Seniors played big roles on county lineups
by Chris Goltermann
The 2013 season represented challenges for Coweta County’s private school varsity football programs, some that were measured by wins and losses, others just by sheer survival through adversity on and off the field.
And senior players were there to help lead the way.
While it may have been hard to pin just one athlete as most valuable in 2013, a task that was a bit easier when former Heritage School standout and current Yale freshman Candler Rich wore a varsity uniform, both the Hawks and Trinity Christian had respective seniors worthy of the Newnan Times-Herald’s full attention among top accolades on this year’s “Small County” Football Team.
Senior quarterback Daniel Shoates led 11 players from Trinity Christian, as the Lions went 6-5 while posting its third consecutive six-win season and making the GISA Class AAA state playoffs for the second straight year.
Passing for 1,276 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for another 314 yards and seven scores, Shoates earned Offensive Player of the Year honors to a list of postseason accolades that also included All-State and All-region honors.
Meanwhile, in a season where The Heritage School’s roster included just four seniors after losing 16 players from a 2012 lineup that reached the GISA Class AAA State Championship Game, the effort and leadership of Hawks senior linebacker Dalton Trammell was equally invaluable to the Hawks’ progress this fall while also being named to the All-Region 2-AAA team.
Trammell finished the season with 85 tackles, leading The Heritage School with 54 solo hits and six forced fumbles while also setting a school record for tackles in a varsity career with the Hawks.
An additional 20 players were honored on this year’s “Small County” team including brothers Christian and Jesse Parkerson from Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama 8-man program Heritage Christian, which went though its share of adversity. The program, which reached the ICSGA Championship Game for the first time in 2012, failed to win a league contest this fall while struggling with its numbers. By the end of the 2013 season, however, the Crusaders came within a point of rival Ballard Christian (40-39) and nearly knocked off eventual finalist Harvester Christian in the first round of this year’s playoffs, falling 36-30 on the road.
It was an uphill battle for all three schools in league play, with both Trinity Christian and The Heritage School forced with battling Macon schools Stratford Academy, Tattnall Square and Mount de Sales for playoff positioning. At season’s end, it came down to a head-to-head decision between the Coweta rivals, won by the Lions 12-0 in a defensive struggle.
Finishing 6-5 in 2013, Trinity had 10 representatives on this year’s postseason team including four that also were named the All-Region 2-AAA Team with Shoates.
They included seniors Glen Whisby, Conner Owen and J.D. Farlow as well as junior linebacker Diego Henriquez.
Henriquez led the Lions in tackles during a breakthrough year as a starter while finishing with 86 tackles during the regular season. He also had a team-high 10 tackles for loss and led Trinity with 6 ½ sacks to go with two forced fumbles while adding 152 yards rushing on offense late in the season.
Whisby, who also played in this year’s GISA All-Star Game, led the Lions offense as a senior wide receiver with 34 catches for 412 yards and five touchdowns in addition to a pair of two-point conversions.
Owen and Farlow alternated at fullback and on the defensive line, combining for over 500 yards and eight touchdowns on offense while each averaging 4.7 yards a carry. Owen posted 42 tackles on defense and had 3 ½ sacks as well as a team-high three forced fumbles. Farlow, despite battling a knee injury much of his senior year, made 28 tackles, six of which came behind the line of scrimmage.
Among nine other Heritage School players honored were All-Region 2-AAA honores Caleb Woodruff and Brad Macke, both juniors, and sophomore end Cole Jones.
Woodruff finished with 45 tackles from his defensive line position that included three for loss and two sacks. The junior also had a team-high two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
Macke was a two-way standout at quarterback and safety. On offense he amassed over 1,800 total yards including 665 rushing and 1,134 passing while scoring nine touchdowns. He also had 37 tackles and a team-high four interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
Jones had three interceptions as well as three sacks while finishing with 65 tackles. On offense, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore led the Hawks with 18 receptions for 345 yards and two scores.
Five more Hawks were also honored on the ‘Small County’ Team. They included sophomores Matthew Burns and Peyton Henson and juniors Thomas Gruber, Trevor Sawyers and Jack Weaver.
Sawyers continued to shine at linebacker while leading Heritage’s defense with 90 tackles along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Weaver, meanwhile, anchored the defensive line in his first year of varsity football while posting team highs for sacks (6) and tackles for loss (4). His 44 tackles also ranked sixth on the Hawks.
Playing both sides of the line, Gruber’s progress in between seasons was one of the team’s best according to head coach Kevin Prisant and finished with 30 tackles.
It was also a season where Heritage welcomed several new faces to the varsity as major contributors. Burns finished with 442 yards rushing and 16 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown. Henson was second among Hawks with 17 catches for 221 yards and two scores.
Along with the pair of sophomores, Hamp Smith made key contributions on offense and defense, earning the Heritage School freshman Newcomer of the Year honors. Smith had 108 yards rushing, caught 12 passes for 102 yard and a touchdown and also posted 51 tackles on defense as well as an interception.
“He was thrown into the fire early on both sides of the ball due to injury and became a very capable ball carrier and receiver as well as excelling in blocking,” said Prisant, who also called Smith, “a very good open field tackler and hard-nosed player.”
In addition to its five All-Region players, Trinity Christian had five others named to the Times-Herald “Small County” team including four underclassmen.
They included juniors Aaron Johnson, Gavin Smith, Wyatt Martinez and Christian Downs as well as sophomore Jared Farlow. The four, along with Henriquez, look to give the Lions a solid nucleus to build on in 2014.
Johnson posted 21 tackles while playing both sides of the line and had a sack, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble on defense. Also up front for Trinity, senior Chris Brownlee earned a selection in his final year on the Lions defensive line while posting 42 tackles, four sacks, a team-high seven hurries and two fumble recoveries.
Martinez played both end and tackle while finishing with 61 tackles for the Lions as well as a team-best three fumble recoveries. He also had a sacks and two forced fumbles for Trinity’s defense.
At linebacker, Smith was third among Trinity defenders during the regular season with 46 tackles while adding two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
On offense, Downs was a clutch receiver, posting 22 catches for 326 yards and three scores, all ranking second among Lion players.
Farlow, Trinity’s youngest selection, equally played a major role in its secondary, tying for the team lead with four interceptions to go with 32 tackles on defense. The sophomore also led the Lions with 410 yards rushing on 85 attempts.
At Heritage Christian, the Parkerson brothers were again steady up front for the Crusaders, with Christian, a 6-1, 245 pound senior and Jesse, a 5-10, 235-pound junior joining seniors Jeremiah Winkley and Jerald Dewveall as key contributors along with junior Bailey Todd during a 1-7 season.