COVINGTON, Ga. -- The 2017 All Newton County football team features an assortment of players who have shown themselves to be among the best in the area, and in some cases, the state. As with any all-county team, it softens the list to include everyone, so there will naturally be some debate as to who has been placed where on this squad. But may the 2017 all-county squad ultimately serve as a tribute of sorts to the ample football talent this four-school (GHSA) area boasts.
*NOTE: This version includes a couple of corrections not reflected in the print edition, such as the addition of Alcovy's Bryson Wilcox as an Honorable Mention DB, Rico Ruffin's correct school (Eastside) and Newton OL Kendrick Carlton listed as a junior instead of a sophomore.
Coach of the Year: Troy Hoff, Eastside. Hoff, in his third season, pushed a young Eagles' squad to the postseason.
Players of the Year: Darnell Jefferies, Newton; Spurgeon Gaither, Eastside. The two defensive linemen were the two most dominant players in the county.
Offensive Player of the Year: Brayden Harper, Eastside. Harper was the consummate "slash" player on offense for the Eagles.
Defensive Player of the Year: Stephon Jefferson, Alcovy. Quietly, Jefferson was one of the most productive defenders in the area. He has major interest from West Georgia.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Elija Godwin, Newton. By far, the most electrifying kick returner in the area.
Freshman of the Year: Quincy Cullins, Eastside. Almost 500 yards in big-boy high school football as a freshman is a big deal.
All-County First-Team Offense:
QB — Myron Middlebrooks, Sr., Newton -- If not for injury, Middlebrooks might have been the POY. 15 TDs, 0 INTs, almost 1,200 yards passing in just 7 games.
RB — Nuru Tinch, Sr., Newton -- Tinch rushed for almost 900 yards and 9 TDs despite missing four games.
RB — Tyon Davis, Sr., Eastside -- Davis made the most of his one season with Eastside with close to 700 yards, despite splitting time with four capable ball carriers.
WR — Mike Mathison, Jr., Newton -- The Rams' most consistent pass catcher and outside playmaker.
WR — Jarius Anthony, Sr., Alcovy -- Anthony regularly stretched the field for the Tigers with 30 grabs and 6 TD catches.
WR — Jamari Brown, Jr., Eastside -- Versatile player with big-play capability each time he touches the ball.
OL — Lamarius Benson, Sr., Eastside -- Main space maker for a rushing offense that averaged well over 200 yards per game.
OL — Jordan Reed, Sr., Newton -- Vastly improved from his junior season.
OL — Remy Naza, Sr., Newton -- Started picking up more recruiting attention as the season went on.
OL — Dustin Morgan, Jr., Eastside. -- A capable complement to Benson on Eastside's o-line.
OL — Marcus Perdomo, Jr., Alcovy -- Highest graded lineman for the Tigers.
K — Kade Mote, Sr., Eastside -- Nailed a pair from 50 yards. A true special teams weapon for Eastside.
ATH — Andrae Robinson, Alcovy -- Showed off his versatility as a tailback, receiver and kick returner as well as a DB.
All-County First-Team Defense:
DL — Dee Fanning, Sr., Alcovy -- One of the most holistically productive players in the area. 53 tackles, 11 TFLs, 10 sacks, 19 catches 216 yards, 5 receiving TDs.
DL — Dre Butler, Sr., Newton -- Led the county in tackles for losses. Picked up recruiting attention from Alabama.
DL — Tanner Feeney, Sr., Eastside -- Feeney had a nose for the ball with 65 tackles and six QB sacks.
DL — Jalen Banks, Jr., Alcovy -- Despite battling injury, the junior found himself regularly in opponents' backfield.
LB — Jaylon Lackey, Sr., Eastside -- Lackey registered 113 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 3 sacks, 6 hurries and an INT.
LB — James Hardeman, Sr., Newton -- Hardeman's 93 tackles from his middle linebacker spot helped stabilize Rams' D.
LB — Rico Ruffin, Sr., Eastside -- 25 of Ruffin's 70-plus tackles were solo stops. 12.5 were for losses.
DB — Jamari Brown, Jr., Eastside -- Brown's 5 INTs led the county.
