Sports

December 23, 2013

All-Area Football Team and Player of the Year: With 'something a little extra,' Mora was a step ahead of everyone else

In the world of high school football, athletes come and go — every four years, in fact. And while the names on front of the lockers and on back of the jerseys change, a lot of the attributes stay the same among the best players. Some have speed. Some have strength. Some have intelligence. When it comes to the latter asset, Dalton football coaches and players could talk for days about the football savvy of Eder Mora, a junior who stood out most on defense — he lined up somewhere in between free safety and outside linebacker — but contributed in several roles for the second season in a row.

Catamounts senior linebacker Lyle Durham said the way Mora sees a play develop is “phenomenal.” Dalton head coach Matt Land can count on his hands the number of times a player “beat (Mora) twice.”

Most of the time, opposing players failed to beat Mora even once. That’s because Mora also has all the physical gifts other standout players possess in addition to his notable football IQ.

A third-year starter on defense who punted and saw spot duty at fullback for the second consecutive season, Mora was all over the field for the Cats and all over opponents in 2013. He combined every physical and mental gift in his arsenal as the standout for a Dalton defense that shut out four opponents and allowed an average of just 11 points per game as the Cats won the Region 7-4A title for their first region championship since 2007.

Because of his impressive season, Mora has been selected as The Daily Citizen’s 2013 All-Area Football Player of the Year.

Joining Mora on the All-Area Team, which is made up of varsity players from Murray and Whitfield counties, are teammates Durham, Hayden Gross, Jordon McKinney, Tyler Noland, Jake Roberts and Chase Westfall.

Northwest Whitfield, which like Dalton advanced to the Class 4A state playoffs but lost in the opening round — the Bruins’ first postseason appearance since 2009 — led the way in all-area selections with 10. Earning the nod for the Bruins are Caleb Bowie, Tyler Clayton, Blake Frankenberger, Jamon Horne, Isaiah Mack, Tevin McDaniel, Dexter Stamper, Miguel Villa, Jacob Webb and Andy Whisenant.

Also on the team are Christian Heritage’s Trevor Brown, Nich Bartley and Evan Townsend; Coahulla Creek’s Erick Dominguez; North Murray’s Drake McCowan and Jordan Ray; and Southeast Whitfield’s Austin Allen and Rhett Harper. The All-Area Team and Player of the Year were chosen by the newspaper’s sports staff based on nominations and input from area coaches.

For the 6-foot, 180-pound Mora, who is in the all-area lineup for the third straight year, calling his season exceptional would be an understatement.

He tallied 159 tackles, an average of 14.5 per game and the most of any player in the area. On top of that, he had nine pass breakups, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He averaged 40.25 yards on 20 punts. On offense, he carried the ball 34 times for 276 yards — an 8.12 yards-per-carry average — and found the end zone three times. He shared Region 7-4A Co-Athlete of the Year honors with Northwest’s McDaniel.

Mora rarely found himself on the bench taking a breather during Dalton’s 8-3 season, which ended with a 13-10 loss as Alexander kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired at Harmon Field.

On the field is where Mora wants to be as often as possible.

“Everything that starts with Eder starts with his work ethic,” Land said. “I’ve never seen a 15-to-18-year-old kid that works as hard all the time. And he is one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen. He’s been bothered by a groin injury for about 18 months — he tweaked it at the end of his sophomore year. We had to force him to take a couple days off.

“When the play starts, he’s already at full speed.”

Mora’s position on defense is hard to pin down because coaches trust him enough to give him some flexibility in where he lines up on a given play. They know he sees things most high school players don’t, and that he knows how to make that insight work in favor of himself and the Cats.

“He maintains a tremendous focus in every learning situation,” Land described, “whether it is in practice, in the film room, on the sidelines or on the field during a game.”

Mora has speed, showing it all season as he broke up passes in the secondary and made throwing the ball a risky adventure for opposing quarterbacks. He has the strength, wrapping up bruising running backs at the line of scrimmage.

