Coosa gridder honored at ASWA banquet

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Photo: Clete (left) and Mark O’Bryant pose for a photo during the recent ASWA Mr. Football and Back/Lineman of the Year awards on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in Montgomery. (Submitted photo) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Clete O’Bryant was officially recognized as among the best of the best in Alabama high school football on January 30.
The Coosa Christian junior was among three finalists for the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 1A Back of the Year award. The 42 student-athlete were honored at a luncheon banquet at the Renaissance-Montgomery sponsored by ALFA Insurance and the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association. The ASWA voted on and presented the awards.
Although O’Bryant did not win the award, he was honored to be a part of select few out of thousands of football players across the state.
“I never thought I’d come close to being this good, so it was a blessing honestly,” he said. “It was an honor being there with so many great players. It was really unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I know for of the five [finalists] in 1A because I’d played against them. It was pretty cool catching up with them.”
O’Bryant was named ASWA First Team All-State and the Overall Player of the Year for the All-Messenger football team after helping the Conquerors finish with an on-the-field record of 13-2 and as the Class 1A state runners-up. He lined up at linebacker, running back, tight end, wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner, in addition to being a member of the team’s kick coverage unit. He finished the season with 125 tackles (including 23 for a loss), two sacks, three interceptions, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. O’Bryant spearheaded a defense that posted eight shutouts in 15 games, including four in a row. The Conquerors allowed an average of only 6.5 points a game to finish the year as the top scoring defense in all AHSAA classifications. On offense, O’Bryant rushed for 465 yards and five touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 345 yards and four TDs.
O’Bryant pointed to the extra work the team put in as the catalyst to Coosa’s success this past season.
“We just did what we needed to do, and all those extra hours paid off. It also helped me become a better man and a better person. Honestly, I’d don’t know where I’d be without Coosa football and the school. They’ve done so much for me and all the other players.”
O’Bryant acknowledged it was not easy being the youngest of four brothers with Alaric, Cole and Cale.
“To be honest, I got the crap kicked out of me almost every day, but I wouldn’t be anything it wasn’t for them. They toughened me up and made me the person I am today. Also, me and me twin sister Caty are pretty close.”
With a semifinal finish two years ago and a trip to the finals this past season, Clete and his fellow seniors identified a key element that was lacking in winning a championship.
“I think if we had better senior leadership, we’d have been a lot better as a team. You need to know when to be serious and when to cut up. Also, it seems like we got caught up in the moment a few times, and me and the other seniors agreed that we’re not going to let that happened again.”
Mark O’Bryant, Clete’s dad and Coosa head football coach, noted that it was the first time since Gaston’s Demont Buice in 2009 that a player from Etowah County was nominated for the Back or Lineman of the Year award.
“I’m really proud of Clete for this accomplishment, but to me, this award really isn’t abot him; it’s helping get this county back on the map. It happened to happen on behalf of my son, but for Etowah County to get some respect was big. For me, this recognition is a lot bigger than Clete and a lot bigger than Coosa Christian. Some folks may look at me pretty much as a Coosa homer, but I’m a product of the Gadsden City school system and I want Etowah County to be relevant again.”
Mark pointed to Clete’s work ethic and leadership skills as major factors in his son’s success on the gridiron.
“Clete’s like another coach on the field. He understands what going on on offense and defenses as well as out coa-ches do. As far as leadership, Clete doesn’t like to be too vocal and kind of does his own thing. But if he doesn’t like the way one of the other kids is playing, he’ll get in his grill and get his point across.”
Saraland junior receiver Ryan Williams was named Mr. Football for the second straight year, which was a first for the award.
Mr. Football
Ryan Williams, Saraland
Super All-State
(top 12 players regardless of school’s classification)
Ryan Williams, Saraland
Jaylen Mbakwe, Clay-Chalkville
Cam Coleman, Central-Phenix City
Alvin Henderson, Elba
Ronnie Royal, Gulf Shores
Jacob Cornejo, Cherokee Co.
K.J. Lacey, Saraland
D.J. Barber, Clay-Chalkville
K.J. Jackson, St. James
Andrew Alford, Central-Phenix City
Malik Blocton, Pike Road
Caleb McCreary, Catholic-Montgomery
Backs of the Year
Class 7A: Cam Coleman, Central-Phenix City
Class 6A: Ryan Williams, Saraland
Class 5A: Ronnie Royal, Gulf Shores
Class 4A: Jacob Cornejo, Cherokee County
Class 3A: K.J. Jackson, St. James
Class 2A: Preston Lancaster, Tuscaloosa Academy
Class 1A: Alvin Henderson, Elba
Linemen of the Year
Class 7A: Bradley Shaw, Hoover
Class 6A: DJ Barber, Clay-Chalkville
Class 5A: Q.B. Reese, Ramsay
Class 4A: Joseph Phillips, BTW-Tuskegee
Class 3A: Kentonio Kelly Jr., Mobile Christian
Class 2A: Tucker Wilks, Fyffe
Class 1A: Tim Parnell, Leroy
Coaches of the Year (originally named Dec. 23)
Class 7A: Zach Golson, Mary Montgomery
Class 6A: Drew Gilmer, Clay-Chalkville
Class 5A: Jake Ganus, Moody
Class 4A: Lawrence O’Neal, BTW-Tuskegee
Class 3A: Ronnie Cottrell, Mobile Christian
Class 2A: Billy Adams, Locust Fork
Class 1A: Chan Lowe, Leroy
All-time Mr. Football winners
2023: Ryan Williams, Saraland receiver
2022: Ryan Williams, Saraland receiver
2021: Ryan Peppins, Thompson receiver
2020: GaQuincy McKinstry, Pinson Valley receiver/defensive back
2019: Kristian Story, Lanett quarterback
2018: Bo Nix, Pinson Valley quarterback
2017: Asa Martin, Austin running back
2016: La’Damian Webb, Beauregard running back
2015: Tyler Johnston, Spanish Fort quarterback
2014: Kerryon Johnson, Madison Academy running back
2013: Racean Thomas, Oxford running back
2012: Jeremy Johnson, Carver-Montgomery quarterback
2011: T.J. Yeldon, Daphne running back
2010: Jamal Golden, Wetumpka quarterback
2009: Coty Blanchard, Cherokee County quarterback
2008: Clint Moseley, Leroy quarterback
2007: Julio Jones, Foley receiver
2006: Larry Smith, Prattville quarterback
2005: Andre Smith, Huffman offensive lineman
2004: Jarod Bryant, Hoover quarterback
2003: Chris Nickson, Pike County quarterback
2002: JaMarcus Russell, Williamson quarterback
2001: Brandon Cox, Hewitt-Trussville quarterback
2000: Carnell Williams, Etowah running back
1999: Cory Whisenant, Springville running back
1998: DeMarco McNeil, Blount defensive lineman
1997: Mac Campbell, Alexandria running back
1996: Antoneyo Williams, Central-Tuscaloosa running back
1995: Gorman Thornton, Jeff Davis tight end
1994: Dawud Rasheed, Shades Valley running back
1993: Thomas Banks, West Jefferson running back
1992: Freddie Kitchens, Etowah quarterback
1991: Robert Davis, Homewood running back
1990: David Palmer, Jackson-Olin receiver
1989: Steven Coleman, Pike County running back
1988: Darrell Williams, Vigor running back
1987: Robert Jones, Parker running back
1986: Larry Ware, Lee-Montgomery running back
1985: Pierre Goode, Hazlewood running back
1984: Roderick Green, Gardendale receiver
1983: Freddy Weygand, Emma Sansom receiver
1982: Tommy Compton, Vigor quarterback

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