COVINGTON — Big strides were made by Alcovy during the 2013 season and Curtiss Benton was named the Citizen’s defensive player of the year, while Kirk Hoffman grabbing coach of the year honors. Newton quarterback Romario Johnson was named the offensive player of the year.
It wasn’t an easy start for the sophomore quarterback. During the summer, Johnson was the back-up and remained in that spot until he corrected head coach Terrance Banks. After practice, Johnson told Banks that he had the wrong personnel on the field and explained why. That was when he was promoted just before the start of the season. He also led the Rams to a 15-14 win over powerhouse Lowndes.
Johnson completed 52 percent of his passes with 137 successful passes out of 265 attempts for 1,666 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also rushed for 854, for a total of 2,520 all-purpose yards, and three rushing touchdowns.
Benton had a way of playing havoc with the opponents offensive schemes, forcing offenses to change the play they were going to run based on where he was playing - at linebacker or on the defensive line.
The Alcovy senior led the team with 77 solo tackles, 19 tackle assists with 25 being behind the line of scrimmage. He also had 15 sacks, forced three fumbles and one fumble recovery, and added a defensive touchdown and a safety.
The Tigers finished the season with a 7-4 record - along with 2009 the best finish in the program’s eight-year history - and lost in the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs to Hillgrove.
At first-team quarterback, Alcovy’s Tristen Payne threw for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 1,035 and 10 touchdowns.
Joining Payne in the backfield was Eastside’s Jomandi Smith, who rushed for 769 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 15 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown.
Salem’s Robbie Cyrus also made first-team running back after a 498-yard season.
Newton’s Davonte Jones and Taylor Hawkins, along with Alcovy’s Jaylin Penny proved to be threats when they caught the ball as each receiver had 35 receptions. Jones just beat out Penny in yards (590-to-574). Jones also had seven touchdowns to Penny’s five. Hawkins had 462 yards and four touchdowns.
Providing protection for the quarterback and opening holes for the running game were Salem’s Nic West and Davion Bigsby, Eastside’s Obie Mash, Rockdale’s Blake Davis and Newton’s Corey Thomas, all first-team linemen.
Rockdale’s Robert McCray had 64 total tackles with 18 going for a loss at the defensive line. He also had 11 sacks and forced five fumbles.
Alcovy’s Ryan Adams finished the year with 72 tackles (13 for loss) and also had eight sacks, forced two fumbles, broke up a pass and had a tackle in the endzone for a safety from the line of scrimmage.
Eastside’s Arthur Holmes had the opposing backfields on their heals with 13 of his 64 tackles going for a loss. He also had nine sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered one fumble, broke up a pass and knocked one down before it reached its intended target.
Newton’s Dez Billingslea led the core of linebackers with 91 tackles (five of those being for a loss) and added three sacks.
Okon Godwin did a little bit of everything at the linebacker position for Alcovy with 80 tackles (six for a loss), five interceptions, one fumble recovery, six pass break ups and two touchdowns.
Rockdale’s defensive leader, linebacker Kentavius Preston, had 78 tackles with 19 going for a loss. He added four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two break ups.
Newton’s AJ Palamino was also a force to be reckoned with at linebacker with 66 tackles with nine going for a loss.
Alcovy’s Cameron Banks did not get a lot passed him in the secondary. He had four interceptions and 10 break ups with 31 tackles and one fumble recovery.
Rockdale had a pair of defensive backs on the all-citizen team as Shakym Peters (32 tackles, three for a loss, three interceptions and nine break ups) and Anthony Davis getting 42 tackles, including two for a loss, three interceptions and eight break ups.
Also in the secondary was Eastside’s Jamal Hardge who had 78 tackles and six break ups.
Quarterback: Salem’s Licash Lackey. Running back: Salem’s Tyriano Green; Eastside’s Anthony Henderson. Wide receiver: Salem’s Kanomie McIntosh and Keylan Wright, Rockdale’s Terrell McLaughlin and Eastside’s Isaiah James. Linemen: Newton’s Alex Jacob, Alcovy’s Adams and Michael Moses, Eastside’s Jordan Dennard.
Defensive linemen: James Russell (Eastside), Derek Green (Newton) and Quintarius Maddox (Salem). Linebackers Zack Shelton (Alcovy), Cam Johnson (Salem), TJ Jones (Salem) and Carlos Huggins (Eastside). Defensive backs Jaquan Henderson (Eastside), Robbie Wallace (Newton), Roman Mack (Alcovy) and Christopher Franklin (Newton).