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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Wetumpka's Terrance Thomas rushed for a season-high 212 yards on just 10 carries.

QB: Alex Johnson, Edgewood junior

Johnson was called on to do a little bit more for Edgewood’s offense in his second year as the starter and he responded in a big way. Without having an all-state running back to rely on, Johnson finished with 1,670 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing 54.7 percent of his passes. “He has developed so much,” Edgewood coach Darryl Free said. “You knew it was going to help being in the second year of a system. We were really happy to see him become a leader. He’s a student of the game and those things add up to a good quarterback.”

RB: Terrance Thomas, Wetumpka senior

After Wetumpka’s backfield graduated De’Angelo Jones, it was presumed Thomas would take on a bigger role as the team’s top running back. His touches went down and his numbers took a hit but that did not stop Thomas from having a big impact on the offense. He finished with 737 yards and five touchdowns on 105 carries and a kick return touchdown. “Terrance is the most unselfish player I have ever coached,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “He never complained about his role and he always bought into the game plan. And when he did get the ball, he was very explosive and had the ability to score on any play.”

RB: Tray Duncan, Stanhope Elmore senior

Entering the season, Duncan knew he would be the workhorse for the Mustangs. The three-year starter took on an even bigger role in a run-heavy offense and he never backed down from the challenge. Duncan finished with 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns on 256 carries, averaging more than 20 touches per game. He recorded seven 100-yard games, including a 203-yard performance in the first round of the postseason. “He never got tired and he was always moving forward,” Stanhope coach Brian Bradford said. “He was strong enough to run through you and fast enough to run past you. There was no secret that he was going to get the ball and he did that anyway.”

RB: Keshawn Benson, Elmore County senior

Filling the shoes of DJ Patrick was never going to be easy but the Panthers attempted to do it by committee and Benson led the way. With a slight shift in offensive schemes, Benson moved from wide receiver to add some depth in the backfield. He led the team with 752 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 149 carries. “He really stepped it up when we needed him,” ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said. “He knew he was going to be called upon. He had some injuries but he was a tough runner. He was one of our only guys that was a threat to take it the distance.”

WR: Conner Bradford, Stanhope Elmore senior

There are plenty of challenges that come with being the coach’s son but Conner and Stanhope coach Brian Bradford made it look easy. Conner Bradford finished with 34 catches and 516 yards, accounting for more than half the receiving totals for the Mustangs. He also recorded 10 touchdowns including the game clincher at Wetumpka. “I cannot express the joy I had coaching him,” coach Bradford said. “To be front row and experience all of that with him was amazing. And for him to be out there as one of your leaders was incredible. He was under a lot of pressure and he kept making big plays.”

WR: Jaleel Johnson, Wetumpka senior

After showing plenty of improvement over the offseason, Johnson entered the 2019 season with high expectations. He lived up to it in a big way, becoming a key part of Wetumpka’s passing attack. Johnson finished with career-highs in receptions (31), receiving yards (647) and touchdowns (9). “He was a little inconsistent his junior year but through a lot of hard work, he emerged as a guy that we wanted to get the ball to,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “He surpassed expectations. He was a mismatch for a lot of defensive backs and he really came through in some big moments.” 

WR: Kaleb Varner, Edgewood senior

Varner was all over the place for the Wildcats, scoring in a variety of ways. He was a deep threat, dangerous in the screen game and took some handoffs in the backfield. Varner finished with 14 touchdowns and was the team’s leading receiver with 612 yards on 25 catches. “He is always a threat anywhere on the field,” Edgewood coach Darryl Free said. “He’d open things up for everyone else on the team too. That’s really undervalued sometimes. His explosiveness is definitely something that will be missed.”

OL: Bryson Caudle, Elmore County senior

There were several changes to the Panthers’ offensive line, including new schemes for the wishbone. Caudle took everything in stride and became the rushing attack’s lead blocker as the quick guard. He also took on the role of the long snapper and was named one of the captains. “He’s just a joy to be around and a joy to coach,” ECHS coach Jordan Cantrell said. “He’s a leader in everything he does, whether it’s football or not. Anything we mentioned that needed to be done, he was willing to do extra.”

OL: Ben Barker, Wetumpka junior

Barker was one of two returning starters on the offensive line and Wetumpka needed him to develop into the leader this season. He finished as the highest graded member on the line (85) and directed the blocking schemes as the center. Barker did not have a single errant snap in 568 plays. “His experience as a sophomore really carried over and he became the quarterback on the O-line,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “He was so comfortable in the offense and he was making all of the calls at the line. We put a lot on him and to do all of that with no errant snaps is pretty impressive.”

OL: Lane Batyski, Holtville junior

Holtville’s offensive line was one of the few question marks for the Bulldog offense entering the season. Holtville coach Jason Franklin knew Batyski would have to be the answer to a lot of those problems and he came through in his second year as a starter. Batyski, who moved from guard to center, graded at 89 percent and recorded 76 knockdowns. “His stats really speak for themselves,” Franklin said. “He must be doing something right for that to happen as an offensive lineman. He’s making all of the calls at the line. He’s the hardest working offensive lineman I’ve ever seen.”

OL: Rufus Jones, Stanhope Elmore senior

The Mustangs knew they would be getting a weapon when Jones transferred in from Autauga. The 6-foot-3, 328-pound guard had the size and continued to work on his skill to become Stanhope’s top lineman. Jones graded at 84 and finished with 66 pancakes and led the charge for a rushing attack that racked up more than 2,000 yards. “He was a little raw coming in but he bought in and his work ethic made the difference,” SEHS coach Brian Bradford said. “His drive to work on his technique and our schemes was clear. He showed that want to get better. He really fit into who we are as a program.”

OL: Will Blocker, Tallassee senior

Blocker has the perfect name for his position but his size could have stopped many people from playing on the line in Class 5A. At just 5-foot-9, Blocker was the leader at the line of scrimmage on both sides. He graded at 79 across nine games and even scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery as an offensive lineman. “Will was just an outstanding high school football player,” Tallassee coach Mike Battles said. “He played every snap for us and he did everything we asked. He may have been undersized but it’s hard to measure that heart.”

ATH: Malik Davis, Wetumpka senior

Davis made his mark all around the field in his final high school season. He averaged 20.4 yards per kick return and 14.0 yards per punt return. Davis finished with 1,188 all-purpose yards and scored 13 total touchdowns. He also added two interceptions. “Every coach loves to have that type of player,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “You are always trying to figure out ways to get him the ball. He had the explosiveness, quick feet and body control you need to play this game. He has the skill set to score any time he’s on the field.”

K: Robert Stewart, Edgewood senior

Edgewood did not send its kicker out on the field for field goal attempts too often but Stewart got plenty of work from 20 yards. He finished 49 of 50 on extra points, including a 10-for-10 game against Macon-East when he hit the game-winning kick in overtime. Stewart made only one of four field goal attempts but all of his misses were from 40-plus yards. “As a play caller, having a kicker like that is huge,” Wildcat coach Darryl Free said. “It allowed us to be more aggressive and take more chances down the field. He is one of the best kickers I’ve ever had. He really works on his craft and enjoys being a kicker.”

Honorable Mention

Wetumpka: Brandon Bowman, WR, Jr.; Zach Grindle, K, Sr.; Tallassee: Marciano Smith, RB, So.; Elmore County: Lapatrick Brown, RB, Sr.; Stanhope Elmore: Andrew Rines, QB, Sr.; Holtville: Drake Baker, QB, Sr.; Kolby Potts, RB, Sr.; Edgewood: Mitchell Boyd, RB, Jr.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.