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Eastside's Sims named defensive player of year

COVINGTON -- Despite missing two region games and missing the second half of the Monroe Area game with a high-ankle sprain, Eastside senior defensive end Antonius Sims had such an impact when he was on the field that he was named the Region 8-AAAA Defensive Player of the Year.

"We went around the table and nobody nominated anybody else. That tells you what everybody thought of him," Eastside head coach Rick Hurst said. "They all respected him and knew what kind of player he was and they all had a game plan for him. There was a lot of mutual respect by the coaches for him and his ability."

The Eagles defensive end had 23 tackles with 12 coming behind the line of scrimmage including three solo sacks. Sims also had a fumble recovery, caused two fumbles and forced the quarterback to hurry passes three times.

The Eagles (7-4, 5-2) had five first-team players and four on the second team.

Making the first team on offense were Napoleon Johnson (Sr.) at the tight end position and Cody Costley (Sr.) on the offensive line. First team defense had senior linebacker Marcus Griffieth and senior defensive back Bryant Johnson with senior Colton Smith on the special team.

"I was proud of them. I thought they were good choices," Hurst said. "I felt like Cody was our most consistent lineman all year. He played very well being the first year that he ever got to start."

Even though Napoleon Johnson led the team in tackles with 106, including five for loss with 2.5 sacks, he also had seven quarterback hurries one pass deflections and forcing a fumble, his offensive skills came to light averaging 16 yards per catch with eight receptions for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

"The kid played more plays than anybody on our team. He averaged 20-25 plays on offense and 50-60 plays on defense and he was on the special teams. He led our special team in tackles as well," Hurst said.

At linebacker, Griffieth had 77 tackles with 13 for a loss including 3.5 sacks. He deflected two passes, had an interception, forced three fumbles while recovering one and getting eight quarterback hurries. With a team-leading four pass deflections, Bryant Johnson had 43 tackles with one for a loss while recovering and forcing one fumble.

"Marcus had an amazing year, he was all over the place. He was a force in the middle and really made our defense solid up the middle," Hurst said.

"What can be said about Bryant? He called all our defenses and was a two-year starter. He was a tremendous player for us and a terrific open-field tackler."

Smith was the region's top kicker making 58 percent of his field goals going 7-for-12 including a school-record 45-yard kick against Jackson. He was almost perfect kicking extra points making 31 of his 32 attempts, 97 percent, for 52 points.

"Colton had a great year also. When you look at our kickoffs, our opponents' average was the 22-yard line," Hurst said. "He only had eight touchbacks, but he put the ball where we wanted."

Named to the second team are senior running back Alex Smith, junior offensive lineman Obie Mash, senior defensive lineman Rondarius Jackson and junior returner Jamal Hardge.

Stephens County running back Chaz Thorton, who rushed for 1,393 yards on 230 carries and 17 touchdowns, was the Offensive Player of the Year. Monroe Area had two honors with quarterback/defensive back Stanton Truitt named Athlete of the Year and Matt Fligg, who led his team to a 12-2 record and a trip to the Class AAAA semifinals, named Coach of the Year.

Making the first offensive team from Chestatee were Jordan Degraff (QB), Quan Clark (RB), Johious Cantrell (OL) and Khalil Cantrell (TE). Representing Lanier were Taylor Grant (QB) and Marty Sanders (WR). Monroe Area's Kwan Brooks (RB) and Grayson Williams (OL), Stephens County's Tomas Colbert (WR) and Elijha Henderson (OL) with Lumpkin County's Tyler Flatt and Caleb Stepp at offensive lineman also earned honors.

On the first-team defense were Chestatee's Cody Humphries (DL), Lanier's Ricky Viengxay (DL), Izzy Sam (LB) and Onyx Berrios (DB), Monroe Area's Travis Butts (DL) and Datavious Malcom (DB), Lumpkin County's Gunner Wood (DB) and Stephens County's BJ Brown (DL), Jordan Williams (LB) and Andrew Randall(DB).

Lumpkin County's Chase Slocumb (K), Walnut Grove's Drew Merritt (P) and Monroe Area's TJ Sigmund (Ret) made the special team.

Second-team offense: Stephens County's Dionte Mayfield (QB) and Thomas Lowery (OL), Chestatee's AJ Sijiye (RB), Johnathan West (OL), Lumpkin County's Johnathan Gilreath (WR) and Zach Kile (OL), Monroe Area's Michael Gallup (WR), Walnut Grove's DeMarghaiy Conner (WR) and Anthony Cash (OL) and Lanier tight end Domonick Jones.

Second-team defense: Lanier's Chauncy West (DL) and Grey Lee Williams (DB), Monroe Area's Trevon Byrd (DL) and John Callihan (LB), Stephens County's Gary Walker (DL), Chestatee's Baker McCormack (LB) and Kelly Arthur (DB), Lumpkiin County's Logan Head (LB) and Mitchell Stephens (DB) and Madison County's Malik Freeman (DB).

Second-team specialists: Monroe Area's Cody Brown (K) and Lumpkin County's Daniel McCrary (P).