Another prep football season is in the books, and for the sixth consecutive year, I had the fun (but difficult) task of putting together an All-Columbia County high school football team.
This year some choices were particularly tough, namely the quarterback, punter, place kicker and lineman positions.
Also, several players expected the make the squad went down with injuries, including Phillip Choate (Lakeside linebacker and fullback), Josh Wilmoth (Harlem linebacker), Scott Brantley (Augusta Christian linebacker) and Brooks Robinson (Greenbrier quarterback).
All of those players, if healthy, were deserving of a spot on the all-county team, but missed time held them back.
In all honesty, it was not a great year for Columbia County football teams, since only Augusta Christian advanced to the state playoffs.
There is a silver lining for the local squads - the future looks pretty good. During the 2002 season more freshmen, sophomores and juniors made contributions than any other prep campaign I can recall, and many of those underclassmen received all-county recognition.
Quarterback: Travis Clark, Evans (junior) - After missing the first couple of games with a broken ankle, Clark came on strong. He finished the season with 109 completions for nearly 1,300 yards. Clark narrowly edged out Augusta Christian's Adam McKinney for the first-team QB spot.
Running back: Cole Rabun, Augusta Christian (junior) - Rabun had a breakout year with the Lions, rushing for 1,517 yards on 216 carries. The speedy tailback tallied 17 touchdowns.
Running back: Orlando Pollard, Greenbrier (sophomore) - Pollard began his varsity career this season, and quickly established himself by topping the 100-yard rushing mark in his first three games. Although he's not big, Pollard ran with great power, exhibiting a style reminiscent of Barry Sanders.
Wide receiver: Steven Rogers, Evans (senior) - Rogers is being recruited by several Division I colleges, and was the most talented player in the county in 2002. He finished his senior season with 59 receptions for nearly 700 yards, the best numbers of any receiver in the CSRA.
Split end: Ryan Bates, Augusta Christian (senior) - Thanks to blazing speed and sure hands, Bates hauled in 25 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 18.2 yards per catch. He also was a terrific return man and defensive back for the Lions.
Tight end: Matt Lane, Augusta Christian (senior) - Lane came out of nowhere and played a key role during AC's nine-win season. He caught 17 passes for 412 yards - an amazing 24.3 yards per reception - with four going for touchdowns.
Center: Charles O'Byrne, Lakeside (senior) - The 6-2, 305-pound lineman was dominant at times this season. Although he played a lot at tackle for the Panthers, he is being recruited as a center. O'Byrne easily could have been a first-team all-county nose guard as well.
Augusta Christian football coach Bruce Lane earned the title of coach of the year. This first-year AC coach replaced Steve Price and led the team to a 9-3 record.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Guard: Sam Pitts, Augusta Christian (junior) - He helped open holes for the county's most productive offense, and was a primary reason why Cole Rabun amassed more than 1,500 yards on the ground.
Guard: Chase Lord, Evans (senior) - A team captain and a true leader for the Knights, Lord has been a solid performer for four seasons. The coaches love his work ethic and determination on the field.
Tackle: Jacob Filiatreau, Evans (senior) - When the Knights needed yards, they usually ran behind Filiatreau. Like Lord, he was a four-year player at Evans.
Tackle: Curtis Henchel, Greenbrier (senior) - Big and super strong, Henchel kept getting better as the season went on.
Athlete: Kelvin Sturgis, Harlem (senior) - Probably the most versatile player in the county. Although he was hurt most of the season, Sturgis scored 15 touchdowns and rushed for more than 600 yards.
Place kicker: Ben Tankersley, Greenbrier (senior) - At 5-7, 145 pounds, he is small in stature, but displayed a great leg. Tankersley has been deadly accurate for three seasons, and is being recruited by several colleges.
Kickoffs: David Nelson, Augusta Christian (senior) - I usually don't split place-kicking and kickoffs into two positions, but this is the exception. Though Tankersley was Mr. Accuracy, no one boomed the ball like Nelson, who recorded touchbacks on 62 percent of his kickoffs.
Defensive line: Trey Pitts, Augusta Christian (senior) - Despite playing with a torn ACL, he was a stalwart for the AC defense. The Lions scored a lot of points, but Pitts was one of many unsung heroes on the defensive side.
Defensive line: C.J. Wiltz, Evans (junior) - He has a chance to be very, very good before his prep career is over. At 6-2, 275 pounds Wiltz has the size to play collegiately, if he keeps improving.
Defensive line: Lance Tucker, Augusta Christian (senior) - He displayed a penchant for making key plays, and did so almost every game for AC.
Defensive line: Brent Edwards, Greenbrier (senior) - In a word, Edwards was outstanding. He always found a way to get a sack when the Pack needed it the most.
Linebacker: Kelvin Sturgis, Harlem - His motor was always running. Sturgis seemed to always be around the ball. He definitely will play at the next level.
Linebacker: David Barrett, Greenbrier (senior) - Barrett had a solid senior season, and was the defensive leader of the Wolfpack.