Alexander coach Matthew Combs couldn’t recall Mora’s name off the top of his head during a postgame interview after the Cougars won on Nov. 15. However, Combs remembered the number on the jersey and remembered the feeling that number gave him in the week leading up to the game.

“Watching No. 11 on film, I’ve never been more afraid of a player just from watching film,” Combs said. “He’s everywhere. He’s all over the field.”

The all-seeing eyes and always-working mind of Mora brought his game to a completely new level.

“My best skill would be reading what’s going on in a play,” said Mora, who has maintained a 4.5 grade-point average despite having a schedule completely made up of Advanced Placement courses. “That comes from watching film. I remember one play I was covering the lower route. I knew there was a guy behind me who was open. I had the lower guy covered and knew there was a guy behind me open. So I baited the quarterback into throwing it and ran back and made the interception.”

Durham thinks it astonishing that Mora, who started playing organized football in seventh grade, can understand what is about to happen at game speed. Because of that, Durham knew Mora had the ability to be special.

Scratch that. Durham knew Mora had the ability to be better that special.

“I told him earlier this year, ‘I want you to be the best player this area has ever seen,’” Durham said. “We’ve had a lot of good people come through Dalton. He just brings a lot of energy, is really smart and goes 100 percent every play.”

When Mora started playing football, his biggest learning curve came from acquainting himself with the different positions. His original sport is soccer, and he hasn’t given that up. He was a member of The Daily Citizen’s 2013 All-Area Boys Soccer Team after helping lead Dalton to the Class 4A state title this past season.

The worldwide version of football helped him in the American game.

“From soccer, I’m always used to reading plays,” he said. “Once you get used to being around the guys, you start to catch on. That’s what happened. My teammates helped me out a lot.”

Land described the information that Mora can relay to coaches to help make adjustments during a game as “top quality.” Mora also had the freedom to break from his assignment and make the type of special play that few players can execute.

“The main thing the coaches get across to me is my assignment first,” Mora said. “I have to trust my teammates to do their thing and I do my thing. Once you know you can do your job, you know there is something a little extra you can do. That’s what I strive for — something a little extra to help us win the game.”

During his sophomore season, “something a little extra” was his interception in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Playing at Sandy Creek, which went on to win the state title after beating Dalton 35-13, Mora returned an interception for a touchdown that immediately put him on the radar of big-time college football recruiters.

“When Eder made that pick six versus Sandy Creek, that got him some Division I looks,” Land said. “I had calls just because of that game.”

Praise from opposing coaches, like Combs, became customary, too.

“I’ve had so many coaches approach me about him,” Land said. “I bet I’ve had at least five college coaches call me about Eder from referrals from another coach. To have your opposing coach tell a college coach, ‘You have to watch this kid,’ that’s when you know you have a special player.”

Mora didn’t take other teams by surprise, though. His sophomore season made his abilities well known, and this year everyone knew to watch out for “No. 11” when playing the Cats.

“If I get the attention, I don’t want to set myself back where I don’t get it anymore,” Mora said. “It’s one of those things where you have to find self-motivation and have to keep going the extra mile. I like people paying attention to what I do.

“I definitely like the challenge. I’m always up for competitiveness. If they think they can beat me, they’ll have to prove it because I won’t let it happen.”

Working in Mora’s favor was the fact that if you outmatched his physical talents to beat him once, his brain put his odds at skyscraper height and yours down on ground level when it came to fooling him again.

For Land, who was an assistant coach at Dalton for 17 years before taking over as head coach in 2010, this football player challenges the greatness of anyone else he has seen wear the red and white.

“In my 21 years of coaching, I’ve coached all the different ones,” Land said. “Some players have the instincts but aren’t cerebral, or (vice versa). Eder has it all. He has so much creativity in his game. Eder is probably in the top-three most complete players I’ve coached. I think he is the most unique.”

With a Player of the Year award now on his list of accolades, Mora is looking toward his senior season hoping for more of the same. Opponents will likely still be trying to figure out a way to cure their fear of him.

