Evans High School coach Marty Jackson said at preseason camp in August that his running back was going to surprise people.
Jonathan Finch had ended his sophomore season in 2007 with promise, showing some flash that led Knights' coaches to believe he was on the verge of a breakout campaign.
Finch didn't disappoint.
The Columbia County News-Times All-County Football Player of the Year rushed for 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns after becoming the Knights' primary weapon. He scored at least one touchdown in each of Evans' 10 regular-season wins, and rushed for more than 200 yards in a game three times.
His hard work often allowed him time off. Finch sat the second half after scoring four touchdowns during a blowout win over Harlem, and he also took the final two quarters off when the Knights handled Butler.
Jackson was concerned with Finch's hands before the season. The junior had trouble taking pitches and catching passes last season, but went to work on both.
He rushed for a career-high 232 yards in a 7-0 Evans win over Greenbrier to open the season, scrambling 40 yards in the fourth quarter for the game's only score.
"Jonathan's got good vision ... I think he's seeing holes better," Jackson said after the win. "Last year, we were worried about pitching him the balls, but he worked hard constantly catching passes after practice. Now, his hands are fine."
Finch's competition for the honor included Harlem running back Seth Hill. The junior rushed for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns as part of coach Jimmie Lewis' triple-option attack. He also was a first-team All-Region selection after the Bulldogs' first season in Region 3-AAAA.
This was a year several of the area's defensive players also made a push to be named the county's best. Greenbrier defensive lineman Dylan Turner capped a solid prep career with a monster senior season.
Turner finished with 103 tackles, including seven sacks, and earned a first-team All-Region nod from 2-AAAAA coaches despite the Wolfpack's struggle. He has offers from Air Force, Navy, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian College and Troy. He has not received an offer from Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets think his size and strength would be a good fit on their offensive line.
Some of Finch's defensive teammates also deserved looks. Senior Nigel Charles patiently waited for last season's crop of seniors to depart before breaking out.
"Have you seen him get double-teamed?" teammate Reuben Faloughi asked during the season. "Nigel's a beast in the weight room."
Meanwhile, Jackson was named The Columbia County News-Times Coach of the Year for a second consecutive season after his Knights went undefeated in the regular season to earn the 3-AAAA title.
Jackson was worried before the season about all the Knights had lost on defense. But Evans' defense was tops in the area and arguably better than last season's group.
All-County Football Team
Player of the Year: Jonathan Finch, Jr., Evans
Coach of the Year: Marty Jackson, Evans
QB -- Chad Chandler, Sr., Lakeside
Threw for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Panthers, who finished 7-3. Rushed for 622 yards and six scores.
RB -- Seth Hill, Jr., Harlem
Broke out with 1,500 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns as part of the Bulldogs' triple-option attack.
RB -- Jonathan Finch, Jr., Evans
Rushed for 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Knights, who were undefeated during the regular season. Caught a pass for a touchdown and averaged 33.95 yards on 21 punts.
OL -- Martin Seymore, Sr., Lakeside
Three-year starter had 17 knockdowns at the line of scrimmage. Also was named first-team All-Region in 3-AAAA.
OL -- Wes Ivie, Jr, Evans
Graded out at 93 percent and earned first-team All-Region honors despite sitting the latter portion of the season because of suspension.
OL -- Matt Holmes, Sr., Evans
Senior finished with 17 pancake blocks and graded out at 91 percent.
OL -- Tim Stahman, Sr., Greenbrier
Amassed 30 pancake blocks and graded out at more than 85 percent.
OL -- Jonathan Gibbs, Sr., Augusta Christian
Two-way player was a stalwart of the Lions' rushing attack. Finished with 42 tackles and five sacks on defense.
TE -- T.D. Davis, Sr., Greenbrier
Averaged 13 yards a catch and was first-team All-Region selection in 2-AAAAA.
WR -- Tevin Nelson, Jr., Evans
Caught 22 passes for 245 yards and a score. Also one of the county's most dangerous punt returners.
