For the first time, the Rockdale and Covington News have transcended county lines to bring the inaugural Rockdale-Newton All-Area Football Team. It represents the top performers from the six schools throughout the two counties for the 2011 football season. As always, it’s never easy choosing who deserves to make such a list. Nevertheless, each player named earned their spot.
Heritage coach Chad Frazier (coach of the year), Alcovy running back Devon Edwards (offensive player of the year), Heritage defensive lineman Ryan Watson (defensive player of the year) and Newton linebacker Tyrique Brown (athlete/special teams player of the year) rose above all to garner the team’s top honors. But they were just a handful of players and coaches who proved football is in good hands in the two counties.
In the end, every player who laced up their cleats and strapped on their helmets and every coach who spent countless hours planning and working with their athletes deserves praise.
Offensive Player of the Year
Devon Edwards, (RB/KR Alcovy)
Devon Edwards had a banner year for Alcovy football in 2011. After sitting out nearly the entire 2010 season with a broken collarbone, Edwards came back with a vengeance to lead the Tigers to a regular-season divisional title and state playoff berth. As a result, coaches throughout Region 3-AAAA agreed he was one of the league’s best players and voted him Offensive Co-Player of the Year. Northgate’s Alex Lakes shared the honor.
Edwards roared into Alcovy’s record books. He set a school record for all-purpose yards with 1,917 yards and scored a school-record 20 touchdowns as a running back, receiver and kick returner. His four kickoff returns for touchdowns is also a school record.
Edwards became the school’s third 1,000-yard running back and second straight after finishing the year with 1,009 rushing yards. He joined Tre Sorrells, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark last year and Malachi Outlaw as Alcovy’s only 1,000-yard backs. Outlaw became Alcovy’s first 1,000-yard rusher in 2009.
Edwards averaged 7.5 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground. He also hauled in 11 receptions for another 251 yards and found the end zone three times as a receiver. Perhaps Edwards’ most explosive stats came in the return game though.
As a kickoff returner, Edwards racked up 657 yards and averaged 41 yards per return. More impressively, he scored four touchdowns including one in Alcovy’s playoff loss.
Edwards was also a standout on defense. As a defensive back, he had two interceptions to go along with 57 tackles for the Tigers.
Edwards’ contemporaries weren’t the only ones to take notice. The diminutive all-purpose back recently committed to Duke University and will sign a letter of intent to play football for the Blue Devils in February. Once he signs, Edwards will be Alcovy’s second Division I football signee, joining former teammate Gary Wilkins who now plays at Furman University. He will become the school’s first Football Subdivision scholarship athlete. He is expected to play defensive back in college.
Chase Dial (OL, Newton); Dial had an 87 percent blocking grade for the Rams in 2011. He protected quarterback Gmatreian Brown’s blind side and was awarded for his play by his peers with a spot on the 2-AAAAA All-Region First Team.
Paul Hadaway (OL, Eastside); Hadaway was Eastside’s most consistent lineman for the second straight year. He led the team in knock downs with 43 and paved the way for the Eagles running game that rushed for more than 1,000 yards again in 2011.
Scott Mills (OL, Alcovy); Mills earns a spot on the All-Area team thanks to his consistency and overall solid play on the county’s lone playoff team. He was named to the Region 3-AAAA All-Region second team.
Harrison Baize (OL, Heritage); Baize, a senior, graded out to 88% on Heritage’s offensive line this season. He had 56 knockdown blocks and didn’t give up a sack during the Patriots run to the second round of the AAAA playoffs.
Kevin Whitter (OL, Salem); Whitter graded out at 86 percent. Whitter was selected as an East West Senior Bowl All-Star.
Javonte Williams (RB, Newton); Newton’s diminutive back became the first player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since 1998. In fact, Williams rushed for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011. He posted a 6.2 yards per carry average and was named 2-AAAAA All-Region First Team.
Quami Stanley (RB, Heritage); Stanley rushed for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns on 162 rushes, for 7 yards per carry. He also caught 20 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns. Stanley was selected to the 2011 East West Senior All Star game.
