Livingston, Jackson, Howard earn top honors on Times' All-Area Team


Spring Garden’s Forrest Livingston was named The Times’ 2012 All-Area Offensive MVP. (Photo by Nick Johnston | Gadsden Times | File)


If Jason Howard had won the 2012 state championship for Spring Garden, Hollywood might have come beating down his door for the movie rights.

During Howard’s previous seven years with the Panthers, he built Spring Garden from a team that won just two games his first two seasons into a squad that reached the second round of the postseason in each of his last two seasons.

Howard then took the head coaching position at his alma mater, Ohatchee, after the 2009 season. The Panthers won just five games combined in 2010 and 2011 without him. It appeared that the program was in danger of falling into mediocrity.

Then Howard returned, citing his desire to return to the school and community, and Spring Garden returned to the second round of the postseason. In the process, his team produced one of the most dominant rushing games in the state.

For his efforts in leading the Panthers to a 9-3 record and a second-round, Class 1A playoff appearance one season after the team went just 2-8, Howard was selected as The Gadsden Times’ 2012 All-Area Coach of the Year. A huge part of his productive offense, senior running back Forrest Livingston, was picked as The Gadsden Times’ 2012 All-Area Offensive MVP.

On the other side of the ball, Piedmont produced one of the most suffocating defenses in the area. It allowed just 9.5 points per game and allowed more than seven points in just four games of an 11-1 year.

A linchpin of the unit, junior nose tackle Exavyer Jackson, was chosen as The Gadsden Times’ 2012 All-Area Defensive MVP after collecting 81 tackles, 26 for a loss, and 11 sacks despite playing nose in a 3-4 defense, rarely a spot known for such gaudy numbers.

Howard was very pleased with the season his team produced.

“The kids had sort of went through a lot,” Howard said. “To come back and turn it around and for them (the players) to get the experience to have the season we had, I thought was real special for them.”

Livingston, who rushed for 1,945 yards and 26 touchdowns on the season, teamed with junior Tyler Morgan (1,387 yards and 12 scores) to play a large role in the resurgence of the Panthers.

To Howard, it wasn’t just his on-field exploits that made Livingston special.

“The type of player he is, the leadership he provided will be tough to replace,” Howard said. “We can put somebody back there to fill his spot, but it is hard to describe what all he brings to the table. He just pushes everybody to be better. When things were going bad, he’s the one we could turn around and hand the ball to and he’d turn the momentum of the game around.”

For Piedmont, the 5-foot-9, 265 pound Jackson played a huge role in disrupting opposing offenses in 2012.

“He is a phenomenal player,” Piedmont coach Steve Smith said. “He is unbelievably strong, by far the strongest kid I’ve ever coached. He is a freak of nature when it comes to his natural strength, and he is agile. He’s like a bowling ball. He has such a great work ethic and he is a humble kid, a team player.”

Heralded Bulldog linebacker Jamie Major was chosen as a first-team All-Area member, and as Smith sees things the three-time, first team All-State player arguably was just as indispensable to the Bulldogs’ defense as Jackson.

“Jamie is probably one of the best all-around football players I’ve ever coached,” he said. “He always put the team’s goals ahead of his own. I think that’s what made him such a great teammate and why the other guys looked up to him. He made first team all-state at three different positions.

“His leadership will be hard to replace.”

Major had 135 tackles, including nine for a loss, with five sacks, a pair of fumbles covered, one forced fumble and six passes broken up.

On the first team, Geraldine’s Michael Davis was the running back opposite Livingston, while Cedar Bluff’s Levi Mintz was the quarterback.

At wide receiver, Mintz’s teammate DeAngelo Hardy was chosen as a first-teamer along with D’Shawn Moore of Collinsville and Zac Magnusson of Fort Payne.

The first-team offensive line was Skylar Cagle of Cedar Bluff, Craig Jones of Spring Garden, Austin Bishop of Piedmont, Matt Bryson of Geraldine and Brandon Heard of Fort Payne.

