The football teams at Dalton and Northwest Whitfield enjoyed arguably the two best seasons among Region 7-4A teams this year.
The All-Region accolades support that notion.
Dalton leads the way with 10 players honored either as one of the six players of the year or as a member of the first or second team. Northwest follows with nine players, including three as a player of the year, the most of any school. The team was voted on Thursday by the region’s coaches.
“We tell our kids, ‘When you focus on the team, the individual awards will come,’” Dalton coach Matt Land said. “I think a lot of kids in this society are about self-promotion and Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff. A lot of kids think backwards about self-promotion over making the team better. We’re blessed with having a group of kids who put the team first.”
Isaiah Mack, Northwest Whitfield’s senior defensive tackle, was named defensive player of the year. Teammate Tevin McDaniel, a senior wide receiver and cornerback, shared athlete of the year with Dalton’s Eder Mora, a junior who played linebacker, safety, punter and fullback. Miguel Villa, Northwest’s senior kicker, was named special teams player of the year.
Mack, who was The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year last season, wins the top defensive player award for a second straight season. He finished with 121 tackles, 21 of those for a loss, 29 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles.
“We played 11 games and out of those 11, he only played seven and a half quarter-wise,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said. “We were quick to pull the trigger and get him out when we had a big lead.”
Villa made seven field goals and 45 extra points this season. McDaniel finished with 1,252 yards of total offense, scored 15 touchdowns and set a school record for the most receiving yards (915) in a season.
Mora recorded 159 tackles, nine pass breakups, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two recovered fumbles. On offense, he had 34 rushes for 276 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 20 punts for an average of 40.25 yards per punt.
“There isn’t a more team-centered player than Eder Mora,” Land said, “and when he leaves, there won’t be a more remembered or rewarded player for individual accomplishments as he will be.”
Dalton finished the regular season 8-2, won all eight games against region opponents and won the region championship.
Northwest finished the regular season 9-1, the only loss coming to Dalton, and played in the state playoffs for the first time since 2009. Both teams lost in the first round of the postseason.
Dalton has the most players (eight) on the first team. Northwest showcases six, the second most.
“It’s two very quality programs that are separated by only a few miles,” Robinson said of Northwest’s and Dalton’s strong showings on the all-region list. “It’s very encouraging for the area and a testament to the kind of football going on here and the players we have.”
Cedartown running back Nick Chubb is the overall player of the year and Pickens running back Shannon Brooks is the offensive player of the year. Gilmer’s Wesley Tankersley is the coach of the year despite Dalton defeating Gilmer twice.
Gilmer was the only one of the region’s four playoff teams to reach the second round of the state playoffs.
There were 11 teams in the region. Of the 63 names to receive a player of the year nod or make either the first or second team, 25 represent one of the three region schools in Whitfield County.
Despite winning just two games this season against region foes and finishing 4-6, Southeast Whitfield had six players selected — all on the second team — while Gilmer had seven. Cedartown and Ridgeland each have six players on the list, while Cass has five, Pickens and LaFayette each have four, and Heritage-Catoosa and River Ridge each have three.
“We had a good year,” Southeast coach Sean Gray said. “We improved. We battled with some people.
“We have some good players. I’m proud to see we had that many kids make the region team.”
Other local players on the first-team offense are quarterback Caleb Shiflett (Northwest, junior); running back Kelvis Rhodes (Dalton, junior); wide receivers McDaniel and Andy Whisenant (Northwest, senior); tight end Chase Westfall (Dalton, junior); and offensive lineman Jake Roberts (Dalton, senior).
Also making the first-team defense are defensive linemen Caleb Bowie (Northwest, senior), Dexter Stamper (Northwest, junior) and Jordan Keener (Dalton, senior); linebackers Mora and Lyle Durham (Dalton, senior); and defensive backs Jordon McKinney (Dalton, sophomore), Nathan Bryant (Dalton, senior) and Jamon Horne (Northwest, junior).
On the second-team offense are running back Jacob Webb (Northwest, senior); tight end Colter Faith (Southeast, sophomore); offensive linemen Hayden Gross (Dalton, junior) and Matt Cloer (Southeast, senior); and kicker Jonathan Sanchez (Southeast, senior).
On the second-team defense are defensive lineman Michael Pearce (Southeast, senior); linebacker Austin Allen (Southeast, senior); defensive back Devonte’ Davis (Dalton, senior); and punter Mora.
Making the second team as an athlete is Southeast’s Rhett Harper, a senior.
The honorable mention list includes, for Dalton: Jacob Bartoo (fullback, senior), Chris Childs (defensive back, senior), Tyler Noland (athlete, sophomore), Juan Pacheco (offensive lineman, senior), Jay Rockholt (linebacker, senior), Grant Sane (snapper, senior), Elijah Stidmon (defensive back, senior), Dakota Tankersley (offensive lineman, senior) and Chase Todd (defensive lineman, senior).
Making honorable mention for Northwest are Cyrus Addison (linebacker, sophomore), Ross Chadwick (offensive lineman, senior), Blake Frankenberger (offensive lineman, senior), Blake Ownbey (linebacker, junior) and Clay Phillips (defensive back, junior).
Making honorable mention for Southeast are Tyler Brown (running back, sophomore), Blake Foster (athlete, senior), Luis Fraire (defensive back, senior), Anthony Ortiz (defensive lineman, junior), Chaz Payne (wide receiver, junior), Noah Ramsey (offensive lineman, sophomore), Hunter Sanford (offensive lineman, junior) and Will Swantic (quarterback, sophomore).