The #5 Parker Thundering Heard will travel to #6 Mountain Brook to face the Spartans in a big Class 6A, Region 5 contest at Spartan Stadium on Friday night. Both teams come into the game undefeated in region play, and the winner of this game could take the region title.
Parker (6-1, 4-0) has a lot of players that can make an impact in the game. The only defeat by the Thundering Herd was a 22-21 loss to Pleasant Grove two weeks ago.
Parker averages 41.1 points per game on offense and is led by quarterback Malik Muhammad. "He is playing with great confidence right now," said Thundering Herd head coach Frank Warren. "The good thing about him is that you can move him anywhere on the offense for him to make a great impact with our team. He has improved so much this season." On the season, Muhammad has completed 52-of-77 passing for 830 yards with nine touchdowns and just one interception. Also, he has 554 yards on 40 carries and five touchdowns. He averages 13.9 yards every time he runs the ball. There are times you could see Cameron Jennings in the game at quarterback and move Muhammad to another position for a play or two.
The running backs are exceptional, with Amari Brundidge and Martavius Pernell. "We call them thunder and lightning," added Warren. "They work well together. Amair is more of the lightning, while Pernell is more of the thunder. Pernell is stronger than he looks. This has been a change for us this year." Brundidge has 710 yards on 76 carries with five touchdowns, while Pernell has 441 yards on 61 carries and seven touchdowns. Also, Brundidge has seven receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Brundidge has an offer from Tuskegee. Chancellor Sparks has 252 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns on the season.
The Parker receiving core is pretty good but goes from good to exceptional if you add defensive back Na'eem Offord in the mix. Jeremiah Jelks, Kentrell Davis, and Johnny Moody are included with Offord. "Na'eem is one of our best offensive players," said Warren. "We haven't used him much this season, but he will touch the ball a lot coming up real soon. He can take it to the house anytime he touches the ball, and we want to use him any way we can."
Offord has 179 yards on nine receptions and two touchdowns on the season. Look for the talented DB to step it up on offense with cooler temperatures. Offord has about any Division 1 offer in the 2025 class. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Colorado, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, Ohio State, and Penn State, to name a few.
Jelks leads the team in receiving with 18 receptions for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Davis has ten receptions for 183 yards and two touchdowns, and Moody has 105 yards on seven receptions and a touchdown for the Thundering Herd.
The offensive line play of Oliver Maldonado, Kaleb Johnson, Dylan Twymon, Jamarcus Smith, and Charles King leads the way for the Thundering Herd. King stands at 6-foot-4 and at 370 pounds on the Parker front line.
The Parker defense gives up 14.7 points per game and has talent at every level. Linebacker Carlton Duncan is one big piece of the Parker defense. "I think he is the heartbeat of the defense," said Warren. "He started in his sophomore year—just a great type of kid off the field. He pays a lot of attention in our meetings and is one of our best players. He sets the tone for us." Davion Lake and Phillip Davison round out the Thundering Herd linebackers. Duncan leads the team with 43 tackles. Davison has 38 tackles, while Lake was 32 tackles on the season.
The defense line is one of the top in Class 6A. Alabama commit Jeremiah Beaman, Jourdin Crawford, Caleb Smith, and Rudolph Roseman are four of the best in the class. "Jeremiah is a smart player that watches a lot of films," said Warren. "He is so versatile for us. He might have to play on the inside, but another week might be on the outside. He is such a good leader and teammate for us. He always puts the team first for us." Beaman has 27 tackles, five tackles for loss, and five sacks on the season.
Crawford is a run-stuffer for the Thundering Herd defense. He takes a lot of space at 6-foot-2 and over 300 pounds. Crawford can move around for his size and cause all kinds of havoc in opposing backfields. For the season, Crawford has 39 tackles, four tackles for loss, and a team-leading 11 sacks. Crawford has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and the list goes on and on, just like Offord.
The Parker secondary has Offord and Eric Tarrant at corner, while Timothy Merritt and Joseph Holt start at safety. Holt holds an offer from Division 1 Marshall. Merritt holds offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Clemson, Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, and many more. Merritt highpoints the ball with the best of them.
Parker knows they have a battle ahead of them against Mountain Brook on Friday night. "They are a very disciplined, well-coached team," said Warren. "They do everything well, which will be a good test for us."