Randy Blackwell of Fyffe was selected as the first team’s offensive athlete.

Fort Payne’s Logan McPherson was tabbed the first-team kicker.

Defensively, Nick Combs of Cedar Bluff, Terrell Woods of Boaz and Derek Watkins of Fort Payne joined Jackson in getting first-team nods up front.

Alongside Major as first-team linebackers were teammate Collin Bradley, Crossville’s David Segers and Boaz’s Brandon Holland.

Laphonso Burroughs of Piedmont, Blake Smith of Fort Payne, Ryan Smith of Boaz and Chandler Mackey of Sand Rock were chosen first-team defensive backs.

Gaylesville’s John David Jennings was the first team’s defensive athlete while Curtis Abernathy of Cedar Bluff was the first-team punter.

Honorable mentions included Fort Payne’s Dale Jackson, Boaz’s Casey Wood and Collinsville’s C.J. Jones at quarterback; Morgan of Spring Garden, D’Shawn Fife of Cedar Bluff and Dreek Thompson of Piedmont at running back; wide receivers Edgar Padilla of Collinsville and C.J. Savage of Piedmont; offensive lineman Jordan Terry of Fort Payne; kickers David Hernandez of Collinsville and Dillon Terry of Piedmont; Zach Bedwell of Cherokee County, Marquez Gamble of Piedmont and Jordan Cushen of Sylvania along the defensive line; Fyffe’s Trent Thrash at linebacker; defensive backs Jacob Barkley of Albertville and Nathan West of Douglas; and defensive athletes Peyton Gilliland of Boaz and Luke Jennings of Fort Payne.

 

2012 Gadsden Times All-Area Team

Offensive MVP: Forrest

Livingston, Spring Garden

Defensive MVP: Exavyer

Jackson, Piedmont

Coach of the Year: Jason

Howard, Spring Garden

OFFENSE

QB: Levi Mintz, Cedar Bluff

RB: Forrest Livingston,

Spring Garden

RB: Michael Davis, Geraldine

WR: DeAngelo Hardy, Cedar

Bluff

WR: D’Shawn Moore,

Collinsville

WR: Zac Magnusson, Fort

Payne

OL: Skylar Cagle, Cedar Bluff

OL: Austin Bishop, Piedmont

OL: Craig Jones, Spring

Garden

OL: Matt Bryson, Geraldine

OL: Brandon Heard, Fort

Payne

ATH: Randy Blackwell, Fyffe

K: Logan McPherson, Fort

Payne

DEFENSE

DL: Exavyer Jackson,

Piedmont

DL: Nick Combs, Cedar Bluff

DL: Terrell Woods, Boaz

DL: Derek Watkins, Fort

Payne

LB: Jamie Major, Piedmont

LB: Brandon Holland, Boaz

LB: David Segers, Crossville

LB: Collin Bradley, Piedmont

DB: Laphonso Burroughs,

Piedmont

DB: Chandler Mackey, Sand

Rock

DB: Ryan Smith, Boaz

DB: Blake Smith, Fort Payne

ATH: John David Jennings,

Gaylesville

P: Curtis Abernathy, Cedar Bluff

HONORABLE MENTIONS

QB: Dale Jackson, Fort Payne; C.J. Jones, Collinsville; Casey Wood, Boaz

RB: Tyler Morgan, Spring Garden; D’Shawn Fife, Cedar Bluff; Dreek Thompson,

Piedmont

WR: Edgar Padilla, Collinsville; CJ Savage, Piedmont

OL: Jordan Terry, Fort Payne

K: David Hernandez,

Collinsville; Dillon Terry,

Piedmont

DL: Zach Bedwell, Cherokee County; Marquez Gamble, Piedmont; Jordan Cushen, Sylvania

LB: Trent Thrash, Fyffe

DB: Jacob Barkley,

Albertville; Nathan West, Douglas

ATH: Luke Jennings, Fort Payne; Peyton Gilliland, Boaz