WR -- Ben Turner, Sr., Greenbrier
Second-team All-Region selection averaged 12 yards a catch. Broke out as a quarterback during the Wolfpack's final game, rushing for 283 yards and passing for 277, with five total touchdowns.
WR -- Evan Wells, Jr., Augusta Christian
All-Region pick caught 34 passes for 382 yards and six touchdowns.
PK -- Jamie Galvin, So., Evans
Made 33 of 35 extra points and six of nine field-goal attempts.
DL -- Dylan Turner, Sr., Greenbrier
One of the county's top players. Finished with 103 tackles and seven sacks, earning first-team All-Region nod. Will have plenty of college options when the time comes.
DL -- Reuben Faloughi, Sr., Evans
Senior finished with 53 tackles, including 51 sacks, with a forced fumble. Earned first-team All-Region honors.
DL -- Nigel Charles, Sr., Evans
Senior separated himself on a talented Knights' defense. Finished with 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
DL -- David Poole, Sr., Lakeside
All-Region honorable mention racked up 14 tackles for loss and six sacks.
LB -- Edmond Jones, Sr., Harlem
Hard-hitting linebacker led an improving Bulldogs' defense. Was a first-team All-Region pick.
LB -- Darnell Jackson, Jr., Evans
Seldom-heard linebacker played his way to a first-team All-Region nod. Finished with 91 tackles for loss, 21 sacks and a forced fumble.
LB -- Jordan Felton, Sr., Evans
Another nod to what was a smothering Knights' defense. Piled up 80 tackles, including 21 sacks.
DB -- Brandon McCladdie, Sr., Evans
Top-notch cover corner picked off four passes and returned one for a score. Another first-team All-Region selection.
DB -- Khadi Tshishiku, Jr., Lakeside
Panthers' junior broke out with first-team All-Region honors. Numbers included 67 tackles, two interceptions, two blocked punts and three fumble recoveries.
DB -- Bryan Andrews, Sr., Greenbrier
Athlete could have been slotted almost anywhere on the All-County squad. Finished with 56 tackles on defense, averaged 7.0 yards a carry at running back and 11 yards a catch as a receiver.
DB -- Perron Jones, Sr., Evans
Big-play defender intercepted three passes, with 391 tackles, including 21 for loss.
ATH-- William Banks, Sr., Augusta Christian
Senior did it all for the Lions when preseason starting quarterback was knocked out for the season. Rushed for 1,206 yards and 16 touchdowns. Threw for 784 yards and eight scores.
ATH -- Chris Hartfield, Jr., Lakeside
Hard-hitting linebacker was also the Panthers' short-yardage back. Finished with eight tackles for loss and three sacks. Rushed for five touchdowns on offense.
QB -- Troy Griffith, Jr., Evans
RB -- Jamerson Turner, So., Evans
OL -- Cleon Jones, Sr., Harlem
OL -- Kevin James, Jr., Greenbrier
OL -- Barry Davis, Sr., Harlem
WR -- Kevin Hennecken, Sr., Lakeside
WR -- Levi Hanks, Sr., Lakeside
WR -- Evan Wells, Jr., Augusta Christian
WR -- Calvin Coke, Sr., Greenbrier
PK -- Steven Bloedel, Sr., Augusta Christian
ATH -- Zach Morris, Jr., Harlem
DL -- Marvon Danzie, Jr., Harlem
DL -- Dominique Mingo, Jr., Harlem
DL -- Cameron Hoover, Sr., Augusta Christian
DL -- Cole Turner, Jr., Augusta Christian
LB -- Kyle Tudor, Sr., Lakeside
LB -- Forrest Christian, Jr., Harlem
LB -- Daniel Horuzsko, So., Greenbrier
LB -- Cody Marsh, Sr., Lakeside
DB -- Garrett Riba, Sr., Greenbrier
DB -- Julian Clark, Jr., Greenbier
DB -- Micah Herriman, Sr., Augusta Christian
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