Jahaad Coleman (RB, Salem); Jahaad Coleman was a weapon on both offense and special teams for Salem. Coleman ran for 923 yards and 11 touchdowns in just seven games for the Salem Seminoles. The senior also averaged 26 yards on kick returns, and ran back one touchdown.
Dante Blackmon (WR, Eastside); Blackmon led the Eagles in receiving for a second straight year. In fact, he led all receivers amongst the area’s six schools with 44 receptions and 636 yards. Blackmon also had five touchdown catches including four in the Eagles’ final two games.
Kenard Murry (WR, Alcovy); Murry had a pair of huge receiving games for the Region 3A-AAAA champion Tigers in 2011. Against Starr’s Mill at home and on the road against Jones County late in the season, Murry hauled in a pair of touchdown catches to help Alcovy capture its first subregion championship ever.
Cornell White (QB, Alcovy); White was a dual threat, rushing for 537 yards while passing for 911. He threw nine touchdowns and ran for another five all while playing full-time n defense.
First Team Defense
Ryan George (DL, Salem); George starred at linebacker as just a junior for Salem. George tallied 43 solo tackles, including nine for a loss.
Shaquille Huff (DL, Eastside); Huff was named to the Georgia All-Star team and First Team All-Region for the second straight year. Along with Rankins and Antonius Sims, he formed one of the most dynamic front lines in recent history. Huff also led the Eagles in tackles for a loss.
Sheldon Rankins (DL, Eastside); Injury cut Rankins senior campaign short but what he did in eight games was enough to eran him a spot on the team. His seven sacks led the Eagles and his two interceptions and three fumble recoveries were also a team-high. Rankins finished with 40 tackles — nine for a loss and seven QB pressures.
Kingsely Ejike (DL, Newton); Ejike exploded on the scene with 73 tackles and a staggering 21 for a loss in 2011 for the Rams. His 9.5 sacks were a team best and he was named First Team All-Region 2-AAAAA.
Curtiss Benton (DL, Alcovy); Benton came out of nowhere to lead the Tigers with six sacks and 11 tackles for a loss in just his first year as a starter. Only a sophomore, Benton was the lone Tiger named to the deep 3-AAAA All-Region defensive first team.
Blake Rouse (LB, Eastside); Rouse led the Eagles in tackles for a second straight year and was also named to the region’s all-defensive team for a second time. Eastside’s senior defensive captain also had four sacks and pair of fumbles forced.
Chase Alford (LB, Heritage); Alford, although a junior, was one of Heritage’s leaders on defense. The inside linebacker came up with 147 tackles, including 76 on his own. He had five tackles for loss and a half a sack. Alford recorded two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He was selected as a 2010 All-Region honoree.
Kiante Allen (LB, Rockdale); Kiante Allen starred on both sides of the ball for Rockdale, but made his mark at linebacker. The senior recorded 98 tackles, 23 solo. He also had four sacks.
Antonio Williams (LB, Newton); Williams finished with 72 tackles, four for a loss and a sack on his way to 2-AAAAA All-Region honors. Williams forced one fumble and recovered two — returning one for a touchdown.
Lackash Lackey (DB, Salem); Lackash Lackey is one of the youngest players on our All-area list, but he earned his way here. Lackey had three interceptions, eight pass breakups and 37 tackles. On special teams, the sophomore returned a punt for a touchdown.
Justin Bates (DB, Eastside); Bates was one of Region 4-AAA best cornerbacks in 2011. He led the Eagles in lock downs and pass break ups. He also made plays in special teams as a kick returner.
Jamaaal Lane (S, Heritage); One of Heritage’s senior captains, Jamaaal Lane helped anchor the secondary this season. Lane had 77 tackles, including 43 solo and 34 assists, and one tackle for loss. Lane also had an interception, fumble recovery and two pass break ups.
Zack Sullivan (P/K, Newton); Sullivan was perfect in extra point attempts and had a 42-yard field goal as his longest. He was also a solid punter, averaging 37 yards per kick. He had a region-high 11 touchbacks on kickoffs.