For many area football teams, 2008 will be remembered as the year of the defense.
Baldwin, Northside, Westside and Wilkinson County all fielded among the best defenses in their respective school’s history.
So it was appropriate when numerous local players on those standout defenses were awarded all-state honors from the Georgia Sports Writers Association, which is made up of a panel of writers representing newspapers across the state. A Middle Georgia player was named Defensive Player of the Year in four of the five GHSA classifications.
Dublin defensive back Rashard Smith was named the Class AA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Dublin has had three straight Defensive Players of the Year joining back to Thomas Barnes in 2006. Smith, who has committed to N.C. State, intercepted 10 passes for the second straight year.
Westside linebacker Julian Burnett, Northside defensive end Abry Jones and Wilkinson County defensive back Tony McCrea joined Smith as the Defensive Players of the Year for their respective classifications.
Burnett made his second straight all-state team and is the first Defensive Player of the Year in school history. He was joined atop the team by receiver Danny Madison, who was named the AAAA Offensive Player of the Year. Former running back Travis Evans is the only other player in school history to receive that honor.
But that wasn’t the end of the Seminoles’ haul.
Offensive linemen Austin Nowlin and George Thomas and defensive end Kory Threatt also were named to the all-state team. Westside has never had more than three players named to the all-state team in one year. Only Class AA Buford had more all-state players than Westside this season with six. Orrin McFadden, DeAnthony Green, Quinn Boone and Robert Brown were honorable mention selections.
Jones was named his second-straight all-state team. He follows former teammate Deonta Jordan as the only two Defensive Player of the Year winners in school history. Kicker Devon Pike joined Jones on the all-state team. Defensive back K.J. Morton, running back Xavier Bacon and linebacker Darius Ivey were honorable mention selections. Ivey received the same the honor last year. Morton was a first-teamer last year.
McCrea, who intercepted nine passes and led Wilkinson County to its first state semifinal appearance, is the Warriors’ first all-state player since 2000. He is also the first Warriors player to receive a Player of the Year award. Junior linebacker Quayshon Simmons was an honorable mention selection.
Fresh off the best season in school history, Southwest landed three players on the AA all-state team: running back Adrian Alexander, defensive end Khiry King and tight end Josh Rousseau. Southwest had not had an all-state player since 1990, and the Patriots had five all-state players in school history before this year’s three.
Northeast landed its first player on the all-state team since 2002 when sophomore offensive lineman Mike Brown was picked for the team. Brown is the fourth all-state player in school history. Standout running back A.J. Cornelius was an honorable mention selection.
Mary Persons’ all-state drought ended when offensive lineman Jadareius Hamlin and kick returner Chaz Avery were named to the team. They were the first Bulldogs to receive all-state honors since 1999.
Baldwin linebacker Corico Hawkins is on the team for the second straight year. He joins Darius Marshall and Mike Washington as the only two-time winners in school history. Darius Nelson becomes the third Braves offensive lineman in four years to be on the team following Maurice Hurt and Jason Peaccock.
A number of other Middle Georgia standouts received all-state honors.
ŸPerry’s Johnnie Farms was named to the all-state team for the second straight year, joined Kanorris Davis and Lee St. John as the only Panthers to complete that feat.
ŸFour Wilcox County players were named to the team a year after the Patriots had five first-teamers. All four players — brothers Nick and Antonio Marshall, Chris Hargrove and Nate Moorhouse — earned the honor for the first time.
ŸKick returner Deon Cuyler is the 11th Johnson County player to be on the team since 2000. He’s also the only freshman in any classification on the team.
ŸDefensive back Jemea Thomas gives Fitzgerald an all-state player for the ninth straight year. Wide receiver Darqueze Dennard extends Twiggs County’s all-state streak to seven years.
ŸOffensive lineman Colby Nelson was Taylor County’s first all-state pick since 2004. Linebacker Demery Hawkins was Toombs County’s first pick since 2000.
ŸOffensive lineman Joseph Altman was the sixth all-state player in Telfair County history.