Eastside's Wray top pick in Region 8-AAA

COVINGTON - Eastside's Justin Wray won the admiration and respect of all the region coaches as he was named the 2008 Region 8-AAA Player of the Year.

Besides Wray, seven players were also honored by being named to the 2008 All-Region team with two more receiving honorable mention.

Running back Broderick Alexander, offensive linemen James Johnson and wide receiver Andrico Bailey were named to the all-region offensive team, while being named to the defensive team were defensive ends Jacorey Maddox and Karl Williams and linebackers Hunter Parker and Brandon Pettite.

Getting honorable mention were running back Git Aiken and offensive lineman Jarrett Hubbard.

"I've been extremely blessed and so fortunate to have been around many quality players. They're all very deserving," Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. "A lot of coaches never had that opportunity."

In his 17 years of coaching, Hurst has had four all-region players including former Florida State University quarterback and All- American Fabian Walker.

Even though Walker set the Georgia record for career passing with 8,281 yards and 81 touchdowns, Hurst feels that Wray is a better athlete.

"Fabian was a gifted player who saw the whole field. He had such a gifted mind for the game as well as a gifted arm," Hurst said.

"Justin's got a great arm but Justin has more of an ability to run. I think athlete-wise, Justin is a better athlete. I have a lot of faith in him and he's just a better player."

Through the regular season, Wray completed 64 percent of his passes, 74 of 115, for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns. He's also run for nine touchdowns gaining 373 yards on 61 carries.

Every time Wray touches the ball he's a threat to make a big play.

"Everywhere we went, talking to the other head coach they would say he is something else. You have to account for whereever he is on the field. If he doesn't beat you with his arm he pulls it down, and then you think you have him but he just takes off. There's a lot of respect for Justin in the region," Hurst said.

The only other player nominated for player of the year was Hart County's Jeffery Rucker. Wray won the vote 6-2.

Even though Wray has the talent, if it were not for Johnson and the rest of the offensive line there's a chance that he would not be able to showcase it as often nor as well as he does.

"I don't think you'll find a better offensive lineman in the region than James Johnson. Everybody has said that that's watched him on film. When I talk to (coaches) they say he's a man. He's unselfish in his play," Hurst said.

Beside's keeping defenders off Wray, Johnson and his crew have also helped Alexander make it to the top of region recognition.

At 6-1 and 215 pounds, Alexander is the workhorse of the backfield.

In 10 games, he's rushed for 693 yards on 79 touches while scoring 14 times on the ground. Receiving, he has 13 catches for 98 yards and one touchdown.

"BA, I'd put him as one of the best backs in the state right now. He's playing extremely confident. He does all three phases, he blocks, he catches the football and he runs," Hurst said.

Although Bailey has not been used a lot this year, 19 catches for 337 yards and two touchdowns, he his a threat when the ball is in the air.

"Andrico is a playmaker," Hurst said. "When (the ball) is up in the air he feels like he owns it so he goes and gets it. He's made some of the best catches I've ever seen."

There is no doubt in Hurst's mind as to why Maddox and Williams were voted to the all defensive team.

Combined the duo have 118 tackles including 19 for a loss. Eleven of those tackles for loss belong to Maddox.

Williams leads the team with 10 sacks and along with Parker, they have forced three fumbles each.

Parker leads the team in total tackles with 112 followed by Pettite who has 97.

The tackling leader has 44 solo and 59 assist while Pettite is the tackle for loss leader with 13.

"Karl is just a freak on nature. He's probably our fastest player on the team at 230 pounds. He has unbelievable ability to chase the ball down. It's almost impossible to get outside of him because he's so fast," Hurst said.

"Hunter's our meanest kid for his size. He's fearless, he has absolutely no fear whatsoever. It makes him a great player. He makes all our calls on the defense. He's like a quarterback out there."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.