“There are a lot of great players around this area,” Mora said. “You can’t be complacent. You always have to strive for better. It always tells me I can’t settle for anything less than that.”

Here’s a look at the rest of this year’s all-area team:

QB — Trevor Brown, Christian Heritage: The 2013 area leader in passing yards with 2,629, Brown — a third-year starter and senior — led the Lions to the Georgia High School Association playoffs for the first time in program history only two years after the school stepped up from Glory For Christ Football League play.

Brown completed 161 of 283 attempts, threw 27 touchdowns (with 12 interceptions) and rushed 54 times for 266 yards (an average of 4.9 yards per carry) and two scores. Brown and Christian Heritage’s offense averaged 32.1 points per game as the Lions finished 8-3 and earned the No. 9 seed in the GHSA Class A private school state playoffs, where they lost in the opening round to Sub-region 6A-A rival Dar-lington.

This is the first all-area selection for Brown — he garnered honorable mention each of the past two seasons — who was chosen by coaches as the 6A-A Offensive Player of the Year.

RB — Drake McCowan, North Murray: In his first season starting at running back for the Mountaineers, the sophomore shined and showed the next two seasons could be a lot of fun for North Murray fans to watch coach David Gann’s exciting offense at work.

North Murray averaged 33.1 points per game in 2013 using both I formation and spread option looks, and McCowan was the featured rusher alongside junior quarterback Hinton McConkey and senior fullback John Chastain.

Despite starting the season with six losses in seven games, North Murray won its final three contests and finished 4-6, remaining in the hunt for Region 5-3A’s final berth in the state playoffs until the final week of the regular season. A lot of credit for that goes to McCowan, who racked up 1,022 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on 159 carries. Included in that was a 180-yard, five-touchdown showing in a 63-43 win at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe on Oct. 25.

This is the first all-area nod for McCowan, who earned a spot on the second team for All-Region 5-3A.

RB — Jacob Webb, Northwest: The Bruins did plenty of damage through the air this season as junior quarterback Caleb Shiflett had an impressive 2,023-yard campaign in his first season as a starter.

But Webb, a senior with a bruising running style, provided the Bruins with much-needed balance that created dangerous situations for opposing defenses. He led the area with 1,145 yards and 168 carries and tied Dalton’s Kelvis Rhodes for the lead among local running backs with 16 touchdowns. He finished six games with at least 100 yards and earned second-team honors on the All-Region 7-4A Team.

Webb also helped a bit in the passing game, with six catches (including a touchdown) for 85 yards.

Although he was new to the position after previously playing on defense, Webb’s work was a big part of why the Bruins went 9-1, winning that many games for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time since the school opened in 1975.

This is his first all-area appearance.

WR — Nich Bartley, Christian Heritage: To say Bartley was his quarterback’s favorite target would be an understatement. To dismiss him from the All-Area Player of the Year conversation because of the classification he played in also would be foolish.

Of Brown’s 161 completions, Bartley caught 70. Of Brown’s 2,629 yards passing, Bartley accounted for 1,214. Of Brown’s 27 touchdowns, Bartley’s 15 made up more than half.

All of those numbers were tops for wideouts in the area, and he had the most receptions and yards of any receiver in Class A. According to figures from email newsletter Georgia High School Football Daily, his stats also ranked among the best from players in all six GHSA classifications. While Mora rightfully earned his honor as the area’s top player, Bartley drew serious consideration for the recognition.

Even in the season-ending loss to Darlington — the Lions fell 41-17 after losing just 18-14 during the regular season — Bartley shined with two touchdown catches.

This is the second straight all-area selection for Bartley, a first-teamer for the All-Sub-region 6A-A squad.

WR — Andy Whisenant, Northwest: The last glorious moment of Whisenant’s high school football career was something he won’t soon forget. In the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Carrollton, which went on to finish runner-up to Griffin, the senior returned the opening kickoff 98 yards to briefly stake the Bruins — who lost 52-10 that night — to the lead over a heavily favored opponent.

Whisenant’s dash set the school record for the longest kick return ever, but it was only the last of many shining memories.

