Several adages exist that state the improbability of being able to please everybody.
As far as sports journalism goes, there’s probably no other time when those sayings are more relevant than when picking all-county, all-region or all-state sports teams.
I’ve been picking them for the last six years now, in virtually every sport imaginable. And the two main constants I’ve discovered, regardless of where I cover sports, is that no matter how much one tries to be all-inclusive and fair, the reality is someone will always feel left out, or underrated.
It’s the nature of the beast.
It’s also quite the inexact science. Yet, I still love having the opportunity to pour through stats, game film and my own mental rolodex of big plays and big moments to see how each athlete from each school stacks up against each other.
My task of picking the 2016 All-County football team for The Covington News was particularly challenging, as I didn’t arrive on the scene here until well past the midway point of the football season. So the evaluation process for picking this bunch of standouts was equal parts educational for me as it hopefully was rewarding for the schools and athletes represented.
To be sure, I would be surprised if I didn’t get at least a few emails or calls regarding some of our selections. Some will praise them and others will disagree. This is the beauty of democracy – even from a sports journalism context. And if every one of you had the ability to choose this team, I’m sure there would be as many different ideas of how to approach its selection as there would be people doing the selecting.
Here’s a little insight on my process.
When it comes to superlatives like coach of the year or players of the year, I don’t just look at stats and numbers only. I believe stats are needed, and provide a big piece of the puzzle in terms of decision making. But stats can also be misleading, at times, as to the overall impact a person has on his team.
Take Eastside quarterback Austin Holloway, for example, who was chosen as our player of the year. He bested all area quarterbacks in terms of offensive production, edging out Newton junior signal caller Myron Middlebrooks in most categories. But that, alone, wasn’t the deciding factor. Holloway’s presence as a team leader and overall team compass offensively were the kinds of intangibles that really won the day for him.
Also with defensive player of the year Jeremiah Bundrage. Even if there were others who made more tackles, Bundrage stood out because of the kind of plays he made in the middle of a very fast and stingy Newton defense. The middle linebacker, essentially, was the quarterback of the Rams’ defensive unit.
Same with Alcovy coach Chris Edgar, our coach of the year selection. Eastside’s Troy Hoff and Newton’s Terrance Banks both had more wins in 2016 than Edgar. Both also made state playoff appearances, while Alcovy did not.
However, looking beyond the numbers shows an incredibly impressive coaching job by Edgar. Perspective comes when you realize that Edgar, in his first season, guided Alcovy (4-6) to more than two times its win total from the 2014 and 2015 seasons combined.
Throw in the number of players from Edgar’s squad who will have a chance to play college football next year when, just a few months before, those chances looked grim, and you’ve got the kind of immediate culture change that can only come through solid coaching. It’s also a chance that can’t be measured by mere stats and numbers alone.
All of our athletes deserve great recognition for the amount of literal blood, sweat and tears they’ve poured into their season. I think we who are on the outside looking in underestimate – even if not on purpose – the demands that come with being a high school athlete in a talent rich, sports crazed state like Georgia. Many of us who played 15 or 20 years ago probably would have a hard time handling the year around focus that’s needed to succeed now.
For that reason, our athletes should get all of the accolades we can muster up for them.
That said, I’m looking forward to being able to help decide our other all-county teams for basketball, wrestling, baseball, soccer, etc. as the rest of the school year goes by. Being able to see players compete for a full season, and even seeing their development from offseason to the end of the season, is priceless when selecting these teams.
For all intents and purposes, my selection process for the 2017 season’s all-county football accolades will begin this winter and spring when I get my first looks at these guys in the offseason for next year. The fun never stops!
Congratulations to all of our Newton County football athletes for a very solid 2016 season!
Gabriel Stovall is the Sports Editor at the Covington News. He can be reached for tips and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1, as well as our sports Twitter Page @CovNewsSports.