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In praise of local players

After more than three hours of battling, they met at midfield to shake hands, hug and celebrate.

They were, after all, three guys who grew up sharing big dreams on the streets and recreation fields of McDuffie County. Three guys who played together as state champions for Thomson High School in 2002. And three guys who started against each other as the University of Georgia faced the University of South Carolina at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., Saturday night.

Casper Brinkley, Jasper Brinkley and Danny Verdun Wheeler each had standout moments during Saturday night's game. But they each had something to prove. Danny is shooting for a professional football career during his senior year, and Jap and Cap had a message to send to the UGA coaching staff that passed over them during recruiting time.

(And while I'm at it, it was great to see Billy Brunson working his tail off taking care of the players and packing up equipment after the game. He really seems to be having a great time as a manager for the Bulldogs.)

Meanwhile, praise keeps getting heaped on Jasper Brinkley. Not only was he one of the South Carolina players most-requested for post-game interviews Saturday night in Columbia, but he has apparently caught the eye of at least one pro scout.

In the Sept. 15 edition of Sporting News, Jasper's Week 1 performance against Ole Miss was called "most impressive." The magazine compliments his lateral and closing speed, and quotes an anonymous NFC scout: "He's a man. ...It's only one game, but he clearly was the best prospect on the field. It wasn't even close."

The Brothers Brinkley, Danny and the other various area players that hit the field against each other Saturday night are more than enough to keep local football fans smiling for weeks.

Speaking of our local college players, three more will be in action this weekend in LaGrange when LaGrange College plays host to Shorter College. Game time is 1:30 p.m.

Briarwood's Tyler Wester wears No. 55 for the LaGrange Panthers, and currently stands second on the team in tackles with 11.5 in the first two games of the season. He also has one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Also at linebacker for the Panthers is Briarwood's Jeffrey Kent, who wears No. 51.

On the other side of the ball is Thomson High's Matt Smith, who wears No. 57 and plays on the Shorter Hawks' defensive line.

The game should be interesting. LaGrange is just getting their program started this season, while Shorter is on their second season. It's great to see some of those building blocks for both these programs have local ties.

Web posted on Thursday, September 14, 2006

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