Published Saturday, December 22, 2012
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
While the Mayans were off target with their supposed doomsday predictions, there may not have been a more foreseeable coda for The Heritage School senior Candler Rich’s varsity football career than the following.
He is this year’s Newnan Times-Herald ‘Small County’ Most Valuable Player — again.
And in typical fashion, it was in a runaway.
Rich, who led the Hawks to a series of firsts beginning with an 8-0 run through the schedule, continuing with the seventh-year program’s first region football title and concluding with a historic run to this year’s GISA Class AAA state finals, didn’t leave any major school record standing at the conclusion on an 11-2 season.
This year’s stats certainly didn’t lie and Rich’s dominance came in all three phases of play. He led a Heritage offense that averaged 40 points-per-game with 1,910 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns at 10 yards a carry.
Rich also led the Hawks with 19 receptions for another 568 yards and seven more scores, not to mention going 3-for-3 when choosing to throw out of the Hawks’ Wildcat formation.
Defensively, he was the backbone of a much-improved lineup at safety. To go with his 85 tackles, 57 of which were solo efforts, there were eight interceptions including a pair that Rich returned for two more touchdowns.
And teams that were thickheaded enough to challenge his kick-return abilities found themselves in the same frustrations as opposing quarterbacks. Of the 13 kickoffs that came his way, he returned five the distance of the field while averaging 42.1 yards an attempt.
In all, Rich accounted for 3,064 all-purpose yards and 37 touchdowns and will leave with career marks for a young program that should stand the test of time well into the future.
Remarkably at one point in the year, the humble senior called his achievements “overrated.” We beg to differ.
Opposing teams, meanwhile, may have simply begged for mercy.
All the son of Jimmy and Dorothy Rich needs to do now is decide on a future school, and both Harvard and Yale among those currently fighting for his services.
It truly was a banner year for the county’s three private school programs, all of which set new standards in respective leagues. The Hawks proved that Rich wasn’t alone in the team’s success, landing a whopping 11 players on the All-County team led by seven seniors.
Along with The Heritage School, Trinity Christian rebounded from a rough welcome into the GISA with a 6-5 campaign that ended a touchdown away from a rematch with the Hawks in the state semifinals.
Along the way, the Lions upended two traditional powers from Macon, beating Tattnall Square on the road and Mount de Sales at home. A Trinity defense that allowed less than four touchdowns just once against opponents in 2011 held all but one this year to 28 points or fewer in a remarkable turnaround. This year’s lineup held teams to a paltry 14.2 points-per-game while finishing third in Region 2-AAA.
Senior linebacker Edwin Rivera, among eight Lions players, helped lead the way while earning Defensive Player of the Year honors on this year’s Small County Team. Rivera led Trinity with 92 tackles while adding two forced fumbles despite missing two games to injury.
He will play alongside teammates and fellow Small County selections Drew Gibson and Jay Warner in today’s National Underclassmen All-American Game in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Former ICSGA 8-man rival Heritage Christian came through with its most successful year, landing in the league finals for the first time in its program’s history. The Crusaders, much like The Heritage School, capitalized on the success of running back J.D. Farlow, who gained 2,462 yards on more than 10 per carry.
Farlow, who finished with 36 touchdowns, all but two on the ground, earned Offensive Player of the Year honors while among four Heritage Christian players on the Small County roster. The junior’s smallest chunk came in a 133-yard effort against Life Christian on Sept. 21, only to roll off a season-best 383 yards and five touchdowns against the same team in the first round of the ICSGA playoffs.
It came a year where it was increasingly difficult to put a limit on this year’s honorees. The county’s three private schools finished with a combined record of 26-9 while reaching championship games in two leagues.
During the year, five quarterbacks made a strong case for Small County honors, including two that were thrust into starting roles both at the start and the close of the 2012 season.
Heritage School sophomore Brad Macke began the year as the Hawks starter and filled the role admirably through five consecutive wins while throwing for 356 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 155 and two more scores. Heritage Christian freshman Jared Farlow was forced under center after the loss of senior starter Dutch Williams. Defensively, he was even more impressive while finishing with 10 interceptions and 13 pass breakups to go with 59 tackles.
