As the 2018 football season heads into the twilight, it’s time to reflect on those who made the campaign memorable.
There were a lot of highlights and career-defining moments this season. Starr’s Mill won their third straight Region 3-AAAAA title and earned a top spot in the state playoffs. Sandy Creek won seven games and returned to the playoffs after a hiatus last season.
Several teams weren’t as lucky. McIntosh, Whitewater, Fayette County, and Our Lady of Mercy had tough seasons and missed the playoffs. Each team dealt with injuries and inexperience at key positions. However, each team built momentum as the season went on. McIntosh and Whitewater put up over 25 points in late-season victories. Fayette County and Our Lady of Mercy evaluated talent and found key contributors moving into next season.
Since the dust has settled, it’s time to give out individual awards. Without further ado, here are the 2018 Fayette Newspapers All-County honors.
Leading off the list is a man that set records this season. Starr’s Mill junior running back Kalen Sims is the Player of the Year. Sims dominated the gridiron with 1,482 rushing yards and seven 100-yard games. He added 17 touchdowns and set the school record with 279 rushing yards against Whitewater. In total, Sims accounted for 102 total points this season.
“Kalen is our game-breaker and our explosive player,” Starr’s Mill head coach Chad Phillips said. “You take him out of our offense and it is different (this season).”
Much like Sims, another local running back made waves this season. Sandy Creek junior back Rashad Amos is the Offensive Player of the Year. Amos was a dominant force as he carried the load for the Patriots. After an honorable mention selection last season, Amos burst onto the scene with 939 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 85.4 yards per game and showed his value as a receiver with 16 catches and a receiving touchdown.
On the defensive end, teams need a safety net. Sandy Creek has a great one in junior safety Brian Branch. As a result, Branch is the Defensive Player of the Year. He had 58 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 6 pass breakups. He also turned in 915 return yards on special teams.
“I felt great as I had to come out there and do what I needed to do,” Branch said. “It’s my junior year and I had to play like it.”
Sometimes a player must get it done both ways. Starr’s Mill athlete Sean King is the pure definition of a two-way star. For this reason, King is the Ironman of the Year. The senior was the unquestioned heartbeat of the Panthers this season. On offense, King had 13 receptions for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns. Defensively, King added 47 tackles, 4 interception, 5 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery.
King’s head coach, Chad Phillips, repeats as Coach of the Year. Phillips guided Starr’s Mill to its third consecutive region title. It wasn’t easy as the Panthers started 1-3 to open the season. However, his team finished strong by winning six straight games, earning a home playoff game, and placing the several members on the All-Region team.
“They learned some valuable lessons that will stay with them forever,” Phillips said. “Through the game, they learned to deal with adversity and got a work ethic that was great. They learned a lot of things that they are going to be look back and apply to their life.”
Leading off the All-County First Team is Starr’s Mill quarterback Hunter Lawson. The dual-threat junior completed 24 of 72 passes for 415 yards. He threw 5 touchdowns and was intercepted twice. On the ground, Lawson ran for 334 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Once again, running back was a strong position. The first-team backs include a pair of seniors in McIntosh’s Dane Kinamon, and Fayette County’s Caleb Pressley. Kinamon transitioned to running back following an elbow injury earlier in the season. He responded with 895 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns. Kinamon also added 125 receiving yards and a touchdown. Pressley made the jump from Our Lady of Mercy to Fayette County seamlessly. He ran for 824 yards and scored 2 touchdowns this season.
Another terrific position was the county’s group of receivers. Sandy Creek duo R.J. Howard and Ahmad Jackson make the first team. Joining them is Whitewater senior wideout Hunter Williams. Howard, a senior, hauled in 38 receptions for 521 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jackson, a junior, led the Patriots with 39 catches and 583 receiving yards. He also caught 6 touchdowns. Williams caught 21 passes for 356 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The tight end is Till Garvin of Sandy Creek. Garvin, a senior, had 15 catches for 111 yards. He also logged time as the Patriots long snapper.
The offensive line is comprised of McIntosh senior Ryan Siegel, Starr’s Mill’s Jeff Tiller and Cole Sanders, and Sandy Creek’s Eric Gardiner and Kenyatta Crawford.
The first team defensive line is senior-laden. It includes Fayette County duo Myles McGuire and Desmond Omigie, and Starr’s Mill lineman Sam White. Sandy Creek sophomore Mark Penson is the only underclassmen of the bunch. McGuire recorded 37 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Omigie recorded 30 tackles, 2 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss. White had 28 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 8 quarterback pressures. Penson dominated with 48 tackles, 7 sacks, and 3 tackles for loss.
In the middle, the first team linebackers were a powerful group. McIntosh senior Ryan Sanders, Whitewater senior Will Lewis, Fayette County senior Javon Coleman, and Sandy Creek sophomore Nolan Johnson make the team. Sanders had 131 tackles and 3 interceptions. Lewis had 120 tackles and 4 tackles for loss. Coleman had 80 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 12 tackles for loss. Johnson finished with 101 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 4 sacks.
