Benjamin Russell lost this weekend, 37-20, against Clay Central but not from a lack of effort. The Vols are currently ranked No. 1 in this week’s Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 14-7 lead against the powerhouse Volunteers and things were looking good until an injury to quarterback Carter Smith that left Benjamin Russell one dimensional on offense and put a lot of pressure on the defense.
This is where Gavyn Vickers came to shine and despite the Vols going on four straight scoring drives, Vickers didn’t make it easy on Clay Central forcing three quarterback hurries, five tackles and a sack.
The junior has been a standout through two games despite being a little undersized for a 6A defensive end. Coach Kevin Smith couldn’t say enough good things about Vickers, marking him an impact player and leader for the Wildcats on the defensive side of the ball.
“He is without a doubt one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around,” Smith said. “His motor is always running high and doesn’t take plays off. He’s always going full speed and takes pleasure in that.”
Vickers is asked to do a lot in Smith’s 3-3 stack defense. Onaje Brooks and Jaqavious Smith round out the other two defensive line spots but are much bigger than Vickers. Vickers is quick around the edge; if he isn’t disrupting the quarterback, he’s 10 yards down the field making a tackle on the ball carrier, giving everything he has on every play.
“He works himself to exhaustion,” Smith said. “He never has a bad day, always excited to play football. Whether it’s at practice or in a game, he’s always giving us energy.”
Vickers’ ability to always be around the football is something Smith or nobody else can teach him, but more of a natural talent even some players at the highest level don’t have and are constantly looking to improve on.
“You can’t replace a kid like him,” Smith said. “He’s not the most vocal guy but would rather lead by example and action. He’s a workout warrior too, always calling to ask if he’s allowed to do extra workouts. He’s a great kid.”
With the lack of depth and how thin the Wildcats are on the defensive line, Vickers’ value continues to go up at Benjamin Russell. His play style is one that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. His pressure on quarterbacks makes them uncomfortable, especially last Friday against Clay Central. The Volunteers passed all over the field on Benjamin Russell, but couldn’t get the air attack going largely due to Vickers’ pressure on the Volunteers’ quarterback, forcing him to throw high and low several times throughout the night.
One of the biggest plays of the night was Vickers sack on Clay Central’s quarterback and forcing a punt, giving the Wildcats the ball back after a recent touchdown from Kadarious Marbury, shifting the momentum to the Wildcats.
Unfortunately, the Marbury touchdown and Vickers’ sack came too late for the Wildcats who showed positives on offense, defense, and special teams. If Smith can get other players to play as hard as Vickers does on a consistent basis, the Wildcats could find themselves in the playoffs this season.