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FOOTBALL: Introducing the 2019 NewTEN Newton County Top 10 Players
WATCH: Check out the full video reveal of our area's top 10 players
NewTEN
This year, the sports staff of The Covington News selected who we believe are the county's top 10 players, including a special teams honorable mention. -photo by Jason Mussell

The 2019 NewTEN Top 10 Players Reveal (FULL VIDEO)

COVINGTON, Ga. -- For the last couple of years, we’ve brought you our Covington News Super Six — the six most highly recruited players in the county, or players with the most recruiting potential. 

This year, we felt like the amount of difference makers littered across the county was enough that the number six couldn’t contain it all. We also believe that there were enough impact players in this county for the 2019 season to where, if they all reached their full potential, they could do much to really put and keep Covington on the high school football map. 

Our staff continues to believe that Newton County puts out its fair share of next-level talent, per capita, in comparison to virtually any other area in Georgia. So this year, we wanted to commemorate that by rolling out the NewTEN Top 10 Performers — celebrating the 10 top football players of any position in the area. 

So without further ado, here they are:

Alcovy Football
Alcovy's NaTorien Holloway, left, and Andrae Robinson are being seen as potentially two of the top 10 players in the county. -photo by Jason Mussell


ALCOVY TIGERS

RB NaTorien Holloway, SR, 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, Alcovy: NaTorien Holloway returns as the area’s leading returning rusher after totaling close to 700 yards on the ground last year for a struggling Alcovy offense. He was one of the few bright spots, and his play — particularly early in the season — left many across the area wondering what could’ve been if things had run a little bit smoother in the Tigers program. Nevertheless, Holloway has worked hard under the Tigers’ new coaching staff, knowing he’ll be expected to fully fit into the role of being the team’s featured back. Holloway possesses a toughness and grit to his game that belies his diminutive stature. He has good burst and vision and is one of the toughest football players the county has to offer. 

The unfortunate thing about Holloway is his size keeps some away when it comes to the recruiting piece. But if any one decides to “take a chance” on Holloway, they’ll not only get a solid, high character football player who gets it done in the classroom (3.4 grade point average), they’ll also have a leader on and off the field and an athlete guaranteed to give his all. 

ATH Andrae Robinson, SR. 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Alcovy: Sort of like Holloway, Robinson is an intriguing talent for the Tigers. He was the team’s second leading rusher last season (271 yards and three touchdowns) behind Holloway, but he also was the team’s leading return man on special teams and as a defensive back, he tied graduated senior Bryson Wilcox for the team lead with six pass breakups. Along with twin brother Adrian, the Robinson twins have long been among the more intriguing talents in the area. Injuries have dogged both brothers at various points in their career, otherwise there’s no doubt either or both would be extremely highly recruited athletes at this point in their careers. Andrae makes this list because his body of work is a bit larger than that of his brother who missed virtually all of last season with a collarbone injury. 


EASTSIDE EAGLES


Eastside Eagles
From left, OL Bryant Byrd, QB Noah Cook, WR/DB Jeffery Haynes, K/P Ezra King and TE/LB Colby Shivers represent the Eastside Eagles' NewTEN Top 10 Players selections. King was picked as a special teams honorable mention. -photo by Jason Mussell


QB Noah Cook, SR, 6-foot-1, 165 pounds, Eastside: There is no argument that Eastside brings back the area’s top signal caller. Cook threw for over 2,100 yards while rushing for 352. He accounted for north of 30 touchdowns — 25 passing —  while completing almost 70 percent of his passes and tossing just three interceptions. His play earned him several postseason accolades, and he received an invite to the prestigious Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Nashville this past summer. 

Cook is one of the best returning quarterbacks in Class AAAA, but he’s the unquestioned leader of the Eastside offense after guiding the Eagles to an undefeated regular season, a 12-1 overall record (quarterfinals playoff appearance) and the school’s first region championship in football in nine years. With another stellar season complete with a deep playoff run, there’s no doubt that Cook’s offer list will grow. 


DB/WR Jeffery Haynes, SR, 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Eastside: Haynes burst onto the season during Eastside’s magical 2018 run. Perhaps the highlight moment for him was when he snagged a pick six to seal Eastside’s monumental win over Region 4-AAAA foe and thorn in the side Woodward Academy. But the truth is, Haynes was a solid defender all season long, and one of Eastside’s leading tacklers out of the defensive backfield. 

As a junior he had 65 total tackles and displayed his ability to hit well in space with 55 solo stops. He had two interceptions and six pass break ups, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. With the departure of Antavious Cobb, Jamari Brown and Quincy Cullins and Andre Royal, Haynes is going to have every opportunity to become the team’s top defensive back, which should give him plenty of opportunity to catch the attention of college recruiters with his speed and nose for the ball. Haynes could also figure into the plans for Eastside’s passing game, as the Eagles will likely try to find a place to get him out on deep balls with his speed. 


OL Bryant Byrd, SR, 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Eastside: This is a classic case of where you can’t judge a lineman by his size. Eastside’s Byrd represents one of the anchors in what should be a more-than-solid offensive line in 2019. He’s garnered some recruiting attention even before the season has begun, and scored his first offer — Louisiana College — over the summer. Byrd fits the mold for the kind of trenchmen who are successful in Eastside’s fast-paced, shotgun spread offense. You don’t have to be a behemoth to be effective in offensive coordinator Jay Cawthon’s often run-heavy attack, but you do have to be physical, smart and quick. Byrd has all those attributes. 

