ASWA names Back, Lineman of Year finalists
Sat. December 28, 2013 at 11:50 p.m. | By Nick Johnston Sports Writer
Tyler Carr is a finalist for the Class 5A Lineman of the Year Award. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times | File)
The Alabama Sports Writers Association annual banquet honoring high school football players of the year will feature several area athletes.
The ASWA announced finalists for the Back of the Year and Lineman of the Year awards Saturday, with each invited to the banquet in Montgomery scheduled for Jan. 15.
Three Etowah County athletes are up for awards, including Southside teammates Dantley Coker and Tyler Carr. Coker is a finalist for 5A Back of the Year, while Carr is a finalist for 5A Lineman of the Year.
In 1A, Coosa Christian’s Ben Mills is a finalist for Lineman of the Year.
Two other athletes in The Gadsden Times’ coverage area also are up for awards. Piedmont’s Exavyer Jackson is a finalist for 3A Lineman of the Year, and Fyffe’s Trent Thrash is a finalist for 2A Lineman of the Year.
If either Coker or Carr wins their respective awards, it would be a fitting finish to what was a magical season for the Panthers in 2013. The team set a school record for wins with 13 and reached the state semifinals. They also won just their second region/area title.
Coker, a senior fullback, carried most of the load, rushing for 2,541 yards on 336 carries with 22 touchdowns. Coker said he made an effort in the offseason to ensure his last year at Southside was going to be his best.
“I knew I had to step it up from last year,” said Coker, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a junior. “I had a decent year last year, but it was time for me to start pushing myself in the offseason to make sure I was going to improve my game for my team. I worked as hard as I could at a high level to set the standard for others to work towards.”
The offensive line, led by Carr, played a big part in his success.
“My guys up front, we have a relationship,” Coker said. “They just worked their tails off all year. Probably the hardest-working group of guys I’ve ever seen on a football field. They made it easy for me.”
The other finalists for 5A Back of the Year are Pinson Valley running back Nick Gibson and Spanish Fort quarterback Tyler Johnston.
Gibson rushed for 2,205 yards and 27 touchdowns. Johnston passed for more than 3,000 yards to go along with 42 total touchdowns in leading Spanish Fort to its second straight state championship.
Carr, a junior left tackle, is up for the Lineman of the Year award along with two seniors — Homewood offensive lineman Jordan Sims and St. Paul linebacker Tre Williams.
Sims is a three-star prospect, according to Rivals.com, and has offers from Alabama, Auburn and Florida, among others. Williams is a five-star prospect and is committed to Auburn.
Carr, meanwhile, is a four-star prospect for the class of 2015 and is ranked No. 22 in the Rivals250. He has offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt and is preparing for the Rivals150 camp in St. Petersburg, Fla.
He said it’s a “great honor” to be a finalist for this award.
“I’ve gone into every season thinking I’ve got to improve on me and play the way I know how to play and take coaching advice,” Carr said. “My coaches have put me in the best situation to be successful, and I feel like a lot of hard work has paid off.”
Carr said he doesn’t necessarily set goals to win awards like this.
“My biggest award is winning in the season,” he said. “I feel like if we take care of business in the season, and I do my job like my teammates want me to — and I know they’ll do theirs — good things will happen.”
Mills is a finalist for 1A Lineman of the Year along with two seniors — Marengo linebacker Jatevin Horn and R.A. Hubbard defensive lineman Eddquerron Harris.
Mills was the top tackler in the state in 1A, racking up 136 solo stops and 43 assists for 179 total. He had 34 tackles for a loss and seven sacks.
“I don’t really know, I was kind of surprised,” Mills said after learning from his coach he was a finalist. “It’s pretty exciting.”
The junior defensive end rarely left the field, as he was the team’s top rusher and receiver. He rushed for 1,275 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with 517 yards receiving and five more scores.
“I’ve done that since I’ve been at Coosa, so I’m used to it,” Mills said of playing on both sides of the ball. “You know you have to do it, so you don’t really think about it very much.
“But I couldn’t stand being on the sideline. I like playing the whole game. If you mess up on one side of the ball, you can redeem yourself on the other side.”
The other two finalists also have impressive numbers. Horn amassed 148 total tackles with 37 stops for a loss and 18 sacks. Harris had 153 tackles with 28 stops for a loss, 15 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and an interception.