For their efforts, the duo shared Newcomer of the Year honors.
Two senior quarterbacks also made the Small County roster. Heritage School four-year starter Joe Bonner returned to the lineup just in time to carry the Hawks through the region schedule and on into the state playoffs. In just half a season, Bonner had 768 yards passing and 12 touchdowns while running for four scores and 459 yards on 67 attempts.
“If there was a position on the all-state team called ‘football player’ then he would be it,” said Heritage School head coach Kevin Prisant. “One of the smartest players and game managers I’ve ever seen. (He) isn’t the fastest, strongest or most talented, but all I hear from other coaches is ‘he gets the job done.’”
Connor Adams took over Trinity’s starting job in his senior year and led the Lions to the state playoffs, contributing touchdowns in the wins over Tattnall Square and Mount de Sales. The senior was also a starter at linebacker for the Lions.
The Heritage School and Trinity combined to place 20 players on the Small County team, which was led by 11 Hawks players during a run to the state championship game against Deerfield Windsor, falling shy of a title by a 27-19 margin in Albany.
Both Heritage School quarterbacks were well protected behind a front line that included five All-County players, some of which also played on the Hawks’ defensive front. They included senior All-State selections Tyler Bean and Tyler Nix. Nix began the year at guard but was moved to starting fullback as a lead blocker for Rich.
Nix finished with 324 yards rushing and four touchdowns, one as a receiver while also leading coordinator D.J. Clay’s defense with 131 tackles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Seniors Richard Ebersbach and center Elliott Smith represented the Hawks work ethic. Smith, at just 150 pounds, was a three-year starter after being thrust into a starting job in his sophomore year.
“Defensive tackles were 6-2 and outweighed him by 100 pounds,” said Prisant of his starting center. “He got everything he could out of his body.”
Ebersbach, who lost a previous year during his career due to a torn ACL, played on both sides of the line and on defense and was “the hardest working lineman I had,” said Prisant. He finished with 70 tackles, 41 solo, to go with a fumble recovery.
Senior Ben Dudley rarely, if ever, left the field for The Heritage School playing both sides of the line as well as filling needed roles at punter and kicker. In addition to his offensive duties, Dudley finished with 82 tackles, 11 for loss including two sacks. He also had a forced fumble and an interception.
Dudley, who punted only 25 times in 12 games finished with a 42.5-yard average and knocked 10 inside the 10-yard line. He was also 49 of 55 on extra points and 3 of 4 on field-goal attempts while initially a tutor of former assistant and current Trinity head coach Chris Hanson.
Despite losing at least a dozen seniors from the 2012 lineup, the Hawks also had four underclassmen selected on the Small County team led by junior end Tyler Henson.
Henson emerged as a team leader both statistically and spiritually this year, finishing with a team high 13 sacks on defense to go with 105 tackles, including 11 for losses. He also forced a pair of fumbles.
At the tight end position, Henson caught 15 passes for 267 yards and three scores while also an effective blocker.
Junior David Bready was also a two-way contributor that was able to spell Rich for big carries in the offensive backfield. He was the team’s second-leading rusher with 459 yards and four touchdowns and also had 10 catches for 131 yards and two scores.
Bready was also a tough defender at linebacker finishing with 73 tackles and three fumble recoveries.
Fellow defenders Trevor Sawyers and Dalton Trammell should give the Hawks a good nucleus of returners with Bready and Henson next fall. Sawyers, a sophomore, also played above his 145-pound frame at linebacker while posting 93 tackles, 54 solo. He also had a team-high four fumble recoveries and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdowns.
Trammell finished with 101 tackles while starting the year at linebacker and also scored defensively for the Hawks off a fumble recovery.
Defense became Trinity Christian’s forte in 2012 one year after being its Achilles’ heel. The Lions averaged just over a touchdown allowed to opposing offenses through nine games while tripling last year’s win total. Along with Rivera, seniors Mark Collier and Drew Gibson provided a tenacious combination on the front line.
