COVINGTON, Ga. —With the 2020 prep football season firmly in our rearview mirror, it’s time for The Covington News staff to take a look back at the most impactful players from our area.
In the context of a pandemic, simply completing a season should be viewed as a success. Even still, there are always individuals who find ways to rise above and beyond the call of duty in the face of adversity. Last season was no exception.
Those listed below showed up each Friday night and earned the right to be placed among the Newton County’s elite.
It’s an honor to present to you the 2020 All-Covington News Football Team.
MVP: Nyland Green (Newton)
Was there anything Green couldn’t do on a football field in 2020?
As a senior, he racked up 457 receiving yards on 25 catches and found the end zone four times as a receiver. He was also productive on the other side of the field, recording 47 tackles, five tackles for loss and five interceptions — including a pick-six — while garnering national attention as a cornerback.
Green was also a lethal weapon for the Rams on special teams. His seemingly effortless stride and elusiveness made him a nightmare for opposing punt and kickoff teams. He picked up big chunks of yards on returns time and time again, including his electric 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against rival Alcovy.
No other player in the area had a bigger impact on his team’s success than Green last season. He truly earned the title of Most Valuable Player in our area each and every Friday night.
Offensive POTY: Dayton Green (Eastside)
Five days before the 2020 season began, Eastside senior quarterback Jaylen Woods suffered a leg injury in practice that threatened to sideline him for nearly two months.
In stepped Green.
After emerging as one of the Eagles’ top wideouts in 2019, Green transitioned to a new role under center as the team’s emergency quarterback. There were some growing pains at first, but it didn’t take very long for him to adjust to the life of a gunslinger.
Green started the first seven games of the season, throwing for 787 yards and nine touchdowns while tossing just one interception. He was also a threat on his legs, picking up 137 yards on the ground from the quarterback position.
Woods returned from injury for Eastside’s eighth game of the season, but Green’s contributions didn’t stop. He shifted back out to receiver and reeled in 21 receptions — second-most on the team — for 258 yards and two touchdowns in six games.
When adversity struck, Green didn’t hesitate to do anything he could to bring his team success. As a result, the Eagles won 10 games and returned to the state quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
Defensive POTY: Justin Benton (Newton)
The freshman phenom lived up to the hype during his sophomore campaign last fall.
Coming off a season in which he was named the All-Covington News Freshman of the Year, Benton added more muscle in the winter and summer. He also took on more of a vocal leadership role in practice, reaching outside his comfort zone to lead his teammates with words and instruction in addition to his actions.
These steps of maturation translated to continued on-field success.
Benton closed out the year with 93 total tackles. The defensive lineman led the team in sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and QB hurries (22), tied First Team All-Area defensive back Darius Green for solo tackles (55) and added an interception for good measure.
With offers from the likes of Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and Arizona State on the table, Benton has already begun to light up recruiting boards. As he continues to pile on muscle and hammer down his technique, he could prove to be one of the top college football recruits in the state — if not the country.
Newcomer of the Year: Ashton Evans (Alcovy)
Evans was tabbed the starting quarterback for the Tigers in their final game of 2019. Coming into his sophomore season poised to earn the full-time starting role, he didn’t disappoint.
With Evans under center, the Tigers averaged 20.6 points per game — a significant uptick from 14.5 PPG in 2019 and 7.75 PPG in 2018. He proved to be a versatile threat, keeping defenders on edge with his shiftiness in the backfield as well as his powerful arm.
Alcovy was struck with adversity and scheduling issues due to the pandemic, but Evans’ leadership as a sophomore quarterback helped guide the team to their first postseason appearance since 2013.
Coach of the Year: Troy Hoff (Eastside)
The departure of a four-year starter at quarterback. A significant injury to the novel quarterback brought in to take the reins of the offense. A higher classification and tougher region to navigate than in years past.
It’s a combination that would spell a setback for many programs. But not for Eastside.
Instead, in his sixth season calling the shots, head coach Troy Hoff led the Eagles to a 10-win season and a trip back to the state quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
It could be argued that the 2020 season was Hoff’s most impressive from a coaching standpoint — even more so than the 2018 campaign that saw the Eagles coast into the quarterfinals at 12-0.
Hoff proved that he and his staff excel at utilizing the talent they have and moving puzzle pieces around to find the right fit.
First Team Offense
QB Logan Cross (Social Circle)
RB Dallas Johnson (Eastside)
RB Tristan Mayweather (Alcovy)
WR KJ Reid (Social Circle)
WR Mathias Height (Alcovy)
WR Saabir Berrian (Eastside)
OL Dana Campbell (Alcovy)
OL James Amos (Eastside)
OL Keyshawn Blackstock
OL Jaylen Farmer (Eastside)
OL Jackson Austin (Social Circle)
First Team Defense
DL MJ Stroud (Alcovy)
DL Seth Martin (Eastside)
DL Christian Benson (Eastside)
LB Nolan McCamy (Newton)
LB Grayson Malcom (Eastside)
LB Justin Buchanan (Alcovy)
LB Tucker Cleary (Social Circle)
DB Mason Moore (Social Circle)
DB Darius Green (Newton)
DB Nijay Willis (Newton)
DB Devin Brown (Eastside)
Second Team Offense
QB Jevarra Martin Jr. (Newton)
RB Kenai Grier (Eastside)
RB Sincere Johnson (Eastside)
WR Jamel Johnson (Alcovy)
WR Cole Shannon (Eastside)
WR Eric Taylor (Social Circle)
OL Sean Poe (Social Circle)
OL Marcus Metcalf (Eastside)
OL Oro Avery (Newton)
OL Elijah Zollicofer (Newton)
OL Jaden Thrower (Alcovy)
Second Team Defense
DL Malachai Arnett (Newton)
DL Sambo Button (Eastside)
DL Trey Douglas (Social Circle)
LB Levi Adcox (Alcovy)
LB Trace Nicholson (Eastside)
LB Jehden Robinson (Newton)
LB Armani Russ (Alcovy)
DB Nick Benton (Eastside)
DB Audavion Collins (Newton)
DB Phillip Baynes Jr.
DB Caleb Brown (Alcovy)
K Jaydon Fain (Eastside)
P Braxton Crawford (Alcovy)
Dawson Blake (Alcovy), Isaiah Kairy (Alcovy), Danny Moore (Alcovy), Raymir Brown (Alcovy), Jaylen Woods (Eastside), Kevin Napier (Eastside), Rodney Williams (Eastside), Tahjae Mullix (Newton), Jaden Blackwell (Newton), AJ Greene (Newton), Amarion Russell (Social Circle)