By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
*originally published in The Messenger on January 13, 2012*
Football has produced many famous offensive tandems. Bradshaw-Swann, Montana-Rice and Namath-Maynard are just a few of the famous partnerships the gridiron has produced in the past 30 years. On a more local scale, fans remember the likes of Patrick Nix-Toderick Malone or Brodie Croyle-Brandon Greer.
The duo from Etowah High School in 2011 featured two of the top offensive performers in the county and the state.
When selecting The Messenger’s Player of the Year, it was impossible to split Blue Devil quarterback Dalton Wadley and his favorite target Darrin Peterson.
The senior signal caller was the focal point of the Etowah offense, completing 130/236 passes for 2,173 yards. The bruising quarterback was second in rushing for the Blue Devils, tallying 577 yards on 98 carries. Wadley was named Class 5A, Region 7 Most Valuable Offensive Player in 2011.
Peterson was named MVP of Class 5A, Region 7 and first-team All-State in 2011. “Petey” was Wadley’s favorite target. The standout receiver led the Blue Devils with 65 receptions for 1,393 yards – an average of 21.43 yards per catch. Peterson used his size and speed to menace defensive backs. The powerful receiver is best known for his ability to catch passes while taking hard hits in the secondary. Peterson also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns.
“Its hard to say what those two guys meant to our team,” Etowah head coach Sam McCorkle said. “Having a quarterback with an arm like Wadley’s and a receiver who could catch the ball like Petey made a huge difference in our offensive capabilities and made it very easy to call plays.”
McCorkle said Wadley ranks high among Blue Devil quarterbacks of the past.
“Wadley is as good a quarterback as any around. His arm is as strong as any guys in college. When you talk about Etowah quarterbacks, you have to mention Wadley when you talk about Patrick Nix and Freddie Kitchens. Those guys passed for over 2,000 yards two years in row and so did Dalton. He is such a competitor, such a leader. Our guys truly thought that with him at quarterback we would get in the end zone.”
Peterson caught the eye of former Etowah head coach Raymond Farmer, who coached the Blue Devils during the days of Nix and Kitchens.
“Peterson is one of the best receivers I have ever seen around here,” Farmer said recently. “He is one of the most talented receivers to not be so heavily recruited.”
McCorkle had nothing but praise for his 6’5 senior wideout.
McCorkle said Peterson is a rare gem and was virtually unstoppable once he got into the defensive secondary.
“He is the epitome of a clutch player. In tight situations people knew we were going to throw to him. He could go up high and catch the ball in traffic and could take hits and still hold on to the ball. It was like the defense knew what was coming and there was nothing they could do to stop it. His size, speed and strength makes him the total package. Having Petey out there gave us the ability to successfully throw the ball down field and open up our running game. He fought through double-coverage and still caught the ball. You won’t find many players like Petey.”
Wadley was named Most Valuable Offensive Player of Class 5A, Region 7, while Peterson was named Most Valuable Player.
McCorkle and Sardis head coach Gene Hill were named Co-Coaches of the Year by The Messenger.
McCorkle led Etowah to the Class 5A, Region 7 championship in 2011 and its first playoff victory since the first round of the 2005 playoffs. The Blue Devils finished the 2011 football season with a 10-2 record.
McCorkle was named Class 5A, Region 7 Coach of the Year as he continued to steer the Etowah Blue Devil football program in the right direction with a consecutive playoff appearance in 2011. McCorkle has accumulated a 20-13 overall record in three years at the helm of the Blue Devils, progressively winning more games each season.
McCorkle accredits those wins to the players and the coaching staff.
“These young guys have started for a long time. They grew up in our system, bought in to what we wanted to do and were successful in executing our game plans. We have a great coaching staff this year. Everything this year seemed to come together. I wish we could’ve went a little further in the playoffs because I think we could’ve played some of the other teams later on. I will miss the seniors come next fall. It was a fun year, the most fun I have had coaching in a long time.”
In his first season as head coach, Hill led the Sardis Lions to 9-2 and a Class 3A, Region 7 championship.
“I credit our success this year to the hard work put in by our assistant coaches and players,” Hill said. “It’s not hard to sit back and organize a team when you have great assistants like we have here at Sardis. The coaches and players give maximum effort and they are the reason for this honor.”
Hill was also named Etowah County Coach of the Year.
One particular player whose services Hill had the luxury of employing is Toby Pee. Pee is The Messenger’s Offensive Most Valuable Player and was the driving force of the Lions’ offense.
Pee rushed for 1,565 yards for 17 touchdowns on 165 attempts – 9.5 yards per carry. The speedy back caught 16 passes for 143 yards and four touchdowns.
Hill said Pee is one of those few rare players who have the ability to make an impact in every aspect of the game. Pee possesses displays many talents while running the football. The junior back has the ability to outrun, run over and hurdle defenders.
“I have only seen maybe two players in all my years of coaching that match Toby in terms of talent,” Hill said. “He had similar statistics last year and was MVP of the region. I expect the same next year.”
Hill said Pee’s success comes from his drive to succeed.
“Toby is an outstanding worker,” Hill said. “His success is accredited to his work ethic. He is in the weight room every day working to get better. He practices full speed and he plays full speed. His efforts off the field truly compliment his God-given talent.”
Glencoe linebacker Daniel Warren was chosen as The Messenger’s Most Valuable Defensive Player.
Warren led the county in tackles with 166 and was a vital piece to Glencoe’s 9-3 season, during which the Yellow Jacket defense allowed 10.9 points per game.
Warren and linebacking teammate T.J. Daugherty were recently named Co-Most Valuable Defensive Players.
Glencoe safety/wide receiver Christopher Tinker was named the The Messenger’s Athlete of the Year.
Tinker was a standout both defensively and offensively for the Yellow Jackets. The senior was quarterback Harrison Bright’s favorite target, catching 36 passes for 566 yards and five touchdowns. Tinker was second in the county in receiving after Etowah’s Darren Peterson.
Tinker was responsible for many key defensive plays in the secondary, including a game-saving deflection of a would-be touchdown pass during playoff action against Sylvania.
*Chris McCarthy contributed in selecting this team.