By Gabriel Stovall
Nothing says football season like preseason rankings and preseason all-area teams.
With over 32 schools in a four county area, trying to forecast who will be the best of the best is no small feat. But we gave it a shot, and tried our hand at it with our first Preseason All-Southern Crescent squad.
We believe Henry County has an opportunity for strong representation in 2016, both from a team and individual player perspective. Although ELCA and Stockbridge got high billing in the Georgia Sports Writers Association “Week Zero” poll, we believe schools like Woodland and Locust Grove will field the kind of talent that causes them to crack top 10 rankings and make deep postseason runs before all is said and done.
This all-area squad shows the Southern Crescent to be particularly strong at running back with highly touted guys such as ELCA’s Trevor Gear, Stockbridge’s Jalen Holston and Ola’s Chris Rodriguez. Although some could make a sound case that Sandy Creek’s Marvin Hubbard or Jaelen Greene should crack that first team also.
Locust Grove’s Caleb Huntley and Lovejoy junior Zion Custis will, no doubt, be solid performers. And not to be overshadowed, Gear will have a talented backfield mate in ELCA junior Josh Mays.
South Metro boasts some big names in the secondary also, starting with Woodland senior corner Yusuf Corker. Sandy Creek’s Mychael Jenkins snagged seven interceptions last year, even with now-Duke freshman Javon Jackson patrolling the secondary with him.
Watch for guys like Woodland’s other corner Shakur Brown, Lovejoy’s Meshael Custis and Fayette County’s Trent Carrington to have big 2016 campaigns.
Usually tight end, o-line and kickers/punters don’t get a lot of shine in this area, but this year’s group can be strong. ELCA’s Alex Usry may be one of Georgia’s best as a kicker, and Eagle’s Landing’s Logan Friddell isn’t too far behind.
Sandy Creek’s Parker Mallet is the standard bearer of pure tight ends in this area, although Jonesboro’s Calder Marria can be solid when he’s not dominating on the defensive line.
Quarterback play will be interesting to watch. Without a group of really highly touted guys, we think Spalding senior Naricuss Driver stands out above the rest. Driver added over 1,000 rushing yards to his 1,500-plus passing yards last year for the upstart Jaguars. The 6-foot-3, 215 pounder also accounted for 29 touchdowns, making him the area’s most productive returning signal caller.
Riverdale’s Joseph Cambridge and Sandy Creek’s Bryant Walker are the next guys in line. But ELCA sophomore Brayden Rush looked uber impressive last Friday against Mount Zion, so don’t be surprised if he rises to first or second team status at the end of the year.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB — Naricuss Driver (Spalding)
RB — Jalen Holston (Stockbridge)
RB — Chris Rodriguez (Ola)
RB — Trevor Gear (ELCA)
RB — Marvin Hubbard (Sandy Creek)
WR — Wallace Corker (Woodland)
WR — Marquez Ezzard (Stockbridge)
WR — Malik Route (Griffin)
TE — Parker Mallet (Sandy Creek)
OL — Dylan McCloud (Ola)
OL — James Ohonba (Woodland)
OL — Tremond Shorts (Lovejoy)
OL — Roderick Russaw (Eagle’s Landing)
OL — Savon Simmons (Sandy Creek)
OL — Cole Neely
K — Alex Usry (ELCA)
ATH — Marquese Taylor (Lovejoy)
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL — Brenton Cox (Stockbridge)
DL — JayQuan Coles (Woodland)
DL — Calder Marria (Jonesboro)
DL — Austin Smith (Ola)
LB — Keyston Lowery (Luella)
LB — Tre’ Allen (Woodland)
LB — Tyree Leonard (Mount Zion)
DB — Yusuf Corker (Woodland)
DB — Meshael Custis (Lovejoy)
DB — Trey Dean (Dutchtown)
DB — Mychael Jenkins (Sandy Creek)
DB — Khaleb Hood (ELCA)
P —Logan Friddell (Eagle’s Landing)
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB — Joseph Cambridge (Riverdale)
RB — Jaelen Greene (Sandy Creek)
RB — Caleb Huntley (Locust Grove)
RB — Zion Custis (Lovejoy)
WR — Greg White (Riverdale)
WR — Champ Leddon (Locust Grove)
WR — Sean Queen (ELCA)
WR — Javan Hawes (Sandy Creek)
OL — Matthew Morris (Dutchtown)
OL — Destin McMillian (Jonesboro)
OL — Ja’von Jackson (Fayette County
OL — Jordan Blanton (Luella)
OL — Christopher Andrews (Spalding)
K — Ethan Duncan (Luella)
ATH — Lenox Copeland (Mount Zion)
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL — Kelton Dawson (Stockbridge)
DL — Harrison Taylor (ELCA)
DL — Micah Thomas (Dutchtown)
DL — Nicholas Hellams (Our Lady of Mercy)
LB — Kendaris Hillman (Jonesboro)
LB — Kelvin Johnson (Spalding)
LB — Roman Victor (Mount Zion)
DB — Kenderick Duncan (Stockbridge)
DB — Tre’ Douglas (ELCA)
DB — Isaiah Appling (Sandy Creek)
DB — Shakur Brown (Woodland)
DB — Trent Carrington (Fayette County)
OTHERS TO WATCH: RB A.J. Moses (Spalding); DB Cameron Miller (Eagle’s Landing); QB Bryant Walker (Sandy Creek); ATH Demaje’ Carter (Mount Zion); OL Arinze Okwuosa (Dutchtown); RB/DB Star Rawls (Eagle’s Landing); WR Marcell Gleaton (Community Christian); LB Myrick Walker (Drew); QB Nolan Gomes (Dutchtown); Drezyn Parson (Sandy Creek); RB Jaiquan Earls (North Clayton); QB Cam Lewis (Eagle’s Landing); RB Latrell Murray (Luella) QB J.T. Thomas (Henry County); ATH Jahmal Wynter (Henry County); DB Keyon Carter (Union Grove); QB Joey DeLuca (Starr’s Mill); QB Brayden Rush (ELCA); RB Caleb Presley (Our Lady of Mercy); QB Kaziah Hall (Mundy’s Mill); OL Al Hogan (Landmark Christian); RB Matavian Brooks, Jonesboro; OL Solomon Lightfoot (Lovejoy); QB Joey DeLuca (Starr’s Mill); RB Nick Brown (Starr’s Mill)