By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
For the fourth straight year, the bell cow of the Hokes Bluff offense led the Eagles to fertile pastures.
Senior halfback Darrian Meads, who in 11 games this past season rushed for 1540 yards and 17 touchdowns, is the 2019 All-Messenger football team’s Player of the Year. It was the fourth season in a row that Meads garnered the honor.
Meads endured the effects of turf toe on both feet for most of the season yet still finished with 440 more rushing yards than the area’s next highest rusher.
For his career, Meads (pictured above) finished with 8,049 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns while helping the Eagles qualify for the playoffs all four years, including one semifinal and two quarterfinal appearances. Hokes Bluff went 7-4 in 2019 while being ranked in the state’s top 10 for most of the season.
Coosa Christian junior receiver Evan Delp had a run at the history books on the way to receiving the All-Messenger Overall Athlete award. The 6-3, 180-pound receiver finished 253 yards shy of setting a new AHSAA single-season receiving yardage record with 1,489 yards. Delp caught 45 passes for a stellar 33.1-yard average while catching 21 touchdowns. He also had four interceptions at defensive back.
The All-Messenger Defensive MVP was far from a one-dimensional player. Along with his team-high 105 tackles at strong safety, Austin Gulledge also started at quarterback, punter, punt returner and holder for extra points and field goals.
At quarterback, Gulledge finished with 1,590 combined passing and rushing yards along with 21 touchdowns.
The All-Messenger Offensive MVP wreaked havoc on opposing defenses grief all season, both through the air and on the ground. West End junior quarterback Eli Pearce threw for 2,386 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing 87 times for 768 yards and 11 TDs.
Delp and Gulledge were first-team all-state selections, while Meads was named to the second team and Pearce received honorable mention recognition.
In his first year at Westbrook Christian, Drew Noles earned All-Messenger Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Warriors to an 8-4 record and the program’s first postseason victory in nine years. As the region’s No. 4 seed, Westbrook went on the road in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs and beat top-seeded Aliceville.
The All-Messenger first team offense features Etowah junior Brady Troup (2,411 passing yards and 24 combined touchdowns; 72 percent completion percentage) at quarterback; Etowah junior Trent Davis (1,098 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 98 carries, 21 receptions for 376 receiving yards and five scores)and Coosa Christian senior Dartavious Britton (1,675 combined yards and 19 total touchdowns) at running back; Hokes Bluff junior Hunter Burke at fullback; West End senior Jeremiah Roberson (75 catches, 905 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Westbrook senior Joe Tucker (43 catches, 747 yards, nine TDs) at receiver; Sardis senior Jacob Hopper (46 catches, 559 yards, eight TDs) at tight end; Westbrook junior Hall Boulware, Sardis senior Trey Dalrymple, Hokes Bluff senior Pete Jackson, Southside junior Garrett Orr and Etowah senior Dylan Hill at offensive line; and Westbrook senior Will Edwards (5-of-8 on field goal attempts with long of 45 yards, 41 of 42 in extra point attempts, seven touchbacks, 56 total points) at kicker.
The first team defense includes Southside senior Chance Moon, West End junior Hunter Tucker (81 tackles), Westbrook senior Derrick Graham (115 tackles, six sacks) and West End senior Mason Barnett (72 tackles) at defensive line; Gadsden City senior Allen Merrick (82 tackles), Sardis senior Michael Turner (104 tackles) and Hokes Bluff junior Will Clemons (79 tackles) at linebacker; Etowah junior Ny Ny Davis (71 tackles, three interceptions), Gadsden City senior Quinton Densmore (46 tackles, two interceptions), Westbrook senior J.R. Bellew (47 tackles) and Southside senior Colton Morrison (three interceptions) at defensive back; and Gadsden City senior Daniel Sparks at punter.
The second team offense consists of Sardis senior Jay Owens at quarterback; Westbrook freshman Karmichael Cattling and Sardis senior Luke Morris at running back; Etowah senior Hunter Cox at fullback; Etowah junior Ollie Finch and Southside junior Aulden Battles at receiver; Hokes Bluff senior Tristan Billingsley at tight end; Sardis senior Dylan Metcalf, Etowah junior Wesley Stone, Southside junior Will Warwick, Gaston senior Cole Wadsworth and Sardis senior Mason Smith at offensive line; and Southside senior Nolan Johnson at kicker.
Making up the second team defense are Eto-wah junior Toby Camp; Glencoe freshman Levi Long, Coosa Christian senior Reece Myrick and Hokes Bluff senior Dylan Boatner at line; Westbrook senior Jai’Shawn Cattling, Southside senior Zeke Hefner and Gaston senior Gage McArthur at linebacker; and Gadsden City junior Zion Kirby, Coosa Christian senior Trevor Horne, Glencoe senior Daniel Maye and Gadsden City sophomore Rodney Johnson at defensive back.