Both players were also used at fullback. Gibson, who made a remarkable recovery from a bout with Guillain-Barre syndrome that kept him off the field for an entire season, earned All-State honors after recording 52 tackles, including eight for loss, to go with three fumble recoveries and two sacks. He also had six hurries and was responsible for six points on defense on three Trinity Christian safeties.
Gibson’s rushing efforts included a four-touchdown effort in a blowout at home over Dominion Christian.
Collier scored his first career touchdown during the first half of Trinity’s showdown against The Heritage School and was the Lions second-leading tackler with 63 hits this year including five for losses to go with a sack. He added two forced fumbles and an interception in addition to his blocking abilities on the offensive line.
Senior linebacker Landon Comeans and junior safeties Daniel Shoates and Dee Snelling join the above group on the Small County team. Shoates had a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery during a Saturday night win over Mount de Sales that included a tipped pass that Snelling returned for a score on defense.
Snelling was an equal threat at both receiver and as a kick returner for the Lions. He caught a pair of touchdowns and added an interception against Stratford Academy. He has a string of five picks over a four-game span to close the regular season.
Joining Farlow among Heritage Christian players on the Small-County team were senior Austin Reeves and brothers Christian and Jesse Parkerson.
Reeves proved to be a solid complement to Farlow in the Crusaders run-oriented offense while going undefeated against ICSGA 8-man opponents during the regular season. He finished with 1,229 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns and also had five receptions for 112 yards and another score.
On defense, he added 51 tackles and an interception.
Both Parkersons played both sides of the line in dominating fashion. Christian, a junior, had four pancake blocks on offense and made 72 tackles. Just a freshman, Jesse led Heritage Christian with nine pancake blocks and had 86 tackles to go with two interceptions.
Both brothers tied for the team lead with five sacks apiece in the Crusaders’ most successful season in school history.
2012 Newnan Times-Herald ‘Small’-County Football Team
Most Valuable Player – RB/S Candler Rich, Heritage School, Sr.
Offensive Player of the Year – FB J.D. Farlow, Heritage Christian, Jr.
Defensive Player of the Year – LB Edwin Rivera, Trinity Christian, Sr.
Newcomers of the Year – QB Brad Macke, Heritage School, So. and QB/S Jared Farlow, Heritage Christian, Fr.
'SMALL' COUNTY TEAM
(Position, Name, School, Class)
QB/LB – Connor Adams, Trinity Christian, Sr.
QB/DB – Joe Bonner, Heritage School, Sr.
OL/DL – Tyler Bean, Heritage School, Sr.
RB/LB – David Bready, Heritage School, Jr.
OL/DL – Mark Collier, Trinity Christian, Sr.
LB – Landon Comeans, Trinity Christian, Sr.
OL/DL/P/K – Ben Dudley, Heritage School, Sr.
OL/DL – Richard Ebersbach, Heritage School, Sr.
FB/LB – Drew Gibson, Trinity Christian, Sr.
TE/DE – Tyler Henson, Heritage School, Jr.
FB/OL/DL – Tyler Nix, Heritage School, Sr.
OL/DL – Christian Parkerson, Heritage Christian, Jr.
OL/DL – Jesse Parkerson, Heritage Christian, So.
RB/LB – Austin Reeves, Heritage Christian, Sr.
LB – Trevor Sawyers, Heritage School, So.
S – Daniel Shoates, Trinity Christian, Jr.
WR/S – Dee Snelling, Trinity Christian, Jr.
C – Elliott Smith, Heritage School, Sr.
LB – Dalton Trammell, Heritage School, Jr.
RB/LB – Jay Warner, Trinity Christian, Sr.
Heritage School – RB Patrick McKee, Sr.; DL Chris Moore, Sr.; CB Harrison Holland, So; DL Caleb Woodruff, Jr.; WR Spencer Perry, Fr.
Heritage Christian – OL/DL Jeremiah Winkley, Jr., TE/DL Tyler Smith, Sr.; QB/S Dutch Williams, Sr.; OL Gerard Devalle, So.
Trinity Christian – LB Diego Henriquez, So.; OL Christian Salvanera, Jr.; DL Aaron Johnson, So.; TE Connor Owen, Jr.; CB Avery Braxton, Jr.