There’s a big present under the Christmas tree, and it’s the 2016 All-County Football Team.
It was another strong season on the gridiron around the county. In AAAA, Sandy Creek made the playoffs and advanced to round two with a thrilling overtime win. In AAAAA, Starr’s Mill and Whitewater finished as part of a three-way tie atop the region, both qualifying for the postseason. The Panthers won in round one.
It’s never easy to select just one, but the best of the best are honored with individual awards.
In another year of star performances, one stands above them all. Cole Gilley of Starr’s Mill is the Player of the Year. Gilley, a junior running back, stepped up as the Panthers’ new top weapon, piling up 1,666 yards rushing on 7.9 yards per carry with 24 touchdowns.
Bryant Walker of Sandy Creek is the Offensive Player of the Year. Walker, a junior quarterback, completed 107 passes for 1,783 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the Patriots into the second round of the playoffs.
Tyler Crowder of Whitewater is the Defensive Player of the Year. Crowder, a senior linebacker, piled up a ridiculous 115 tackles, with one sack and one interception in commanding a fierce Wildcat defense.
A do-it-all talent, Malcolm Easterwood of Fayette County is the Ironman of the Year. Easterwood, a senior, was slated to star at linebacker, with a little running back and receiver mixed in, but an early season injury forced him to take over as the starting quarterback as well. Offensively, he ran for 292 yards and threw for 161 more, with five total offensive touchdowns. Defensively, he racked up 36 tackles and an interception, en route to his region’s Defensive Player of the Year honors.
As expected, it was another impressive year from the head men around the county, but one takes the cake. Bryan Holley of Whitewater is Coach of the Year. In his first year at the helm of the Wildcats, Holley led a turnaround from 2-8 to an 8-3 finish, a playoff appearance, and a share of the region crown.
Next are the All-County First Team and Second Team, along with the top players at each spot, led by Quarterback of the Year Bryant Walker.
Running Back of the Year Cole Gilley is joined in the backfield by Sandy Creek’s Jaelen Greene and Whitewater’s Isaiah Montgomery. Greene, a Cincinnati commit, led the Patriots’ three-headed monster with 1,115 yards and 13 touchdowns. Montgomery, a senior, got better as the year wore on, racking up 1,058 yards and 15 touchdowns.
No running game is complete without a bruising fullback, and they don’t get any better than Eric Woods of Sandy Creek. In addition to blowing open big holes every play, Woods added 101 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Wide Receiver of the Year Javan Hawes is joined by his Sandy Creek teammate Kaleb Slaughter and Whitewater’s Jamal Jenkins. Hawes, a Minnesota commit, hauled in 41 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns. Slaughter, a senior, caught 35 passes for 516 yards and eight touchdowns. Jenkins, a junior, hauled in 19 passes for 603 yards at a whopping 31 yards per catch with two touchdowns.
Parker Mallett is back as the First Team tight end. Mallett, a Chattanooga commit, caught 12 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Offensive Lineman of the Year Savon Simmons of Sandy Creek is joined in the trenches by Andre Prinsloo of Whitewater, Javon Jackson of Fayette County, and Starr’s Mill’s Andrew Loftis and Ryan Fogg.
Defensive Lineman of the Year Colby Warrior is joined by his Sandy Creek teammate Nate Brown, Fayette County’s Jamarcus Williamson, and Starr’s Mill’s Austin Schriver. Warrior, a senior, tallied 28 tackles and six sacks, with a defensive touchdown. Brown, a senior, notched 43 tackles and six sacks. Williamson, a senior, racked up nine sacks, along with 60 tackles. Schriver, a junior who split time at linebacker, piled up 67 tackles and six sacks.
Linebacker of the Year Tyler Crowder is joined by Whitewater teammate Eric Ogle, Sandy Creek’s TJ Peavy, and Fayette County’s Noah Alford. Ogle, a senior, racked up 44 tackles and eight sacks. Peavy, a junior, paced the Patriots with 62 tackles. Alford, a senior, led the Tigers with 89 tackles.
Defensive Back of the Year Trent Carrington of Fayette County is joined by teammate James Hawkins, Sandy Creek’s Mychael Jenkins, McIntosh’s Zach Anderson, and Starr’s Mill’s Carson Walter. Carrington, a senior, tallied 78 tackles, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Hawkins, a senior, notched 34 tackles and three interceptions. Jenkins, a senior, posted 29 tackles and three interceptions. Anderson, a junior, was arguably the county’s hardest hitter, racking up 143 tackles and an interception. Walter, a sophomore, racked up 75 tackles and three interceptions.
Michael Lantz of Starr’s Mill is the Specialist of the Year after a stellar sophomore season. The kicker was a perfect 32 of 32 on extra points and 3-for-5 on field goals. He is joined by Liam Voigt, who averaged 39.8 yards per punt and also hit 30 of 33 extra points and 8 of 11 field goals.