The senior is one of four returning starters on an offensive line that paved the way for a run game that rolled up over 240 rushing yards per night. It helped that Eastside had talented backs like graduated 1,000-yard rusher Taylor Carter. But even with a few less-proven commodities in the offensive backfield, Byrd and his fellow linemen will make life easier, both for Cook and the stable of tailbacks that will work to replace Carter’s production. 


TE/LB Colby Shivers, SR, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Eastside: Shivers was one of five members of the Eastside receiving corps that caught more than 15 passes last year. Shivers shined as a safety valve option over the middle for Cook last year, to the tune of 20 catches, 363 yards and four touchdowns while averaging almost 20 yards per catch. Shivers may end up finding a lot of his collegiate offers from schools looking for a solid baseball player. But don’t be surprised to see Shivers garner some football attention as well. 

We mentioned that Shivers was one of five pass catchers to snag more than 15 receptions last year. Well, the fact that Shivers is the leading returning receiver for the Eagles, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if Shivers finds himself being featured more in the team’s passing offense. Eastside’s receivers will be young, but Shivers will provide Cook with a sure-handed, reliable target. Shivers showed flashes of excellence on defense last year as well, making 39 total stops from his linebacker position, with five of those tackles for losses. Shivers was one of six Eastside players who recorded three quarterback sacks last year.

Look for a breakout season from him. 


NEWTON RAMS

Newton Rams Football
From left, WR Robert Lewis, DB/WR Diondre Glover, DB/RB Josh Hardeman and DB/WR Nyland Green are the Newton Rams' NewTEN Top 10 Performers. -photo by Jason Mussell


DB/WR Nyland Green, JR, 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Newton: The meteoric rise of Green’s star has been nothing short of astounding to watch. Originally thought to be the next great wide receiver at Newton — and some say he still could be — Green has shocked some, virtually coming out of nowhere to be one of the top defensive backs, not just in the county. Not just in the state, but in the nation. 

Green recorded 17 tackles from his cornerback spot as a sophomore in 2018. But he also grabbed three interceptions, including a pick six and he also had a fumble recovery. He’ll look to play more receiver this year, which should only do more to show off his ample athleticism. But make no mistake. The recruiters are salivating at the prospect of having the long, rangy junior line up opposite receivers at corner. 

Green had a tremendous summer, full of great performances at elite camps that helped him grab an assortment of Power Five offers, including an overture from 2018 college football national champion Clemson. A 4-star prospect, look for Green’s offer list to grow even as his role on the team continues to expand over the next two years. 


WR Robert Lewis, SR, 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Newton: The brother of NFL running back and former Newton star Akeem Hunt seems destined to follow in his brother’s footsteps. The senior wideout starred as a junior alongside now-Akron freshman Mike Mathison, to the tune of 25 catches for 674 yards and eight touchdowns. The latter two stats led the Rams in 2018. He also proved himself a big-play threat every time the ball went deep with his 27 yards per catch average. 

Lewis has transformed his body through Newton’s rigorous offseason weight room regimen and college scouts have noticed. The combination of a solid sophomore season, last year’s breakout performance and a strong summer have put 13 schools on Lewis’ offer list, according to 247sports.com, including Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Kentucky, Minnesota and Syracuse. 

Two things could help Lewis showcase yet another level in 2019. One, is the fact that, unlike last year, Newton doesn’t seem to need a two-quarterback system like it attempted in various parts of last season. For all intents and purposes, the quarterback job seems to be fairly secured by senior Neal Howard. But the second thing is the other receiving talent around Lewis. With Jerrol Hines returning and Green looking to get more play on offense, opposing defenses will attempt to double cover Lewis to their own potential peril, as the Rams’ other wideouts are capable of routinely beating man coverage. 

Don’t be surprised if Lewis adds another star to his count before signing day comes. 


SS/RB Josh Hardeman, SR. 6-feet, 180 pounds, Newton: Hardeman has graduated from jitterbug scatback to a formidable force on both sides of the ball. He’s a hard-hitting strong safety, a slashing type of running back and one of the fastest football players in Newton County, having been clocked regularly at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash over the summer. Recruiters are starting to notice as well. 

After getting several mid-major offers from schools like UNC-Charlotte, Hardeman grabbed a Power Five offer from Big 10 Conference member Purdue during the offseason. Hardeman battled some injuries last year as a junior, but now-Butler Community College (Kansas) freshman Adarius Thomas carried the load at tailback last year for Newton. This season, the Rams have solid depth at running back, but don’t be surprised if a now healthy Hardeman shows a hot hand and takes control of the Rams’ run game at times this season. 


ATH Diondre Glover, SR, 6-feet, 170 pounds, Newton: If there was a Mr. Personality award to be handed out, it would go to Glover. The two-star prospect is an athlete in every since of the word. He’s shown promise both at defensive back and wide receiver. Early in his high school career he even played some quarterback. But regardless of where Glover lines up, he finds a way to become a playmaker. 

Back in June, Glover chose Mercer over seven other schools, including UNLV, UNC-Charlotte, Southeast Missouri State and Coastal Carolina. But don’t be shocked to see a few more overtures come his way, trying to get the talented Ram to flip his commitment.