Linebacker: Marcus Paschal, Augusta Christian (sophomore) - His 125 tackles says it all. He really took up the slack when Scott Brantley went out with an injury.
Cornerback: J.C. Jennings, Greenbrier (sophomore) - The sky is the limit for this kid. Although he was in his first season of varsity football, at time Jennings was the best athlete on the field. If he continues to work hard, his potential is scary.
Cornerback: Tim Camp, Harlem (junior) - Camp makes the play and dishes out hard hits - it's that simple. On offense, defense or special teams, he showed game-breaking ability.
Safety: Dixon Revell, Lakeside (sophomore) - While he played more in a linebacker slot for Lakeside, Revell also was good at covering receivers. If he fills out as expected, he could be a big-time linebacker for the Panthers.
Evans High School's Steven Rogers finished his senior
season with 59 receptions with nearly 700 yards. Several Division I colleges have their eye on Rogers, who is considered the most talented player of 2002.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Safety: Tanis Maynor, Evans (senior) - As a junior, Maynor picked off seven passes. He didn't match that total during his senior year, mainly because Evans played a lot of run-oriented teams, but he still was a standout for the Knights.
Punter: Alan Griffin, Harlem (senior) - Averaged 40.1 yards per punt, which was tops in the CSRA. Griffin has great hang time on his kicks, and is being recruited by several college programs.
Kickoff returns: Johnny Los, Lakeside (senior) - Los was a virtual unknown when the season started, but his speed had opposing coaches worried on every kickoff. He averaged more than 25 yards per return, including a touchdown.
Punt returns: Steven Rogers, Evans - Rogers was a threat every time he touched the football, and averaged 18 yard per return.
Honorable mention: Evans - Osmond Brinson (senior cornerback); Kai-Cheng Ho (sophomore running back); Robin Jacobs (junior defensive tackle); Ricky Crawford (junior wide receiver). Greenbrier - Cam Griffin (senior linebacker, quarterback); Scott Henchel (senior offensive lineman); Rashad Dunn (junior offensive lineman); Daniel Jordan (senior tight end, punter); Donald Eslick (senior defensive linemen); Jimmy Viebrock (senior defensive back). Harlem - Mike Hawkinberry (senior quarterback); Matt Dobbs (senior kicker); Alex Lazenby (senior defensive end); Derrick Jones (senior offensive lineman, linebacker); Tae Dorsey (senior running back). Lakeside - Galen Jones (senior tight end, linebacker); Greg Goad (senior defensive end); Sam Jasinski (senior linebacker); Philip Sadler (junior receiver); Rahul Singh (senior offensive lineman); C.J. Middleton (senior fullback, linebacker); Tanner Richards (senior offensive lineman); Augusta Christian - Dwight Banks (junior defensive back); Chad Cooper (junior defensive lineman, linebacker); Andrew Fisher (junior defensive back); Robert Banks (junior wide receiver); Brock Ballis (senior lineman); Daniel Whinghter (junior offensive lineman); Adam McKinney (junior quarterback, safety, punter).
Offensive Player of the Year: Cole Rabun, Augusta Christian - Rabun made the graduation of record-setting tailback Joel Whinghter a little easier to swallow. Rabun stepped in and rushed for 1,567 yards on 216 attempts and 17 touchdowns. He should be a contender for Player of the Year honors again in 2003.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kelvin Sturgis, Harlem - Could easily have been named overall Player of the Year. He was great on offense, but he was even more vital on defense for the Bulldogs, especially when middle linebacker Josh Wilmoth was sidelined with an injury midway through the season.
Andrew Hawkinberry Courage Award
This is a new honor, and goes to the player who was able to shake off adversity and help lead his team. The award is inspired by Andrew Hawkinberry, the 8-year-old who died in a traffic accident while traveling to see his big brother play football for Harlem.
The inaugural Andrew Hawkinberry Award goes to Michael Hawkinberry, who returned to the gridiron and showed tremendous courage after the tragic loss.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Lane, Augusta Christian - Lane certainly earned this accolade. The first-year AC coach inherited a good team, but he still had to replace Steve Price, who was successful as a coach and very popular at Augusta Christian. Additionally, Lane arrived just as star tailback Joel Whinghter was leaving.
Despite those stumbling blocks, Lane never missed a beat, guiding the Lions to a 9-3 record. Along the way, AC captured the Region 1-AAA title.
On top of all that, Lane truly cared about his players. He put in a lot of time making the seniors feel appreciated, even though he had just met those kids last summer.
Player of the Year: Steven Rogers, Evans - This was the closest Player of the Year race in my six years of selecting the all-county team. Harlem's Kelvin Sturgis was a solid choice, and was definitely the top defensive player.
But when it came down to game-breaking ability and overall performance, I went with Rogers. Over the past two seasons, the 6-2, 170-pound wide receiver caught more passes than any other two players combined. As a senior, he had 59 receptions for nearly 700 yards. Also he averaged 28 yards per kickoff return, 18 yards per punt return, and notched several big plays running the ball for the Knights.
Rogers did all of that with a lot of pressure on him to produce, not to mention that he played in a brutally tough region.
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