He caught 40 passes for 664 yards this season, which ranked fourth among area receivers, and his 16.4 yards-per-reception average was third only to McDaniel (17.5) and Bartley (17.3) among players with more than five catches. His 10 touchdown catches were tied with McDaniel for second best among area receivers behind Bartley, and along with McDaniel that tally tied the school record for scoring receptions in a season.

Those numbers were good enough to make him an All-Region 7-4A first-teamer, and not to be forgotten is his defensive ability. He recorded 63 tackles, had two pass breakups, one interception, one defensive touchdown and one forced fumble. On special teams, he returned two kicks for scores to total 13 visits to the end zone.

This is the second all-area selection for Whisenant, who made the team as a defensive back during his sophomore season.

OL — Blake Frankenberger, Northwest: To make their balanced approach on offense a success, the Bruins needed linemen who could push defenders downfield to open holes for Webb and other backs as easily as they could create a pocket long enough for Shiflett to find a suitable target.

Frankenberger — a 6-foot, 235-pound senior who had played on the defensive line until midway through his junior season — was the best among this year’s crop of Northwest linemen. He graded out at 86 percent for the season and helped lead the way for a Northwest unit that broke the school record for points scored and total offense.

As for other assets, his intelligence was saluted by Bruins head coach Josh Robinson and his willingness to be coached made him a favorite for offensive line coach Caleb Bagley.

This is the first all-area selection for Frankenberger, who drew honorable mention for the All-Region 7-4A Team.

OL — Hayden Gross, Dalton: In the land of the beef on the line of scrimmage, the 6-3, 218-pound Gross wasn’t as bulky as teammate Roberts (6-3, 257) on the other side of the line, but he used his quickness to overcome any mismatches in the size department

When Gross — a junior guard and two-year starter — delivers a blow, it is at full speed. Land said Gross had never graded below 90 percent since he assumed a starting role, and that he benefited from playing alongside (and learning from) Roberts.

If the Cats were going to ask a lineman to pull, it was Gross, whose versatility and ability to run downfield and make a second block on a linebacker was just another of his abilities up front.

This is the first all-area selection for Gross, who earned second-team honors on the All-Region 7-4A squad.

OL — Jordan Ray, North Murray: At 6-3 and 310 pounds, Ray is the biggest of the big boys on this year’s all-area offensive line, but that’s far from the only reason he gets the nod as one of the area’s best.

The senior helped make things happen for an offense that scored 30 or more points five times in 2013, and he graded out at better than 90 percent for the season.

Just one of two returning starters for the offensive line this season (junior Caleb Campbell was the other), Ray succeeded despite breaking his foot twice during the past two years — last season and this summer. Gann said Ray took a dedicated approach to rehab after the injuries so that he would be able to be the senior leader the Mountaineers needed up front for an inexperienced unit.

This is the first all-area selection for Ray, who was a second-team selection for All-Region 5-3A.

OL — Jake Roberts, Dalton: A senior and three-year starter, Roberts was the up-front leader who had the versatility to play center, guard and tackle during his varsity career.

Most telling was the fact that when the Cats needed a tough couple of yards, it was Roberts they ran behind.

He never graded below 95 percent this season, and his fundamental skills were complimented by Land. But the coach said Roberts’ outstanding football knowledge — perhaps not surprising considering he’s the son of former standout University of Georgia lineman Steve Roberts — is his best asset. Land said Roberts’ football IQ is comparable to that of a player who has been in college a year or two.

Using that insight to make adjustments, Roberts helped the Cats find a way to move the ball on the ground no matter who was getting the carries this season.

This is the second straight all-area nod for Roberts — he garnered honorable mention as a sophomore — who was a first-teamer for this year’s All-Region 7-4A lineup.

OL — Chase Westfall, Dalton: Although tight ends are sometimes overlooked as members of the offensive line, that shouldn’t be the case with the 6-4, 221-pound Westfall, a junior who was vital to the Catamounts’ success in another winning season.