Piedmont’s Jackson, a senior, was a force at nose tackle for the Bulldogs. He had 114 tackles with 24 stops for a loss and nine sacks. He forced three fumbles, recovered two and batted down two passes.
The other 3A Lineman of the Year finalists are Madison Academy senior offensive lineman Frank Williams and Leeds junior linebacker Tyler Wright. Williams helped lead Madison Academy to the 3A state title, while Wright totaled 181 tackles and 20 stops for a loss.
In 2A, Thrash finished his high school career for Fyffe with a bang. He starred on both sides of the ball en route to being a Lineman of the Year finalist, as the linebacker made 61 tackles — seven for a loss — five sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered two, broke up three passes and blocked a punt. He was the team’s leading rusher with 1,849 yards and 30 touchdowns.
The other two finalists are Fultondale senior offensive lineman Kadarrius Lawrence and Tanner defensive lineman Baltazar Rubio.
2013 ASWA BACK/LINEMAN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
Kendrick Doss, Florence, QB, Sr., 6-2, 225
Keith Mixon, Shades Valley, Ath., Jr. 5-9, 172
*-Racean Thomas, Oxford, RB, Sr., 6-0, 200
Rashaan Evans, Auburn, DL, Sr., 6-2, 215
Shaun Hamilton, Carver-Montgomery, LB, Sr., 6-2, 219
Keith Holcombe, Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, LB, Sr., 6-3, 215
Dantley Coker, Southside-Gadsden, RB, Sr., 6-2, 215
Nick Gibson, Pinson Valley, RB, Jr., 5-11, 195
Tyler Johnson, Spanish Fort, QB, So., 6-1, 190
Tyler Carr, Southside-Gadsden, OL, Jr., 6-5, 310
*-Jordan Sims, Homewood, OL, Sr., 6-4, 330
*-Tre Williams, St. Paul’s, LB, Sr., 6-3, 230
*-Ronnie Clark, Calera, Ath., Sr., 6-3, 218
Troy Dixon, UMS-Wright, RB, Jr., 5-9, 176
C.J. Tolbert, Dadeville, QB, Sr., 5-9, 180
*-Blake Bean, Oneonta, DL, Sr., 6-3, 260
Richard McBryde, Charles Henderson, LB, Jr., 6-2, 215
A.J. Smoot, Dora, DL, Jr., 6-2, 230
Ryan Carpenter, Colbert Co., RB, Sr., 5-9, 190
*-Jamarius Henderson, Dale Co., RB, Jr., 5-10, 207
Malik Miller, Madison Acad., RB, So., 6-0, 220
Exavyer Jackson, Piedmont, DL, Sr., 6-2, 205
Frank Williams, Madison Acad., OL, Sr., 6-2, 265
Tyler Wright, Leeds, LB, Jr., 5-9, 220
Jakoby Aldridge, Sweet Water, RB, Sr., 5-6, 165
Marlon Bridges, Lanett, Ath., Jr., 6-1, 180
*-Tyler Rogers, Mobile Chr., RB, Sr., 5-11, 195
Kadarrius Lawrence, Fultondale, OL, Sr., 6-0, 296
Baltazar Rubio, Tanner, DL, Sr., 6-1, 220
Trent Thrash, Fyffe, LB, Sr. 5-10, 198
Jermarcus Brown, Pickens Co., RB, Sr., 5-11, 175
Terrance Hollingsworth, Berry, RB, Sr., 5-9, 210
Brody Meeks, Lynn, Ath., Sr., 5-11, 180
Eddquerron Harris, R.A. Hubbard, DL, Sr., 6-0, 250
Jatevin Horn, Marengo, LB, Sr., 5-9, 185
Ben Mills, Coosa Chr., DL, Jr., 5-11, 195
Josh Crawford, Edgewood Acad., Ath., Jr., 5-10, 210
Jake McKenzie, Monroe Acad., QB, Sr., 6-0, 190
*-Jarrette Pope, Clarke Prep, RB, Sr., 6-2, 220
*-Terrell Bush, Tuscaloosa Acad., DL, Sr. 6-3, 305
Trey Carter, OL, Monroe Acad., OL, So., 6-0, 205
*-Cortney Wilbanks, Restoration Acad., LB, Sr., 6-1, 230
*-returning finalist from 2012