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Payne one of three finalists
December 29, 2012St. Lukes Episcopal School
Five stars from Mobile-Baldwin counties are finalists for ASWA football awards
Spanish Fort football coach Mark Freeman received some good news and some bad news Friday afternoon.
The good news? Two Toros were among three finalists selected by the Alabama Sports Writers Association for its Class 5A Back of the Year award. The bad news? Only one can win.
Senior quarterback Joel Poe and senior cornerback Johnny Cook, who helped lead Spanish Fort to the state championship in Auburn earlier this month, join Muscle Shoals running back Tyler Jackson as the finalists for the top back in that classification. 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.
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. The banquet is sponsored by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association.
“What a blessing to have two guys selected for an honor like that,” Freeman said. “They both have been really instrumental for our success at Spanish Fort since I came two years ago. These are two kids you can be proud of.
“They put tremendous effort into being a champion and obviously were rewarded with that win in Auburn. But, more than that, they set an outstanding example for our younger kids to follow. I couldn’t be more excited for those two.”
The 6-foot, 205-pound Poe triggered Spanish Fort’s high-scoring offense for each of the past two seasons. This year, he threw for 3,403 yards and 42 touchdowns. He was named MVP of the Toros’ 45-14 rout of McAdory in the state championship game after he threw for 177 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score.
Cook, the 6-foot, 180-pound Alabama commitment, caught one of those TD passes from Poe in the title game. During the season, he intercepted seven passes, returning two for scores, and made 81 tackles. He was the Press-Register’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Jackson ran for 1,380 yards and 18 touchdowns and also had five receiving touchdowns for 5A semifinalist Muscle Shoals. Spanish Fort is one of five schools that had multiple finalists selected this year but is the only school with two finalists in the same category.
“It’s very special for our school,” Freeman said. “I can tell you this – both of those guys will be pulling for each other to win. They’ve been friends for a long time. I don’t think either will be disappointed however it turns out. It’s an honor for our school.”
Poe, Cook and Freeman won’t have to look far to find a familiar face. Junior linebacker Tre Williams of Class 5A Region 1 rival St. Paul’s is one of three finalists for the Lineman of the Year award. Williams made 103 tackles as the Saints reached the semifinals before losing in a regular-season rematch to the Toros.
The other 5A linemen finalists are senior linebacker Zach Cunningham of Pinson Valley and junior offensive lineman Jordan Sims of Homewood.
Two record-setting running backs from Mobile will also be in Montgomery. Mobile Christian junior Tyler Rogers is a finalist for 2A Back of the Year, while St. Luke’s senior George Payne received the same honor in Class 1A.
Rogers ran for 2,071 yards and 17 touchdowns in leading the Leopards to the state quarterfinals this year. However, his competition for this award will be tough. The other 2A finalists are running back Tywone Stewart of Reeltown and last year’s winner, quarterback and Alabama commitment ArDarius Stewart of Fultondale.
“There were a lot of talented backs in Class 2A this year, and Tyler certainly deserves to be ranked among them,” Mobile Christian coach Neil Evans said. “I think he is as deserving as anyone. Everyone we played knew that he was our guy and did everything they could to try to stop him. But he still made plays for us, and he had to for us to do as well as we did.”
Payne ran for 2,424 yards and 34 TDs in guiding St. Luke’s to the playoffs for the first time. The other 1A finalists are Phillips senior quarterback Rodney Camp and Marion County junior athlete Ready Swanigan.
“I think George proved himself as a top back, not only in this class, but in this city and state as well,” St. Luke’s coach John Beverly said. “He was a leader for us on and off the field, and he just had an uncanny ability to make plays and score touchdowns. Everything is predicated on the team as a whole, and George would be the first to say that. But he is certainly a deserving nominee for this award.”
Several other players from Coastal Alabama also will be in attendance at this year’s banquet.
For the second straight year, McIntosh linebacker Damien Davenport is a finalist for 1A Lineman of the Year. Washington County junior DeMarcus Holcombe is a finalist for 2A lineman, while Clarke Prep’s Jarrette Pope is a finalist for AISA Back of the Year.
ASWA BACKS AND LINEMEN OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
CLASS 6A BACK Jeremy Johnson, Carver-Montgomery, Sr., QB, 6-6, 219 Racean Thomas, Oxford, Jr., RB, 6-0, 200 Marquez White, Northview, Sr., DB, 6-1, 173
LINEMAN Reuben Foster, Auburn, Sr., LB, 6-2, 235 Austin Golson, Prattville, Sr., OL, 6-5, 285 Grant Hill, Huntsville, Sr., OL, 6-6, 290
CLASS 5A BACK 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
LINEMAN 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
CLASS 4A BACK 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
LINEMAN Blake Bean, Oneonta, Jr., DL, 6-3, 240 Ronnie Clark, Calera, Jr., Ath., 6-3, 210 Rod Crayton, Dadeville, Sr., DL, 6-0, 280
CLASS 3A BACK 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
LINEMAN 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
CLASS 2A BACK 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
LINEMAN DeMarcus Holcombe, Washington County, Jr., LB, 6-1, 213 Jestavia Norris, Reeltown, Sr., DL, 6-1, 210 Fred Rich, Tanner, Sr., LB, 6-2, 200
CLASS 1A BACK 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
LINEMAN Damien Davenport, McIntosh, Sr., LB, 6-2, 262 Taylor Driggers, Brantley, Sr., OL, 6-2, 255 Justin Lucas, Notasulga, Sr., LB, 5-9, 170
AISA BACK 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
LINEMAN 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