Westfall, who graded out at better than 95 percent all year, blocked well — once he made contact, the defender wasn’t getting free, Land said — but he clearly had other abilities, too.

While there weren’t many receiving yards to be shared in Dalton’s run-heavy offense, Westfall made the most of his opportunities through the air and was a vital part of the rushing game’s success. His 14 catches, several of which were acrobatic grabs, went for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Land saluted Westfall’s “unselfish” approach to block first despite being “probably one of the top five skill guys” on the roster.

He also contributed on the other side of the ball, finishing the year with 20 tackles and a pair of sacks at an end spot.

An All-Region 7-4A first team selection, this is Westfall’s first all-area appearance.

K/P — Miguel Villa, Northwest: The Bruins had a prolific offense and a playmaking defense that made their success possible this year, but they also had several bright spots on special teams thanks to dynamic returners like McDaniel and Whisenant.

As for putting foot to ball, Villa gave them yet another special teams asset with a solid senior season after a disappointing junior campaign.

Villa’s 66 points were tops among area kickers, and he made 45 of 49 extra-point attempts this year. He also connected on seven of nine field-goal tries, with his long from 43 yards. But he might have been even better when punting, averaging 43.2 yards on 30 punts to help his team keep pace in the field-position battle.

Villa, who earned all-area soccer honors each of the past two seasons while helping the Bruins make deep runs in the state playoffs, is in the all-area football lineup for the second time after being honored as a sophomore.

ATH — Rhett Harper, Southeast: A four-year starter for the Raiders who was one of their brightest spots each of those seasons, Harper spent his first two years making his biggest contributions as a receiver.

As an upperclassman, he was asked by coach Sean Gray to do a little bit of everything and a lot of some things — including act as a dependable leader, a role he handled well whether he was lined up at quarterback, wide receiver or on defense.

He completed better than 50 percent of his passes for 400 yards and five touchdowns, hauled in 17 catches for 207 yards and four touchdowns, and tallied 49 tackles with two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. All in all, he helped the Raiders win four games, their highest victory total in four years.

Harper is the only four-time selection in this year’s all-area lineup, and he also earned second-team honors for All-Region 7-4A.

ATH — Tevin McDaniel, Northwest: The senior brought excitement (for Northwest fans) and danger (to the opposition) whenever he touched the ball this season — such as the Catamounts, who remember McDaniel starting the rivalry game breaking multiple tackles and taking a simple screen pass for a touchdown.

A three-year starter, McDaniel had 52 catches for 915 yards (the yardage set the program’s single-season mark) and 10 touchdowns as a receiver. Added to that offensive tally was a handful of carries that included one touchdown. On special teams, he compiled a kickoff return average of 27.3 yards.

Yet he might have been at his most exciting on defense. He made 35 total tackles, picked off six passes — taking two back for scores — broke up six more passes, caused four fumbles and recovered four fumbles, taking two to the end zone.

In other words, McDaniel was a mighty big headache for offensive coordinators.

McDaniel’s abilities were recognized by Region 7-4A coaches, who gave him the nod as both a first-team receiver and the league’s Co-Athlete of the Year. He was also second to dynamic Cedartown running back Nick Chubb in the voting for the region’s Player of the Year.

This is the second straight all-area selection for McDaniel, who was recognized last season as a defensive back. He drew honorable mention as a sophomore.

ATH — Tyler Noland, Dalton: One of only two sophomores in this year’s lineup of local standouts, Noland was the backup who stepped up for the Cats.

With No. 1 tailback Kelvis Rhodes — who rushed for more than 1,500 yards as a sophomore in 2012 — out early in the season because of a nagging shoulder injury, Noland moved into the starting slot in the backfield and proved the Cats could still move the ball on the ground.

Even when Rhodes returned, Noland was a good rushing option for Dalton. He finished with 564 yards on 87 carries (a 6.4 average) and four touchdowns, and he also had seven catches for 68 yards.

