County coach Patrick Plott said Simon is "leading by example."
"All those guys are feeding off of him," Plott said. "He knows where everybody’s supposed to be. When he has to speak up, he speaks up and they listen to him.
"Just about every time we snap the ball he has the choice to either run it or give it. People have got to decide, either we’re going to tackle Jermarcus or we’re going to tackle Devonte’. Most of the time they’re not going to be able to tackle both of them.
"We try to put guys in the right position where they can help us win. We’re going to mix it up pretty good. We’re going to throw it around some and take what the defense gives us.
Injury limits Fayette County's Madison
Fayette County coach Lance Tucker hopes senior wide receiver JaTevin Madison will be able to play Friday when the Tigers face Sipsey Valley in a Class 3A, Region 3 game.
Madison, an All-State selection last year, played in the opener against Pickens County but sat out Fayette County’s win against Greensboro. Madison, who has committed to Texas Tech, caught five passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-7 win over Gordo.
Tucker said Madison has a torn triceps muscle in his left arm and has to be cleared medically week by week.
"It happened in the first game," Tucker said. "He has to wear a brace, and that limits you. He doesn’t have 100 percent use of that arm. As good a player as he is, if he’s cleared to play, he plays. If not, he doesn’t."
Madison, who usually starts in the defensive backfield, undergoes X-rays each week.
"He understands," Tucker said. "Like any competitor, you want to play and you always think you can play. That’s the type kid you want to coach. At the same time, we have to be real careful because we know he’s going to play at the next level and we don’t want to mess him up there. It’s a pretty delicate situation. We have to make sure it’s OK for him."
Madison has 11 catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
Sophomore Drew Guy, who moved in from Florida, has taken over as the starting quarterback. Tucker said Hunter Walker, who was the starting quarterback, broke the ring finger on his right hand.
"We’re hoping he’ll be back over the next couple of weeks, but we really don’t know yet," Tucker said. "He has been cleared to punt.
"Drew moved in here during the summer and didn’t have any spring training reps or anything like that. He’s responded well, and the kids have responded to him. He’s picked it up and gone on with it."
Guy has thrown five touchdown passes.
Decision time for Worrell
Rasheed Worrell, who will be a 6-foot-8 senior center for the Sipsey Valley boys basketball team, is expected to make his college choice known on Sept. 30.
Sipsey Valley coach Kevin Austin said Worrell’s list of finalists includes Loyola-Chicago, Appalachian State, Wofford and Presbyterian.
Worrell was a Class 3A honorable-mention All-State selection last season as he led the Bears to their best record (24-8) in the program’s three-year history.
He averaged 13.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists and blocked 107 shots. He holds school records for blocks (211), rebounds (615), points in a season (423) and blocks in a game (eight).
A verbal commitment is nonbinding, but Worrell can sign a letter of intent in the early period in November.
ACA’s York earns top ranking
Kaitlin York, a junior on the American Christian Academy girls cross country team, has achieved a No. 1 ranking in the state.
York, who has won three races this season, holds the top spot in the 5,000-meter category. She earned it with a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 34.19 seconds to win in the Chickasaw Trails Invitational. She won in the Montevallo Early Bird Classic with a time of 19:02.96. Her latest win was in the Gulf Coast Cross Country Stampede in Pensacola, Fla. She finished in 18:35.40.
"I think she’s gained a lot of strength, and she’s gained a lot more speed," ACA coach Charles Tiller said. "She’s done a tremendous amount of work. She really had a focus on a specific goal, and she’s taken the time and made the sacrifice. Now she’s achieved it."