Linden rolls to Region win over J.U. Blacksher

LINDEN – Following a week of tragedy off the field, Linden High School seemingly could do no wrong on the field Friday night, rolling to a 60-8 Region win over J.U. Blacksher at Linden Athletic Field.

“It’s been a tough week, and it’s been tough to get focused,” said Linden head coach Andro Williams, referring to the loss of former LHS quarterback Anthony Robinson in an automobile accident last weekend. “But our kids were able to get focused at times and they are learning that as young men in this community and this country, we have to overcome adversity. Anthony Robinson would expect us to do that.”

The ball bounced right for Linden – literally – on the first play of the game Friday. Blacksher took the opening kickoff but a collision between the return man and his blocker forced a loose football, which Linden’s Jeffery Stacy alertly recovered at the Bulldog 22. Three plays later, Linden took a quick lead on a 19-yard Prentiss McCuiston run up the middle. Dewayne Charleston added the extra point.

After a Blacksher punt reached only the Bulldog 37 on the next series, Linden quickly struck again when McCuiston scored from 25 yards out on another run up the middle. Charleston again booted the PAT to give Linden a 14-0 lead with 6:10 left in the first.

The Patriots added two more scores before the first period expired. Devontae Knox gave LHS a three-touchdown lead with a 27-yard interception return, and Demarcus Gilmore scored on a 16-yard run. What followed Gilmore’s score was one of Blacksher’s few highlights of the evening, a Travouris Hill kickoff return to the Patriot 3. Only a hustling Tywan Smith kept Hill from scoring, and Smith’s effort did not go unnoticed by the head coach.

“I thought we played much better on special teams,” Williams said. “We are getting better by doing the small things that it takes to win.”

Following Smith’s touchdown-saving tackle, an inspired Linden defense kept Blacksher out of the end zone and the Patriots took over on downs.

However, Blacksher did manage to get two points out of the sequence, when a bobbled snap in the end zone resulted in a safety on the final play of the first quarter.

On the ensuing free kick, Linden’s Christopher Robinson recovered a squib kick at the Patriot 47, and on the next play quarterback Charleston hit Nicholas Rogers for a 53-yard scoring strike. Charleston’s kick made the score 35-2.

Linden added a 28-yard Gilmore run, a two-yard McCuiston plunge and a 21-yard Eric Monroe fumble return before the half, providing the Patriots with a 54-2 margin at the break.

Both teams agreed to eight-minute quarters in the second half, and each team hit paydirt once in the third period, with Linden’s Knox providing the final points of the evening on a 34-yard sprint.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Williams said. “We are only going to get better.”

Linden is now 1-1 on the year and 1-0 in Region play. The Patriots travel to St. Luke’s next week for another Region matchup.

 

Linden faithful hope to retire Robinson’s No. 10

Linden High School football fans and their guests from J.U. Blacksher observed a moment of silence prior to Friday night’s football game at Linden Athletic Field, remembering former LHS quarterback Anthony Robinson and Demopolis Middle School student C.J. Boykin.

Linden players will wear No. 10 on their helmets in memory of Anthony Robinson this season.

Linden players will wear No. 10 on their helmets in memory of Anthony Robinson this season.

The two young men were killed in a two-vehicle accident south of Linden last Sunday evening.

After the moment of silence, Sara Blackmon, a teacher at G.P. Austin Junior High in Linden, reminded the crowd that Robinson, who graduated last year, was the winningest quarterback in Linden High School history. The UWA signee had a 48-7 record as a starter for the Patriots.

“We ask that, after the season, the Linden City School Board pass a resolution retiring Anthony Robinson’s No. 10 jersey forever,” Ms. Boykin said amid applause from the crowd.

Ironically, No. 10 is being worn this year by freshman Christopher Robinson, who is not related to Anthony Robinson.

 

Remembering Anthony Robinson

Anthony Robinson with Linden coach Andro Williams on National Signing Day 2013.

Anthony Robinson with Linden coach Andro Williams on National Signing Day 2013.

Anthony Robinson during an ESPN 104.9 National Signing Day radio show at Batter Up in February.

Anthony Robinson during an ESPN 104.9 National Signing Day radio show at Batter Up in February.

Sunday evening proved a very tragic day in Marengo County as two of its young people were killed in a car accident.

I did not know C.J. Boykin, so it would be impossible for me to speak knowledgeably of him. But I can say that the outpouring of grief from his teachers, classmates and others who knew him clearly indicates that he was a well-liked young man even at the tender age of 12.

Anthony Robinson Jr., on the other hand, I knew well. A former member of the Linden High Patriot football team, Robinson was a three-time selection on the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Team. He was a four-year starter at quarterback and defensive back (two at corner and two at safety) for Linden.

He was the 2012 West Alabama Watchman Player of the Year for its inaugural All-County Football Team. And he was a 2013 signee with the University of West Alabama where he played cornerback for the Tigers.

Linden quarterback Anthony Robinson looks to pass during the Patriots 39-13 win over the Leroy Bears in 2012.  (Photo courtesy of Laura Delegal)

Linden quarterback Anthony Robinson looks to pass during the Patriots 39-13 win over the Leroy Bears in 2012. (Photo courtesy of Laura Delegal)

He was also the point guard of the Linden High basketball team where he played varsity all four years of his high school career.

That is Robinson. Those are the accolades that point so glowingly toward what kind of athlete Anthony Robinson Jr. was.

But those things do little to tell you of who Anthony Robinson Jr. really was. Anthony Robinson Jr. was electric. It was not his athletic ability or the way he shook defenders. It was his smile and the way he greeted other people.

For the five years that I interacted with Anthony Robinson while covering his athletic teams, I found him to be the rare individual that owned every room he entered. He was not so much loud or boisterous, but he had the kind of presence to which other young people gravitate.

By his junior year, Anthony was the unquestioned leader of the Linden football team. He set the tempo. He demanded more from his teammates. And he always led by example.

Linden head coach Andro Williams always knew, especially in the latter years of Robinson’s career, that his team would “go as Anthony Robinson goes.” But that personality trait transcended athletics. Anthony Robinson was never a follower. He was always the kind of person that would dictate the tempo of his life.

He scarcely met a stranger and had a smile that he was incapable of withholding from the world. In my experience, most teenage boys are reluctant to smile for pictures, staring into the camera with an expression of apathy as they try to look “hard” or “tough” or whatever other adjective that has made its way into the adolescent vernacular to describe such occasions.

Anthony RobinsonBut Anthony Robinson could not do that. He never looked “hard” or “tough.” He looked like he loved life. And he almost always appeared happy to be wherever he was at that particular moment.

An athlete, a son, a cousin, a competitor, a winner, a student, a role model, a friend, Anthony Robinson played all of his roles to the best of his ability and did it all with a magnetic smile that let the world in.

And the events of Sunday are so surprising, so dumbfounding, so frustratingly heart-wrenching because the world only has so many Anthony Robinsons and now we have one less.

 

2013 Signing Day-5722

Anthony Robinson of Linden High School receives a commemorative plaque and T-shirt from Jeremy D. Smith.  Robinson was selected as the first recipient of the West Alabama Watchman All-County Team's Player of the Year award.

Anthony Robinson of Linden High School receives a commemorative plaque and T-shirt from Jeremy D. Smith. Robinson was selected as the first recipient of the West Alabama Watchman All-County Team’s Player of the Year award.