The Returner of the Year is Drezyn Parson of Sandy Creek. Parson, a senior, averaged 48.3 yards per kickoff return with two touchdowns. He was also a dynamic weapon on offense, running for 517 yards and seven touchdowns.
Malcolm Easterwood rounds out the First Team with one other versatile player at the athlete spot, Musa Ali of Whitewater. Ali, a senior running back and defensive back, ran for 551 yards and nine touchdowns, then racked up 32 tackles and three interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns.
The All-County Second Team is also loaded.
Stone Kasten of Whitewater is the quarterback. Kasten, a senior, completed 76 passes for 1,263 yards and 13 touchdowns, adding three more on the ground to earn All-Region First Team honors.
Bradley Ector of McIntosh, Jalil Dabney of Fayette County, and Nick Brown of Starr’s Mill are the running backs. Ector, a junior, ran for 886 yards and 13 touchdowns. Dabney, a junior, posted 504 yards and nine touchdowns. Brown, a junior, tallied 998 yards and nine touchdowns.
The wide receivers are McIntosh’s Kyle Riesselmann and Dane Kinamon, with Our Lady of Mercy’s Javon Henderson. Riesselmann, a sophomore, racked up 489 yards and five touchdowns. Kinamon, a sophomore, added 385 yards and one touchdown. Henderson, a junior, posted 17 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
Tyler Hill of Our Lady of Mercy slots in at tight end. Hill, a junior caught 11 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown.
The offensive line is made up of Cole Burnett of McIntosh, Sal Padovano of Whitewater, Matthew Hill of Starr’s Mill, and Sandy Creek’s Sam Barczak and Cole Neely.
The defensive line is comprised of Andrew Fierbaugh of Starr’s Mill, Taylor Hodge of Sandy Creek, and Whitewater’s Bradley May and J’Vonne Bradley. Fierbaugh, a junior, anchored the Panther line. Hodge, a junior, posted 37 tackles and four sacks. May, a senior, tallied 60 tackles and one interception. Bradley, a senior, notched 40 tackles and one sack.
The linebackers are Ryan Cockes of Starr’s Mill, Brody King of McIntosh, and Sandy Creek’s Demetrius Worthy and Herbert Washington. Cockes, a junior, racked up 74 tackles and two interceptions. King, a senior, was the heart of the Chiefs defense, piling up 88 tackles. Worthy, a senior, notched 51 tackles, one sack, and one interception. Washington, a senior, tallied 48 tackles, two sacks, and one interception.
The defensive backs are Isaiah Appling of Sandy Creek, Jalen Ridges of Fayette County, Phillip Pfaffman of Starr’s Mill, and Our Lady of Mercy’s George Haynes and Cameron Browning. Appling, a senior, posted 25 tackles and two interceptions. Ridges, a senior, notched 35 tackles. Pfaffman, a junior, tallied 24 tackles and one interception. Haynes, a senior, racked up 46 tackles and four interceptions. Browning, a junior, added 42 tackles and four interceptions.
The Second Team specialists are Jake Donaldson of McIntosh and Benjamin Rutland of Sandy Creek. Donaldson, a junior, hit 24 of 25 extra points and 8 of 9 field goals. Rutland, a senior, was 35 of 38 on extra points and hit a huge field goal in the opening round of the playoffs to force overtime.
The return man is Brian Branch of Sandy Creek. Branch, a freshman, averaged 16 yards per punt return, and also posted three interceptions as a cornerback.
The Second Team athletes are Robert Chery of Our Lady of Mercy, Christian Vermilyea of Whitewater, and Mitch Prowant of Starr’s Mill. Chery, a senior tight end and defensive end, caught seven passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns, along with 61 tackles and two sacks. Vermilyea, a senior tight end and defensive lineman, caught three passes for 24 yards and two touchdowns, along with 39 tackles and four sacks. Prowant, a junior running back and receiver, posted 431 yards rushing, 113 yards receiving, and 10 total touchdowns.
There are plenty of players deserving of Honorable Mention recognition. Fayette County’s honorees are Kevin Zachary, Askia Richen, Jamal Bass, Matthew McGuire, Karlen Samples, Reggie Booker, and Nathan Beamon. McIntosh’s honorees are Zach Sanders, Ben Bryant, and Caleb Podolski. Sandy Creek’s honorees are Marvin Hubbard and Nick Fulwider. Starr’s Mill’s honoree is Joey DeLuca. Whitewater’s honorees are Miles Langston, Heath Kirkes, Grayson Samples, Parker Woolworth, Chase Smith, Ruben Prinsloo, Dalton Goodman, Jake Burns, Hunter Williams, Keoni Macayan, and Nolan Wallace. Our Lady of Mercy’s honorees are Jalen Moore, Garrison Hand, Caleb Pressley, Jarrell Smith, Adrian Andrews, Taj Dodson, Dwight Robins, and Victor Cross.
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