October 8, 2012 10:44:07 PM
REFORM, Ala. -- Jermarcus Brown knew his time was coming.
Last year, Brown was just another pawn that helped the Pickens County High School football team score a school-record 583 points.
While Brown rushed for more than 800 yards, senior running back De'Marko Hall was "The Man." The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder rushed for more than 1,400 yards, had more than 1,200 yards receiving, and obliterated the school-record for touchdowns with 43 all-purpose scores.
Each week through the offensive blitz, Hall counseled Brown and told him to be ready because he felt 2012 would be his time to shine.
Brown is making the most of his opportunity to be Pickens County's newest touchdown Tornado. The 6-foot, 175-pound sophomore rushed for 315 yards and four touchdowns to lead Pickens County to a 28-0 victory against Parrish in an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 1A, Region 5 game.
For his accomplishments, Brown is The Dispatch's co-Prep Player of the Week. He shares the award with Pickens Academy's Josh Lewis.
"It was kind of easy for me," Brown said. "The offensive line played great. They played better than I thought they would. I had faith in them, but they showed a lot more than we thought they could."
Last season, Hall was a driving force in helping Pickens County advance to the third round of the Class 1A playoffs, where it lost to Sweet Water. Hall, who is a member of the Faulkner University football team this season, was named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Super 12 team and to the Class 1A All-State team.
This season, Pickens County (6-0, 4-0 region) is rolling again thanks to the play of quarterback Devonte Simon, Brown, and an improved offensive line.
Pickens County coach Patrick Plott said Brown has relished the role of being a feature back. Plott remembers seeing Brown play running back in middle school and knew then Brown's versatility would give him a chance to contribute when he reached the varsity level.
Brown said he decided to leave Gordo High and return to Pickens County last season because Plott returned to the school to be the football coach.
One year after watching Hall explode, Brown said his goal is to rush for more than 2,000 yards. He doesn't believe he is replacing Hall and is enjoying the opportunity to be an engine that fuels the Tornadoes.
Plott said Brown's work ethic drives him in practice. He said Brown is extremely focused and he understands the importance of practicing hard because that will translate to Friday night.
"He doesn't take all of the credit," Plott said. "He doesn't let any of that stuff going to his head because he knows we have to win as a team."
Plott envisioned Brown, who also plays cornerback and safety, being someone who could become a featured back and not replace all of the things Hall did. Even though Brown isn't much bigger, Plott said Brown is a more physical runner than Hall. The 20-plus pounds of muscle, according to Plott, that Brown put on in the offseason has given him the confidence to run past people or to run through them.
"When he gets that ball in his hands it doesn't matter who gets in front of him," Plott said.
Last week, Brown rushed for 188 yards and a touchdown in a 35-14 victory against Aliceville. Brown said he didn't set a goal to run for more than 300 yards, but the performance fits nicely into his plan to rush for more than 2,000 yards this season.
Plott credits first-year offensive line coach Jermel Bell and the play of offensive linemen Terrien Steele (senior), Chris Hill (junior), Taylor McDaniel (senior), Ryan Hall (senior), Zeb Finch (junior) for their work up front and helping Brown and the offense click.
"He pats those guys on the back when they do something good," Plott said. When you make a long run, of course those guys up front are responsible for it. Our quarterback, Devonte, does the same thing when he protection, he always gives credit to the offensive line. Offensively we can't do anything without those five guys."
Brown credits his work in the weight room and the film study and the mental preparation he did in the offseason for allowing him to flourish in a bigger role. He said the confidence his teammates have given him make him believe he can do even more.
"For me to get that many yards, I have to congratulate my coaches, my linemen, and the whole team," Brown said. "I have surprised myself a lot. I never thought I could do this much. Being younger, I thought I wouldn't play football anymore. Watching football got me motivated, so I decided I was going to go out there and try one more time. After I came back here and saw what I could do last year, I thought to myself, 'I can do better,' and that's what I am doing."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.