By Paul Beaudry
FOR THE TIMES
One reigning winner and two previous finalists highlight the list of 42 high school football players from around the state named on Friday as finalists for the annual Alabama Sports Writers Association Back or Lineman of the Year awards.
The ASWA selects three finalists for backs and linemen in each of the six classes in the Alabama High School Athletic Association, as well as all teams in the Alabama Independent Schools Association.
Fultondale quarterback ArDarius Stewart is the lone returning winner, taking honors last year as the group’s Class 2A Back of the Year. Two other finalists from the 2011 season will return as Lineman of the Year nominees in their respective classes — McIntosh linebacker Damien Davenport in Class 1A and Dadeville defensive lineman Rod Crayton in Class 4A.
A notable exclusion from The Times’ coverage area was Vinemont running back Ty Jones in Class 3A, who set Cullman County records in rushing yardage (2,214) and touchdowns (33). Both totals were higher than what Hanceville’s Diamond Simmons compiled in his 3A Back of the Year campaign in 2011, though Jones needed more than 100 additional carries to reach his final stats.
“I’m surprised with the numbers he had this year,” Vinemont coach Alan Scott said of Jones’ snub. “I understand they make the choices based on merit. I definitely felt he deserved to be a finalist for Back of the Year.”
This year’s 3A Back of the Year finalists are Madison Academy’s Kerryon Johnson, Midfield’s Courtney Foy and Fayette County’s JaTevin Madison. Madison Academy won the 3A state title, Fayette County was state runner-up and Midfield reached the third round.
Scott’s Vinemont squad rebounded for a 2-7 2011 with a solid 8-3 record before being eliminated by then-No. 4 Lauderdale County in Round 1.
“I would think that every year is its own animal in the fact that you don’t know how you’re going to compare to someone else,” the second-year coach said. “I respect that and respect the ASWA for trying to promote the sport that we love. It’s all a comparison and anytime you give out an award, you’re going to leave out qualified and deserving players.
“Anyway you want to look at it, Ty had an oustanding year. We’re just very thankful and proud of what he was able to accomplish this season.”
Five schools had multiple finalists — Spanish Fort in Class 5A with quarterback Joel Poe and defensive back Johnny Cook; Oneonta in Class 4A with wide receiver Alvin Scott and defensive lineman Blake Bean; Midfield in Class 3A with athlete Courtney Foy and defensive lineman Torrandine Harris; Reeltown in Class 2A with running back Tywone Stewart and defensive lineman Jestavis Norris; and the AISA’s Tuscaloosa Academy with running back Jaevon Walton and offensive lineman Terrell Bush.
The finalists were voted on earlier this month at the ASWA’s all-state meeting by a panel of high school writers from around the state. Winners in each class — as well as the Mr. Football Award — will be announced at the ASWA’s annual Player of the Year banquet, to be held on Jan. 16 in Montgomery and sponsored by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association.
% The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.
The finalists are:
Jeremy Johnson, Carver-Montgomery, Sr., QB, 6-6, 219
Racean Thomas, Oxford, Sr., RB, 6-0, 200
Marquez White, Northview, Sr., DB, 6-1, 173
Reuben Foster, Auburn, Sr., LB, 6-2, 235
Austin Golson, Prattville, Sr., OL, 6-5, 285
Grant Hill, Huntsville, Sr., OL, 6-6, 290
Johnny Cook, Spanish Fort, Sr., DB, 6-0, 185
Tyler Jackson, Muscle Shoals, Sr., RB, 5-10, 150
Joel Poe, Spanish Fort, Sr., QB, 6-1, 200
Zach Cunningham, Pinson Valley, Sr., LB, 6-4, 200
Jordan Sims, Homewood, Jr., OL, 6-4, 330
Tre Williams, St. Paul's, Jr., LB, 6-2, 220
Jordan Chunn, Madison County, Sr., RB, 6-0, 210.
Toby Pee, Sardis, Sr., RB, 5-11, 180
Alvin Scott, Oneonta, Sr., WR, 6-3, 190
Blake Bean, Oneonta, Jr., DL, 6-3, 240
Ronnie Clark, Calera, Jr., Ath., 6-3, 210
Rod Crayton, Dadeville, Sr., DL, 6-0, 280
Courtney Foy, Midfield, Sr., Ath., 5-11, 175
Kerryon Johnson, Madison Academy, So., RB, 6-1, 195
JaTevin Madison, Fayette County, Jr., WR, 5-10, 150
Torrandine Harris, Midfield, Sr., DL, 6-1, 240
Jamarious Henderson, Dale County, So., LB, 6-0, 210
Jamie Major, Piedmont, Sr., LB, 6-2, 225
Tyler Rogers, Mobile Christian, Jr., RB, 5-11, 185
ArDarius Stewart, Fultondale, Sr., QB, 6-1, 195
Tywone Stewart, Reeltown, Sr., RB, 5-8, 170
DeMarcus Holcombe, Washington County, Jr., LB, 6-1, 213
Jestavis Norris, Reeltown, Sr., DL, 6-1, 210
Fred Rich, Tanner, Sr., LB, 6-2, 200
Rodney Camp, Phillips, Sr., QB, 6-2, 175
George Payne, St. Luke's, Sr., RB, 5-11, 195
Ready Swanigan, Marion County, Jr., Ath., 5-10, 170
Damien Davenport, McIntosh, Sr., LB, 6-2, 262
Taylor Driggers, Brantley, Sr., OL, 6-2, 255
Justin Lucas, Notasulga, Sr., LB, 5-9, 170
Dylan Ingram, Edgewood Academy, Sr., QB, 6-4, 200
Jarrette Pope, Clarke Prep, Jr., RB, 6-2, 215
Jaevon Walton, Tuscaloosa Academy, Jr., RB, 6-0, 225
Terrell Bush, Tuscaloosa Academy, Jr., OL, 6-3, 305
O.J. Howard, Autauga Academy, Sr., TE, 6-6, 230
Cortney Wilbanks, Restoration Academy, Jr., LB, 6-0, 225