Alabama football 5-star commit Ryan Williams accounts for six TDs, Saraland tops Hillcrest

Jerell Rushin
The Tuscaloosa News

The first play was just the tip of the iceberg.

Alabama football five-star receiver commit Ryan Williams scored a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage on a go-route for 68 yards for No. 4 Saraland at No. 3 Hillcrest.

The class of 2025 recruit would account for six touchdowns in three ways during Saraland’s 56-31 win in the second round of the AHSAA 6A playoffs Friday night.

Williams, the No. 24 recruit in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite, and the Spartans scored 42 first-half points. In the half, Williams ran for a score, caught two touchdowns and passed for one seconds before halftime to give Saraland a 42-17 lead.

Hillcrest (11-1) shut out Saraland (11-1) in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 42-31. Williams scored on a 3-yard rush to push the lead to 18 points and three scores in the fourth quarter. He finished with three touchdowns receiving, two rushing and one passing and 286 yards from scrimmage.

He did so in the city where he’ll play college football, some seven miles from Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

“It means a lot," Williams said. "Actually, on the way over here I was thinking, 'I’m going to be playing here for the next couple of years.' I was like, 'I’m going to treat it like I’m home, and I’m going to play like I’m home.' And that’s what I did.”

SARALAND FIVE-STAR:Alabama football lands 5-star Auburn legacy during Texas A&M game

SECOND ROUND SCORES:Alabama high school football playoffs scores 2022: AHSAA second-round results

Williams didn't have school on game day because of Veterans Day. His focus was solely on football, but he couldn't fall asleep on a long trip like he normally does because, "That's how amped I was," Williams said.

It was also sweet revenge. Hillcrest had a comeback victory over Saraland in the 2021 quarterfinals.

“I think he’s the best player in the state," Saraland coach Jeff Kelly said. "I think he’s the best player in the state regardless of class. You guys saw it tonight. … If there’s a better Mr. Football candidate, let me see.”

Saraland used a fake field goal to take a 14-0 lead. Hillcrest responded with a touchdown, but Williams again struck on the first play of the next possession. The athletic 6-foot, 155-pound receiver got behind the man-to-man defense, hauled in a deep pass and outran Hillcrest for an 84-yard touchdown.

His father, Ryan Williams Sr., said the six touchdowns Williams scored are almost certainly the most he's ever scored, including pee-wee and middle-school ball. Williams Sr. called it one of his son's top games, but wouldn't definitively name it the best in a long list of standout performances.

"This one is up there," Williams Sr. said. "Playoff game, sophomore year (against an undefeated team). (It was the) biggest game of his career. Payback game. He had this one circled since last year. ... He said he wasn't going to let this one slip away. Held his word."

TCHS RECRUITING:How Kevin Riley grabbed Alabama football offer, 15 more — all this season

HILLCREST:Alabama high school football: Hillcrest plays inspired for injured Ethan Crawford in playoffs

The Spartans are 10 points away from breaking the Saraland season scoring record of 538 in 2014.

Hillcrest and coach Jamie Mitchell made it a game in the second half, but four turnovers proved too costly against Williams and his offense.

Saraland hosts Homewood (10-2) in the quarterfinals on Friday.

"I have no answer," Mitchell said. "We were completely empty trying to get him. I did think our defensive guys played hard. We just couldn’t keep them out the end zone.”

"He's better than our players,” Mitchell continued. “That’s about all I can tell you. He’s better than what we had out there, and we just didn’t have a real good answer.”

AHSAA PLAYOFFS:40 Tuscaloosa area high school players we want to watch in the AHSAA football playoffs

Hillcrest senior running back Jamarian Johnson played for the first time since he suffered an ankle sprain in the Week 9 season finale against McAdory, the same game Hillcrest lost two-time All-State quarterback and Southern Miss commit Ethan Crawford to a torn ACL. Johnson scored two touchdowns rushing.

Jerell Rushin is a recruiting reporter for the Tuscaloosa News and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at jrushin@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @JerellRushin_.