Mountain Brook (5-1, 3-0) comes off a bye week but won a big game against Hoover two weeks ago, and they only have a loss to 7A Vestavia Hills to open the season. Mountain Brook averages 31.8 points per game and has been stingy on defense. Mountain Brook leads the all-time series 6-0.
John Cooper leads the Spartans offense and is his first season as the starting quarterback. "He has an incredible calming spirit about him," said Spartans head coach Chris Yeager. "John is comfortable with his talents and what he can do. We have encouraged him to work within the system and take what they give him. Just do the ordinary things in an extraordinary way. He gets the ball out of his hands early with his quick release. He has a good processor." Cooper has completed 54-of-94 passing for 810 yards for the season with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
The running game is where the Spartans turn to for most of their offense, and why not with one of the best in the state. Cole Gamble has been the work horse the last two seasons. "Cole is very familiar with our system and has great trust in our system," added Yeager. "He has done a great job of learning what those guys up front are doing and being patient for the seem to develop. He has an assignment just like our blockers. I think that is an incredible growth for him from last season. Sometimes, nothing is there, and he can make things happen. I've been amazed that we have not had many negative yards, which is a sign of a good back." Gamble has 844 yards on 115 carries for a 7.3 yards per carry average and 12 touchdowns on the season. Gamble has offers from Navy, North Alabama, South Eastern Missouri, Stetson, UAB, and Samford.
With Gamble in the backfield running the ball is Jack King and Stewart Andrews. King has 180 yards on 28 carries for a 6.4 yards per carry average and three touchdowns, and Andrews has 208 yards on 45 carries and four touchdowns. Gamble has seven receptions for 45 yards, King has two receptions for 10 yards, and Andrews has five receptions for 47 yards.
The Spartans receiving core has Clark Sanderson, Hudson Young, and Trey Vinson. Not only do they run good routes for their quarterback, but they have turned into good blockers for the run game. James Cameron Adams and Sam Smith have contributions in the passing game. Sanderson leads the team with 27 receptions for 490 and three touchdowns, while Young has 184 yards on ten receptions and four touchdowns. Both average over 18 yards per catch for the Spartans offense.
The offensive line has two of the best in the state. Watts Alexander and William Courtenay have been warriors for the Spartans line. Courtenay has been bumped and bruised about all season but continues to play at a high level. "You want to get the ball into your playmakers, but you better get the ball behind your talented guys up front," said Yeager. "If they were mediocre players, but they are great players. If they were mediocre players, their leadership skills and character what they bring to the team is just incredible. Those two guys provide so much leadership to our team. That would be enough, but they bring the talent with it. Those two guys are coaches. They are another set of coaches who coach up the younger guys. They have developed a culture of the coaches. If you want to get to their leadership level, that is what all great teams want to do."
With Alexander and Courtenay are William Colvin, Kevin Hughes, and Rocco Gray. Adams has been a solid tight end that helps in the run game. The Spartans run game is 69 percent of the offense for Mountain Brook.
The Spartans defense has three shutouts this season and only gives up 12.0 points per game. Linebacker William Greer McDuffie leads the team with 85 tackles, eight for loss, and a sack on the season. Linebacker Drew Widener has 50 tackles, eight tackles for loss and an interception. Linebacker Pelham Comer has 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss and an interception. Linebacker Harris Vinoski has 24 tackles on the season.
The front line of Rickey Whitworth, James Hard, and Frank Lee are getting valuable experience each week. Whitworth leads the team with nine tackles for loss and adds 31 tackles.
The Spartans secondary has the most experience on the team. Corners Hampton King and Tucker Crawford will be tested with the Parker receivers. Safeties Clyde Beavers and Harris Crumpton will need to support the run along with the Parker pass. "Our corners have a lot of experience on the defense," said Yeager. "We had to overcome an injury or two, and we have created some depth. We can do more in the secondary with that experience. You need a short memory when you give up a big play, and there are times when your opponent will succeed but you have to turn the page and move on. These guys have done that so far." Beavers and King lead the team with two interceptions.
This is a huge matchup in region three, and both teams are looking forward to the game. "Every team we have played are always a guy, and they have guys everywhere," said Yeager. "I don't think Coach Warren gets the credit he deserves on his scheme this year. They had advanced it a lot. They do a great job on their RPOs and have tweaked it enough that you have to process it more this season. They will create some issues on opposing defenses."
With two great teams, you wonder is the two kickers will play a factor in the game. Quederrius Sterling handles the kicking duties for Parker and Harrison Fell for Mountain Brook. We will see very soon.