By Tim Chambers
Trying to pick an elite football squad among players from Johnson and Carter Counties was a difficult task in 2017. Johnson County and Elizabethton spent the entire year ranked near the top in the state’s 3A and 4A polls respectively. The Longhorns finished at No. 3 while the Cyclones were penciled in at No. 5 after 10 games.
Cloudland closed the regular season ranked No. 8 in Class 1A and Happy Valley stayed ranked in the 2A poll for nine weeks before falling out.
All the above made the playoffs and each of them won a first round game. Hampton was also included in the playoff mix.
A lot of good players showcased their talents under the Friday night lights and many of them were deserving of post-season honors.
A great number of them were tabbed to their leagues’ All-Conference teams but the following unit is an upgrade from that.
The Tomahawk’s Super 16 squad is comprised of two eight packs of players plus Coach of the Year honors. Each of these should gather some consideration when the All-State teams are selected.
A panel of sportswriters looked at nearly 40 players before our final selection was made. Three area newspapers were represented.
Johnson County placed five players on the team after being the only area squad to go 10-0 during the regular season. Elizabethton earned four spots while Happy Valley collected three. Cloudland and Hampton each received two and Unaka had the final spot due to a tie.
The Longhorn quintet consisted of Nathan Arnold, Hayden Osborne, Shane Greer, Jordan Edes-King and Tyler Norris being named.
Arnold completed 152-of-245 passes for 2112 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was Co-Player of the Year in the Mountain Six Conference.
Osborne racked up 157 tackles in 12 games including 14 sacks and 13 for losses. He also blocked an extra point against Northview Academy in the first round of the playoffs to preserve their win. He was defensive player of the year in the Mountain Six Conference and Johnson City Press’ elite 11 team.
Greer had 55 receptions for 1102 yards and averaged 20 yards per catch. He too was named on every ballot. Edes-King logged 95 tackles at defensive end and 10 sacks. He was also valuable as a tight end on offense and started at tackle the final three games due to an injury. All four are seniors.
Norris is the final Longhorns to be named. The junior linebacker collected 133 tackles and 11 sacks.
Elizabethton’s quartet is made up of Carter Everett, Corey Russell, Ryan Wetzel and Cameron Coleman.
Everett put up some massive numbers by throwing for 2734 yards and 33 touchdowns. He completed 218 of 317 passes.
Russell rushed on 1191 yards on 152 carries and 18 touchdowns. He also had 21 receptions for 208 yards and five scores.
Wetzell logged 78 receptions for 994 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Coleman will take his talents to Furman University after making the All-State team last year. He was a standout defensive player and starred on both sides of the football in a league that included Greeneville.
Happy Valley’s trio includes Brayden Sams, Landon Morefield and Dakota Cochran.
Sams was a duel threat quarterback rushing for 800 yards on 117 carries and 17 touchdowns. He threw for 620 yards and five scores, completing 44-of-92 passes.
Morefield was the league’s top lineman in 2A and his 6’6, 305-pound frame is drawing looks from several schools including some D-1 offers.
Cochran was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2A and led the team in tackles. He also rushed for 723 yards and five touchdowns.
Cloudland duo of Jordan Coffey and Austin Hall were unanimous selections.
Coffey rushed for 1738 yards on 245 carries and 23 touchdowns. He also logged five TD receptions.
Hall was the conference’s 1A Offensive Lineman of the Year and his size could land him an opportunity to play college football.
Hampton’s Hunter Davenport and C.J. Wilson will represent the Bulldogs.
Davenport compiled 1624 yards rushing on 195 carries and 20 touchdowns. He also caught five touchdown passes out of the backfield.
Wilson is a candidate for All-State honors and will definitely draw some attention from area colleges with his size.
The final spot goes to Unaka’s Blake Isaacs who caught 59 passes for 1080 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Johnson County’s Don Kerley was a unanimous choice for Coach of the Year after finishing the regular season 10-0 and winning a first round playoff game for only the third time in school history.
His 11 regular season wins is a school record.