Livingston, Jackson, Howard earn top honors on Times' All-Area Team
Sat. December 29, 2012 at 11:23 p.m. | By J.J. Hicks Staff Writer
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
Coach of the Year: Jason
Howard, Spring Garden
QB: Levi Mintz, Cedar Bluff
RB: Forrest Livingston,
RB: Michael Davis, Geraldine
WR: DeAngelo Hardy, Cedar
WR: D’Shawn Moore,
WR: Zac Magnusson, Fort
OL: Skylar Cagle, Cedar Bluff
OL: Austin Bishop, Piedmont
OL: Craig Jones, Spring
OL: Matt Bryson, Geraldine
OL: Brandon Heard, Fort
ATH: Randy Blackwell, Fyffe
K: Logan McPherson, Fort
DL: Exavyer Jackson,
DL: Nick Combs, Cedar Bluff
DL: Terrell Woods, Boaz
DL: Derek Watkins, Fort
LB: Jamie Major, Piedmont
LB: Brandon Holland, Boaz
LB: David Segers, Crossville
LB: Collin Bradley, Piedmont
DB: Laphonso Burroughs,
DB: Chandler Mackey, Sand
DB: Ryan Smith, Boaz
DB: Blake Smith, Fort Payne
ATH: John David Jennings,
P: Curtis Abernathy, Cedar Bluff
QB: Dale Jackson, Fort Payne; C.J. Jones, Collinsville; Casey Wood, Boaz
RB: Tyler Morgan, Spring Garden; D’Shawn Fife, Cedar Bluff; Dreek Thompson,
WR: Edgar Padilla, Collinsville; CJ Savage, Piedmont
OL: Jordan Terry, Fort Payne
K: David Hernandez,
Collinsville; Dillon Terry,
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