DB — Rod Kirkland, Sr., Newton -- Kirkland's four picks all came at clutch, crucial times for the Rams.
DB — Treyon Smith, Sr., Alcovy -- 65 tackles and 2 INTs for an active Tigers' secondary.
DB — Quindrelin Hammonds, Sr., Hammonds had 57 tackles and four PBUs.
P — Jose Ramos, Jr., Alcovy -- 33 yards-per-punt average. Booted several FGs from the 40-yard range.
All-County 2nd Team Offense:
QB — Brayden Harper, Sr., Eastside -- 781 passing yards, 390 rushing yards as a dual-threat QB, not to mention almost 300 yards receiving.
RB — Adarius Thomas, Jr., Newton -- Arguably the best returning offensive player in the area for 2018. 540 rushing yards, 382 receiving yards. Showed potential to be an every-down back.
RB — Taylor Carter, Jr., Eastside -- Over 600 yards rushing in a crowded, talented offensive backfield.
WR — Nico Johnson, Sr., Alcovy -- Solid, complementary receiver for the Tigers.
WR — Robert Lewis, Soph., Newton -- 29 catches, 409 yards 5 TDs. Strong case made for 1st team. Could be poised for breakout junior season.
WR — Kameron Phuong, Sr., Alcovy -- Made the most of his catches. Would've liked to see more of his ability in the passing game.
OL — Gavin Fletcher, Jr., Alcovy -- Second highest graded player on the Tigers' offensive line.
OL — Ken Sheats, Jr., Social Circle -- On a more successful team, may have gotten more shine. Solid player.
OL — Kendrick Carlton, Jr., Newton -- 6-foot-5, 330 pounder may start finding his way onto recruiting radars this offseason.
OL — Courtney McCoy, Sr., Alcovy -- McCoy helped anchor an offensive line that improved by leaps and bounds as the season progressed.
OL — Pierce Downs, Soph., Eastside -- Coach Hoff will be looking for Downs to take next steps as a junior in 2018. Promising young player.
ATH — Tate Peters, Jr., Social Circle -- Arguably Social Circle's most dangerous overall playmaker.
All-County 2nd Team Defense:
DL — Brandon Green, Sr., Newton -- Showed spurts of brilliance, particularly in the early part of the season.
DL — Billy Tollison, Sr., Alcovy -- Quietly consistent performer with 75 tackles.
DL — Chase Cullom, Sr., Eastside -- Missed a couple of games but played admirable for a strong Eastside defense.
DL — James Adams, Jr., Alcovy -- 47 tackles, four for losses and a pair of sacks in 2017. Breakout senior season is possible.
LB — Rico Ruffin, Sr., Eastside -- 70 tackles from his linebacker spot. All-around solid performer for the Eagles.
LB — Cozbi Craig, Jr., Newton -- Steadily improving playmaker. Fast to the ball. He'll be expected to be an anchor for Newton's front 7 next season.
LB — Jamari Brundage, Jr., Eastside -- 73 tackles and four sacks as a junior.
DB — Khalil Wilcox, Jr., Newton -- Flashed some defensive playmaking ability in the second half of the season with a pair of interceptions.
DB — Taylor Carter, Eastside -- Provided solid complement to Brown at corner.
DB — Demetrius Tuggle, Sr., Alcovy -- Was a valuable special teams performer as well for Alcovy.
DB — Jakob Streeter, Sr., Alcovy -- Coach Chris Edgar called him a "heat-seeking missile." One of the hardest hitting DBs we've seen anywhere.
Honorable Mention: QB Neal Howard, Newton; DB Bryson Wilcox, Alcovy; Social Circle; WR David Butso, Newton; QB Nicholas Simmons, Alcovy; WR/DB Caleb Howard, Social Circle; OL Andruw Binnion, Alcovy; RB Shamar Hunter, Eastside; TE Colby Shivers, Eastside; WR Jerry Mays, Eastside; QB Cam Anderson, Alcovy; DB Jordan Rogers, Eastside; DB Jalen Davis, Alcovy; QB Jackson Will, Social Circle; RB Ryan Burton, Newton.