ATLANTA - There really wasn't a need for subplots or storylines in Friday's game between Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King and Decatur (Ga.) Southwest Dekalb. Two of the top teams in the Atlanta area if not the state, got together and battled in a physical, hard-fought game that was won by Martin Luther King 13-9.
Needed or not, the storylines were present in bunches and none was bigger than the showdown that took place at the running back position. Mack Brown of Martin Luther King and Ken Malcome of Southwest Dekalb are two of the state's top running backs by anyone's estimation. They also are future SEC East rivals, with Brown heading to Florida and Malcome slated to suit up for the home-state Bulldogs.
Brown is the consensus top running back in the state, while Malcome is right near the top. Friday night neither player eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a defense dominated game but both showed why they are so highly sought after.
"I was very excited for this game because I know that they're going to win state in four-A and if we do what we have to do we can win state in five-A so I was just excited for it," Brown said after the game. "It was a fast game, real fast."
Brown finished the night with 66 yards on 21 carries. Though those may not be the numbers you would expect out of the top back in the state, Brown was still impressive. Against possibly the state's most talented defense and a loaded box on every play, Brown showed great feet, acceleration and elusiveness.
His top play of the night came on a 20-plus yard touchdown run in which he bounced the ball to the outside, made a few defenders miss and scampered into the end zone only to have the play called back on a penalty. Brown left the night without a score but doesn't expect that to be the norm.
"My goal is to have 40 touchdowns this season," he said. "I'll pick it up after this game."
Most of Brown's damage was done with an East-West running style, a style that should fit very well in the Florida system that will put him in space and give him seams to utilize his speed and acceleration. Malcome on the other hand was purely North-South and he was running like he had something to prove.
"I feel like all of these people like Rivals and Scout have me underrated," Malcome said after the game. "I wanted to prove that I'm one of the best backs in Georgia and the nation."
Malcome certainly stated his case. Similar to Brown, Malcome's statistics from the night won't wow anybody. He carried the ball 17 times for 75 yards. However, there may not have been a single carry that didn't see the physical back bring down three or four Martin Luther King defenders with him.
On the first offensive play from scrimmage for Southwest Dekalb, its quarterback was knocked out of the game. With all the focus on Malcome, his physical downhill running style was put to the test. Though he had a terrific night, Malcome wanted more.
"I had a pretty good game but we didn't win and all that doesn't mean anything unless we win," he said. "I just want to win a state championship, that's what I want. They've got the bragging rights now and I've just got to suck it up, pick up my pride and move on."
Though Martin Luther King walks away with the bragging rights in this edition of the local rivalry, there was plenty of mutual respect out on the field and nobody earned it more than Malcome.
Brown and Malcome weren't the only big names on the field for the two teams. Southwest Dekalb in particular is loaded with BCS commitments.
Rivals100 Georgia commit T.J. Stripling certainly made his presence felt on the day. Stripling was frightening pursuing the quarterback on bootlegs away from him and scrambles downfield. Stripling also played on nearly every special team situation and showed that he can be more than simply a pass rusher. At defensive end, there may not be a more unique prospect in the nation than the lanky, speedy athlete.
In the secondary for Southwest Dekalb, Vanderbilt commit Sharrod Golightly and Auburn commit Jonathan Mincy were part of a talented group. Golightly is an undersized safety that plays in the box a lot but still looks very comfortable in his backpedal and in coverage. He finds himself around the ball a lot and looks very comfortable covering out of the slot and making plays in the curl-flat area.
Mincy made up for a fumbled punt return when he made a nice interception on a fade route in the third quarter. On the play, Mincy showed good ball skills and body awareness to come down with the football. He also showed good athleticism and the ability to tackle in space.
Names to watch
Amid all of the big name commits, a few unheralded players really made a name for themselves. While Mack Brown absorbed most of the attention from the Southwest Dekalb defense, quarterback Cameron Myers was probably the most instrumental player in the Martin Luther King win.
Myers made numerous plays with his feet at quarterback to elude athletic pass rushers like Stripling. While he is not a quarterback in college, Myers did make a few clutch completions both inside the pocket but more commonly on the run, to keep drives alive and create big plays.
For Southwest Dekalb, a big reason why the game was in doubt all the way down to the final whistle was the play of cornerback Marcquez Dixon. Dixon not only was a major factor at his cornerback position but he had the play of the night when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown showing great speed and acceleration with the ball in his hands. Dixon currently claims offers from Southern Miss and Central Michigan but he may be in line for many more if he continues to play like he did on Friday night.
Despite all of the big names on the Southwest Dekalb defense, some Martin Luther King defenders did an admirable job of keeping Ken Malcome in check, most notably, linebackers Rahmon Swain and 2011 prospect Pat Calloway.
Swain was disruptive all evening on the edge while Calloway took on the task of meeting the physical Malcome in the hole all night long up the middle. Both prospects were very active and physical and anchored a defense that played with a chip on its shoulder.