Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

December 24, 2013

Christmas choices

Four Seasons Country football team revealed

BLUEFIELD — For the first time since 2009, area high school football teams produced a state champion.

Giles used a remarkable final minute and overtime in the 2A championship game on Dec. 14 in Salem, Va., to escape with a 20-19 thriller over Brunswick to capture the school’s fourth state title and first since 2005.

Bluefield had been the last area team to win a state crown in 2009.

Not surprisingly, the Spartans are very visible on the 2013 Bluefield Daily Telegraph All-Four Seasons Country Football Team.

Six Spartans were selected to the first team and three more to the second team, along with a trio of honorable mention selections.

In all, there are 33 first team and 33 second team honorees, along with three honorable mention selections from each school. Some liberties were taken with positions, and players were only eligible to be chosen for one position.

Leading the team isn’t a Spartan, but ‘Sho-time.’

Princeton senior Tahj Sho-Johnson was honored as the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year during a banquet at the Princeton Elks Lodge on Dec. 3.

Sho-Johnson completed a stellar career in Princeton, leading the Tigers to a 6-4 record, narrowly missing out on the postseason. He ran for 1,274 yards (10.7 yard average) and 19 touchdowns, caught two passes for 26 yards, kicked 32 extra points and also led Princeton with 42 1/2 tackles and an interception. He also punted for the Tigers.

Giles junior Brett Whitlow has been selected as the Bluefield Daily Telegraph Offensive Player of the Year. He earned first team All-Conference 38 (River Run) honors as a running back, kicker and punt returner, and second team recognition as a kick return specialist.

Whitlow led the Spartans with 2,417 yards and 30 touchdowns, earning River Run Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Graham senior Hunter Cook has been selected as the defensive player of the year. He switched from linebacker to safety this season and still recorded 132 total tackles, including 79 solo stops and 53 assists.

He also had three interceptions, two tackle for loss, along with one fumble recovery, a forced fumble and one pass breakup.

Whitlow was one of three running backs selected to the first team, joining D.J. Stewart of Bluefield and Jeffrey Bowen from Haysi.

Stewart, an All-Class AA first team selection, finished with 1,317 yards and 23 touchdowns this season for the 10-3 Beavers. Bowen, who was chosen as the offensive player of the year in the Black Diamond District, led the Tigers to a 13-1 record, rushing for 2,275 yards and 33 scores.

Graham junior Dylan Cook, a first-team All-Conference 39 selection, earned first team fullback honors, leading the G-Men with 1,107 yards and nine touchdowns, and also caught 10 passes for 138 yards. He also had 21 tackles in limited time on defense.

Bluefield senior D.J. Edwards, a first-team All-Class AA selection, leads the All-FSC team at receiver, finishing a stellar season with 58 receptions for 1,011 yards and 11 touchdowns. A converted running back, Edwards also ran for 220 yards and three more scores.

He is joined outside by Richlands’ senior Ben Brown, who earned a slew of Conference 39 honors, including first team wide receiver, defensive back and punter, and second team kicker. He led the Blues with 38 receptions for 854 yards and nine touchdowns.

The third receiver on the All-FSC team is Tanner O’Quinn of Haysi. He earned first team All-1A West and All-BDD honors as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner for the Tigers, who finished 13-1 this season, losing to Altavista in the 1A state semifinals.

Tight end belongs to Giles senior Cody Rhodes, who didn’t catch a lot of passes, but was a key part of the single wing attack that led the Spartans to the school’s fourth state championship. Rhodes was chosen as the first team offensive and defensive lineman on the All-Conference 38 team.

Bluefield junior R.J. Bourne, in his first season at quarterback for the Beavers, earned quarterback on the All-FSC first team. He threw for 1,769 yard and 15 touchdowns this year, completing 61 percent of his attempts.

 Providing protection for that unit includes Graham center Chase Asbury, who was a Conference 39 first team selection at center and linebacker.

Richlands’ Matthew Ball (first team All-Conference 39), Brian Duncan of Haysi (BDD 1st team, 1A West second team), Giles’ Hunter Epperley (first team All-Conference 38), Corey Harsanyi of Princeton (All-MSAC, second team) and Honaker’s Chandler Miller (1A West, BDD first team offense and defense) round out the offensive line.

Summers County’s Isaiah Brown, who was selected as an All-Class AA second team selection, led the Bobcats to a 9-2 record on the season as one of the most versatile players in the area, and was chosen as an offensive utility player for the All-FSC team.

Francisco Desiderio of Bluefield claimed All-Class AA second team honors and first team All-FSC recognition for Bluefield, converting 64 of 69 extra point conversions this season and made all three of his field goal attempts.

Giles’ Brian Mann was chosen as a first team kick return specialist. Mann ran 1,303 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, and also helped the Spartans with field position as a kick returner. Mann was a first team All-Conference 38 selection as a kick return specialist and defensive back.

He scored two touchdowns in the 2A state championship game, including the deciding score in overtime. Whitlow followed with the extra point that proved to be the difference in the game.

Defensively, the team is just as potent, led by Cook, who switched from linebacker to safety this season and had a stellar season for Graham. He was a first team All-Conference 39 honoree as a defensive back.

He is joined on the All-FSC team by a quartet of hard hitting linebackers,  including Bluefield’s Corey Coppola, Jenson Doffin of Giles, Summers County’s Erik Lindsay and Tristan Yates of Haysi.

Coppola and Lindsay were All-Class AA second team selection. Doffin was a first-team honoree by Conference 38. Yates was chosen as the 1A West and BDD Defensive Back of the Year.

The remainder of the secondary with Cook includes Sho-Johnson, who played everywhere for Princeton, including punter, along with John Teats of Giles and Malik Davis of Tazewell.

Teats was the Conference 38 Defensive Player of the Year. Davis had a stellar campaign for Tazewell, earning All-Conference 39 first team honors at quarterback.

Graham’s Charlie Benfield is the All-FSC first team defensive utility player. Benfield was productive on both sides of the ball, recording 56 tackles and three interceptions, and also had 1,028 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing, and caught 10 passes for 144 yards and two more scores.

Benfield was an All-Conference 39 first team defensive utility player, and second team running back.

Leading the defensive line is Garrett Jessee of Tazewell, who earned All-Conference 39 honors on the interior lines on both sides of the ball.

Graham’s Adrian Gray practically lived in backfields, recording 51 tackles, including 22 1/2 for loss, 6 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles. The rest of the line includes Jared Sanders of Richlands (All-Conference 39 first team) and Steven Stacy of Hurley (BDD defensive lineman of the year, 1A West first team).

Honaker’s Makenzie Phillips, one of the top specialists in the area, was chosen as the All-FSC second team punter. He was a first team honoree by coaches from the BDD and 1A West.

The punt returner was Isiah Clarkson from James Monroe, who had a solid season for the Mavericks.

Coach of the year honors went to Fred Simon of Bluefield, who led the Beavers to a 10-3 record, continuing a remarkable 28-yard career that includes a 217-112 (.660) record with four state championships.

Other candidates included Jeff Williams (Giles), James Colley (Haysi), Greg Mance (Richlands), Nathan Tanner (Summers County), Randy Peek (Princeton) and Gary Poindexter (Wyoming East).

The second team and honorable mention selections can be found on B-3.

—Contact Brian Woodson

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