The secondary is comprised of Sandy Creek duo Nic Toomer and Comanche Francisco, Whitewater’s Jackson Van Meter, and Starr’s Mill’s Wes Haney rounds out the group. Toomer, a dynamic senior, had 34 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups. Francisco, a junior, recorded 52 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 2 pass breakups. Van Meter had a great senior season with 56 tackles and 3 interceptions. Lastly, Haney performed well with 61 tackles 5 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery.
The first-team kicker is Starr’s Mill senior Michael Lantz. He nailed 10 of 15 field goals and connected on 45 extra points. His longest field goal was from 50 yards. Whitewater sophomore Brennen Schmitt is the punter. He averaged 32.76 yards per punt and downed 8 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Multi-talented players round out the first team at Athlete. McIntosh senior Ryan Cate, Fayette County senior Shane Leinberger, and Starr’s Mill junior Ben Bodne make the team. Cate starred all over the offense and finished with 500 rushing yards, 194 receiving yards, and 6 total touchdowns. He also had 6 tackles on defense. Leinberger was a team captain and leader at tight end and linebacker. He had 38 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. On offense, he had 7 catches for 90 yards. Bodne had 303 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns. He also had 56 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 3 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions on defense.
Kicking off the All-County Second Team is Sandy Creek junior quarterback Matthew Williams. The Patriots dual-threat quarterback completed 84 of 126 attempts for 1167 yards and 11 touchdowns with 5 interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 250 yards and 5 scores.
The second-team running backs are Whitewater senior Elijah Roland and Starr’s Mill junior Ardit Hoti. Roland had 672 yards on 116 carries. He averaged 5.79 yards per carry and scored 7 touchdowns. Hoti rushed for 716 yards and 4 touchdowns. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry and had a long run of 55 yards.
The second-team wide receivers are Whitewater senior Adavion Ray and Fayette County junior Camron Ivey. Ray had 19 receptions for 167 yards. Ivey had 23 catches for 131 yards.
The tight end is McIntosh junior Matthew Allum.
Up front, the second-team has some solid offensive linemen. Whitewater’s Parker Pridgen and Grayson Bullard join McIntosh’s Robert Clark and Fayette County’s Isaiah Shannon on the list. Sandy Creek’s Lloyd Shobe rounds out the linemen.
The second-team defensive line is a stout bunch. McIntosh senior Reese Hildebrand highlights the list and is joined by Whitewater duo Phillip Stout and Terry Brown. Starr’s Mill senior Michael Burnett rounds out the list. Hildebrand was solid all season and came on late with a lot of nice defensive plays. Stout, a senior, had 38 tackles and Brown, a junior, finished with 31 tackles. Burnett, a hybrid defender, recorded 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 8 pressures, and 1 forced fumble.
The second-team linebackers are just as good. Fayette County junior linebacker Emmanuel Orusa makes the team alongside McIntosh duo Ben Anderson and Jaden Nelson. Sandy Creek linebacker DQ Showers finishes the list. Orusa, a junior, had 62 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 interception, and 4 fumble recoveries. Anderson, a sophomore linebacker, had 79 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. Nelson, a sophomore, had 106 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries. Showers, a junior, had 94 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss.
The defensive backs include Starr’s Mill senior Jalen Lazenby, Fayette County freshman Justus Joseph and junior Fred Claridy, and Whitewater senior John Solomon. Lazenby recorded 29 tackles, 7 pass breakups, and 1 sack. Joseph had 36 tackles and 1interception. Claridy had 55 tackles, 2 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble. Solomon had 26 tackles and 2 interceptions.
The second-team kickers are Sandy Creek’s David Gonzalez and Fayette County’s Aaron Hauck. Gonzalez hit 35 of 37 extra points and nailed 4 field goals. His longest was 44 yards out. Hauck drilled a range of field goals this season.
Rounding out the second team are stud athletes. Starr’s Mill Cole Bishop, Fayette County’s Reggie Booker, and Our Lady of Mercy’s Colin Schmitz make the team as multi-positional players. Bishop starred at running back and linebacker. He had 53 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. On offense, he rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries. Booker dominated as a returner, receiver, and cornerback, and he even filled in at quarterback. He had 262 all-purpose yards and was a bright spot on the Tigers. Schmitz played everywhere, including running back and line on offense, and starred at linebacker, where he had 97 tackles (43 assists) and 3 fumble recoveries.
The team is completed with deserving honorable mentions. Honorees for Fayette County include JeKobe Coleman, Matthew Gilliam, James Forbes, Jared Nedd, Marvin Person, Terry Savionne, and Jahel Ekanemesang. The McIntosh honoree is Nathan Anderson. Honorees for Sandy Creek are Jarad Davis, Rodney Anderson, and Justin Beadles. Honorees for Starr’s Mill are Karson Kalen and Joseph Rampey. Honorees for Whitewater are Maddox Mueller, Leo Barranco, Hayden Burns, Micah Binford, and Evan Rogers. Lastly, the honorees for Our Lady of Mercy are Jacob Bodkin and Bryson Mullins.
To see more photos from this season, click here.