By Chris McCarthy/Publisher/Editor
Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
Southside took home three of the top four awards on the 2023 All-Etowah County Schools football team.
Despite losing standout senior quarterback and three-year starter Gauge NeSmith to a season-ending injury in the second game of the year, the Panthers went to win eight of their last 10 games to finish 8-3 and capture its first region championship in nine years.
Senior running back Mason Teague (pictured above) and senior linebacker Tytan Rich were selected as Overall MVP and Defensive MVP, respectively, while Miles Holcomb received Coach of the Year honors.
Teague was the Panthers’ primary option on offense, rushing for 2,143 yards and 25 touchdowns on 245 carries. He averaged 195 yards and 2.3 TDs per game. Rich finished with 114 tackles, including 23 for a loss, and three sacks. Holcomb guided the Panthers to their third straight state playoff berth, a first in program history.
Earning Offensive MVP honors was Sardis senior running back Blaze Gerhart, who ran for 1,089 yards and nine touchdowns on 173 attempts. He also caught 18 passes for 177 yards.
Hokes Bluff sophomore quarterback Bryce Whitaker was named Offensive Athlete after combining for 805 passing and rushing along with eight touchdowns.
The Defensive Athlete award went to Sardis sophomore linebacker Grant Coe, who finished the year with 58 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception.
Making up the all-county offensive line are juniors Leon Chen and Daylon Reeves from Hokes Bluff; senior Jake Stewart and juniors Jamin Brown and Reece Thomason from Southside; senior
Jose Ponce from Sardis; senior Luke Hollingsworth from Gaston and senior Lucas Huff from Glencoe.
The offensive back field consists of Sardis junior Brain Chapman and Southside junior Jordan Bryan at quarterback and Glencoe junior Aaron Mann, Hokes Bluff junior Blaine Barron, Southside junior Koal Garrett and West End seniors Rock Sainsbury and Kane Lawson at running back.
At tight end are Hokes Bluff junior Colten Shields and Sardis senior Eli Morton.
The receiving corps features seniors Cayden McMichael and Kody Kueny from Southside; junior Jayden Patton from Glencoe; senior Connor Lowery from Sardis; junior Kodie Bogle from
Gaston and senior Triston Chaney from West End.
At kicker is Southside senior Caleb Ogle.
The defensive line includes senior Brayson Hayes from Hokes Bluff; junior Jevonte Strong from Southside; senior Jace Golden from West End; senior Jordan Haney from Glencoe; and senior Gage Garner from Sardis.
At linebacker are senior Coleman McGinnis from Hokes Bluff; sophomore Levi Martin from Sardis; junior Keller Skaggs from Gaston; junior Brayden Bowers from Southside; senior Josh Carroll from West End; and sophomore Aiden Johnson from Glencoe.
The secondary features juniors Brody McCutcheon and Silas Osborne from Southside; senior Alex Davis from Sardis; junior Anderson Morgan from Hokes Bluff; and senior Trustin Granger from Gaston.
Glencoe junior Connor Montgomery made the team at punter.
Earning honorable mention recognition are Evan McDonald, Talon Jenkins, Brody Burnett, Blake Phillips, Gauge NeSmith, Cam Flowers and Grant Golden from Southside; Logan Wiemann, Harrison Cummings, Kaleb Thacker, Conner Wellingham, Alex Carter and Clayton Helms from Hokes Bluff; Brandon Simonetti, Bryson Blevins, Brayden Walker, Landon Carroll and Tanner Stocks from Sardis; Brady Kitchens, Colby Bishop, Braylen Smith and Preston Reaves from Glencoe; Fysher Patterson, Skyler Yancey and Marty Wooten from West End; and Conner Hollingsworth and Easton Albert from Gaston.
Editor’s note: members of the All-Etowah County Schools football team were selected by the head football coaches at each school.