Linden senior Brandon Bates collected some impressive hardware Wednesday when he was named the Class 1A Lineman of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
“It meant a lot to me. All the hard work has shown, all the days of sweating and not wanting to go to practice,” Bates said. “It’s just an exciting moment. I’m just overwhelmed with joy. I’m just proud to be a part of this day.”
“It’s a blessing to have an opportunity to coach a guy like Brandon Bates. You don’t know he’s on your team until you get in there. It was God’s grace for him to have an opportunity to win this award. He’s a great kid with a great family,” Linden coach Andro Williams said. “Those are the kinds of guys like Brandon Bates that you won’t ever forget. You’ll keep them with you throughout the course of your life. I think he has learned a lot from what we’ve done through the course of it.”
Bates is a three-year starter on both the offensive and defensive lines for Linden. Behind the offensive line anchored by Bates, Linden amassed a single-season state record 764 points in 2016 while finishing 13-1 with a semifinal loss to Maplesville.
“It was an honor. It was great to see one of my players win. I’m very happy for him,” Linden senior DeVonta Poole, who was also a finalist for the award, said.
Bates also received praise from Marengo Academy senior and crosstown peer Weldon Aydelott, who was on hand as a finalist for the AISA Back of the Year Award.
“It was great. There were some great athletes here. I’m proud for Brandon for winning his,” Aydelott said. “You’ve got to give credit to everybody. It was a great time. I enjoyed it.”
Following the awards banquet Wednesday, Bates reflected upon the camaraderie he has shared with his fellow seniors, a group of Patriot players that totals 16 for the Class of 2017.
“The bond, the brotherhood that we have. It is just good to be in a class with 16 seniors. That’s about a record breaker (for Linden High football),” Bates said. “It’s just the brotherhood and the bond that we have. I hope that it never dies.”
“I’m going to remember that we were brothers. We fought together. We were together. We never let anything get between us and break us up,” Poole added.
Linden worked its way to 30-8 in his three years starting and Bates earned First Team All-State honors twice. Defensively, Bates finished 2016 with 47 tackles and 2.5 sacks while largely serving to eat up blocks and keep opposing linemen off of his linebackers.
Other finalists for the award were Devin March of Houston County and Poole.
“My hats go off to Poole. He’s a real good guy. I thought he was going to win it,” Bates said.
“That’s the second time it’s happened where we’ve had two finalists. It couldn’t have happened to two better guys. Those guys have committed to what we were doing. We were blessed to have those guys. They’re better guys than they are football players at the end of the day,” Williams said. “These guys are guys that have been competing from day one and have been competing for our program. The foundation was already laid here through the course of the years but these guys kept it going. They’ve played a lot of football for us the last two or three years and I’ve been blessed to have an opportunity to coach them.
Poole is also a two-time First Team All-State player known for his ability to rush the passer. He compiled 181 tackles, 20 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in 23 games over the past two seasons while playing defensive end and linebacker. Poole also started three seasons at tight end for the Patriots, hauling in 15 touchdown passes in that time.
Linden held opponents to 17 single-digit scoring outputs while pitching nine shutouts while Bates and Poole were starters on the Patriot defense.
Aydelott helped his team to a 41-5 record over the last four seasons while starting at both tailback and linebacker at varying points over that time. Aydelott ran for 1,337 yards and 26 touchdowns on 137 carries during his senior season. Aydelott led his team to a second state championship in four years in 2016 when he ran for 215 yards on 28 carries in the state title game.
“if it hadn’t been for Weldon, we wouldn’t have been where we are. It’s just such an honor for him to get selected in this. I’m proud for him,” Marengo Academy coach Webb Tutt said. “I’m proud for our school. He is just so durable, so dependable. He is just a pleasure to be around and a pleasure to coach.”
The big prize of the day went to La’Damian Webb of Beauregard, who became the 35th player and the first junior in history to win the Alabama Sports Writers Association Mr. Football Award. Webb ran for 3,242 yards and 47 touchdowns while leading Beauregard to the Class 5A state championship.