Local gridders recognized at ASWA banquet

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Photo: Former Etowah High head football coach Drew Noles, Etowah senior Jamin Graham, Hokes Bluff junior Darrian Meads and Hokes Bluff head football coach Mike Robertson (pictured, from left) gather for a photo following the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Mr. Football and Back/Lineman of the Year Banquet on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in Montgomery. Graham and Meads were finalists for Class 5A Lineman of the Year and Class 4A Back of the Year awards, respectively. (Mike Goodson/Messenger) 

By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent

A pair of local football players were recognized at the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Mr. Football and Back/Lineman of the Year Banquet presented by Cadence Bank on Tuesday, Jan. 15, in Montgomery. The event was sponsored by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association.
Etowah High senior defensive end Jamin Graham and Hokes Bluff junior Darrian Meads were among three finalists for Class 5A Lineman of the Year and Class 4A Back of the Year award, respectively.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Graham finished the season with 86 tackles (including 54 solo), 11 sacks, 35 tackles for a loss, two safeties, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns while helping the Blue Devils a 12-1 record, an undefeated regular season, a region championship and a second straight berth in the state quarterfinals. Graham and his fellow Etowah defenders posted five shutouts while limiting opponents to an average of 8.7 points per game.
“It’s a great honor to be here, and I was a little shocked to be invited,” said Graham. “I had the opportunity to play against some great athletes, several of whom are here today. Everyone has been super.”
Graham pointed to the Blue Devils’ season-opening, come-from-behind victory over Gadsden City on Aug. 23 as the one of the highlights of his prep career. With just over a minute left to play and the Titans leading 23-20, Graham picked up a GCHS fumble and ran into the end zone for the touchdown and a three-point Etowah lead. On the following Gadsden City possession and with the Titans inside the Etowah 20-yard line, Graham scooped up a fumble that he returned for 73 yards and a touchdown as time expired.
“Several of my friends attend Gadsden City, and it was good to have an unforgettable game against them,” he said. “Also, my grandfather passed away the week before, and I wanted to play well for him.”
“Jamin is a great kid, both on the field and off,” said former Etowah head football coach Drew Noles. “He’s a role model for everyone and he has a positive impact on everyone he comes in contact with.”
Meads was selected to the ASWA Super 12 All-State team, which is comprised of the state’s top 12 players regardless of classification. He helped the Eagles to an 11-2 record and a third straight trip to the state quarterfinals with 2,634 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns. For his career, Meads has rushed for 6,511 yards and 79 touchdowns.
“This is a great honor and means a lot to me,” said Meads. “Every one of these guys is a great athlete. This has given me a chance to talk to other players about life, several of whom I got to play against. My goal for next season is to win for the people of Hokes Bluff, my teammates and the coaching staff.”
“Darrian is a super person and one of the hardest workers I have ever seen,” said Hokes Bluff head football coach Mike Robertson. “He is a super player, and hopefully he’ll get to be back next year.”
Pinson Valley quarterback Bo Nix was named Mr. Football. He threw for 3,496 yards and 48 touchdowns, plus ran for six scores, to lead the Indians to their second straight Class 6A championship and a 13-1 record. Over his career, Nix was the first AHSAA player to reach 12,000 yards of total offense and set a record with 161 total touchdowns (127 passing, 34 rushing). He graduated in December and has enrolled at Auburn University.
Joining Meads on the Super 12 team were Nix, Thompson quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, Oxford offensive lineman Clay Webb, North Jackson running back Lee Witherspoon, Hoover receiver George Pickens, Hueytown running back Roydell Williams, Hewitt-Trussville offensive lineman Pierce Quick, Auburn defensive end Mahamoud Diabate, Flomaton quarterback Daquan Johnson, Jackson-Olin linebacker Vonta Bentley and Clay-Chalkville defensive lineman D.J. Dale.
Class winners for Lineman of the Year were Hewitt-Trussville’s Pierce Quick in 7A, Oxford’s Clay Webb in 6A, Vigor’s Fred Austin in 5A, UMS-Wright’s Will Breland in 4A, Fultondale’s Ja’Len Sims in 3A, Luverne’s Arian Gregory in 2A and Pickens County’s Jah-Marien Latham in 1A.
Class winners for Back of the Year were Thompson’s Taulia Tagovailoa in 7A, Pinson Valley’s Bo Nix in 6A, Central-Tuscaloosa’s Javonta Leatherwood in 5A, North Jackson’s Lee Witherspoon in 4A, Flomaton’s Daquan Johnson in 3A, Cottage Hill’s Samario Rudolph in 2A and St. Luke’s Jermaine Brown in 1A.

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