Friday Night Hero: A.L. Brown’s Billy Simiton
Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2008
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS ó The nip in the autumn air is more than welcome at A.L. Brown, where the Wonders play the hot regular season for three reasons ó to win another conference championship, to whip Concord and to prepare for the 3A state playoffs.
They’ve hurdled more than their share of adversity and are close to where they want to be ó7-2, with road losses to two good teams. At Mooresville and Anson, they owned the fourth quarter but ran out of time.
Brown’s 21st league title in the last 30 years will be official with two more SPC wins and there is a quiet confidence this team will practice on Thanksgiving. The Wonders are built around defense, and teams with “D’ prevail in the playoffs.
The defense allowed negative rushing yards in Friday’s 21-6 victory against Hickory Ridge. It is stout from monster Aaron Davidson and sack machine Dwayne Stroud up front, to awesome linebacker Terrance Johnson in the middle, to flying free safety Billy Simiton in the back.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Simiton brings an athletic element at safety few high school teams have. A 6-6 high jumper, he threw down a hoops dunk at South Rowan last winter that would have made NBA veterans high-five.
A 22.5 sprinter over 200 meters, he can also close on a receiver in a hurry.
“We’ve talked to Billy since before the season about being a force back there as a senior, and he’s making more and more plays,” DBs coach James Lott said. “He’s big, he’s fast and he’s learning.”
A three-year varsity player, Simiton was a corner as a junior, so there’s been a learning curve at the more cerebral position of free safety. Lott, who started 42 consecutive games as an All-ACC free safety at Clemson, has been the ideal teacher.
“It was lots of headaches at first and kinda hard, but I’m starting to get it,” Simiton said. “Coach Lott is a good guy to have teaching you the tricks of the trade.”
Good free safeties not only help cover on pass plays, they know when to disregard the pass and come up to challenge the run.
Piedmont got Simiton to bite on a run-fake earlier this season ó he still chased down the receiver who got behind him to save a TD ó but he isn’t fooled frequently. He’s reacting more quickly and attacking the run harder each week.
“Just certain things the safety has to read,” Simiton said. “Everyone tries to hit us with play-action stuff because we have so much speed, and they want to catch us flying up.”
Mooresville tried to use the threat posed by its great back Jjshaun Pinkston to fool the Wonders with play-action, but Simiton stayed home and got two picks.
Simiton also had a super game against Hickory Ridge, blocking his second field goal of the season and wrecking several pass plays.
“Hickory Ridge’s quarterback (Brett Lilly) has amazing speed ó that guy beat us in the 100 in track season,” Simiton said. “But we got great pressure from the guys up front all night. They hurried Lilly and that made the job of coming over the top and getting to the receivers a lot easier.”
Brown’s DB crew will likely get even tougher in the playoffs when the Wonders take advantage of cool weather to use their best athletes both ways.
The team’s top DB is quarterback Jamill Lott, James’ son, and he and star receiver T.J. Johnson could join forces with Simiton, standout strong safety Xavier Watson and corner Josh Black for a serious playoff run.