But he gets the nod as an athlete here for his special teams abilities. Noland averaged 29.2 yards on 14 punt returns and 19.3 yards on 15 kickoff returns, setting the Cats up with good field position more often than not when he touched the ball.

This is his first all-area selection.

DL — Caleb Bowie, Northwest: As part of a dynamite unit for the Bruins’ defensive front, the senior end regularly found his way into the backfield and was able to disrupt the offensive plans for many of Northwest’s opponents.

Of his 80 total tackles, 20 were for a loss, and he had three sacks and as many quarterback pressures to go with two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. Northwest prided itself on takeaways this season, and having players like Bowie rushing quarterbacks helped those who were intercepting passes.

This is the first all-area selection for Bowie — he earned honorable mention a year ago — who was a first-team member of the All-Region 7-4A lineup.

DL — Isaiah Mack, Northwest: The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Player of the Year had an outstanding senior season and appears to be headed for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after making a non-binding verbal commitment to the Division I Football Championship Subdivision program last week.

At a solid 6-2, 265, the tackle’s combination of size and skill was a tough test for all offensive lines.

Most failed to stop him.

Mack finished with 121 total tackles, including 21 for loss, and had 29 quarterback pressures, a pair of sacks and four forced fumbles. Those numbers came despite obviously being high on everyone’s radar after his breakout junior campaign.

He repeated as the Region 7-4A Defensive Player of the Year this season, and he’s currently enjoying the state all-star circuit. He played in the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl’s North vs. Central All-Star Game this past weekend at the Georgia Dome and will take part in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association’s North-South clash next week.

This is the second straight all-area nod for Mack.

DL — Dexter Stamper, Northwest: A junior end, Stamper wasn’t overshadowed despite playing alongside a pair of seniors like Bowie and Mack.

He finished with 73 total tackles (nine for a loss), 10 sacks, eight quarterback pressures and three fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a touchdown. They were numbers that made him hard to miss no matter who was lined up next to him.

A first-team selection for the All-Region 7-4A lineup, Stamper’s play helped lead the way as the Bruins recorded two shutouts and held three opponents to 14 points or less.

This is his first appearance in the all-area lineup.

LB — Austin Allen, Southeast: A senior, Allen returned to the football field for the first time since his freshman season but looked as if he’d never left.

His 123 total tackles ranked fourth among area players, and he also forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles as the top defensive star for the Raiders.

What those numbers alone don’t show is the physicality and hard-nosed play that Allen brought to the unit, but Southeast coach Gray noticed that soon after Allen came back to the gridiron in the spring. While a tackle is a tackle, over the course of a game big hits have a way of wearing down ball carriers and receivers — and Allen was able to deliver several of those in 2013, Gray said.

Also a talented wrestler who has hopes of winning an individual state title this season, Allen was 32-0 before losing to Dalton’s Sidney Wheeler (a state champ two years ago) in the 182-pound final at the Carpet Classic this past weekend.

This is the first all-area nod for Allen, who made All-Region second team.

LB — Tyler Clayton, Northwest: A senior, Clayton’s 117 total tackles ranked among the top 10 for area players this season.

But he was also one reason the Bruins defense came to be known for taking the ball back in 2013, finishing the year with six forced fumbles as well as two interceptions, one of which he returned for a score.

He also had four tackles for loss, three sacks and a pair of pass breakups as the Bruins’ top linebacker. He was recognized as an All-Region 7-4A second-team selection.

This is Clayton’s first appearance in the all-area lineup after making All-Region second team.

LB — Lyle Durham, Dalton: The senior and heart and soul of the Catamounts’ defense finished with 92 total tackles, third-best among his team and in the top dozen for area players this season.

He also had three pass breakups and a sack and recovered a fumble this season as one of the top playmakers for a Dalton defense that gave up 33 points in a triple-overtime loss to Ringgold to start the season but allowed just one other opponent (Northwest) to top 17 points in a game this year.

Durham’s talent was recognized not only by his own coaches but those on other sidelines. He was a first-team selection to the All-Region 7-4A lineup and also had the chance to play in the D.L. Scott Coalition Bowl this past weekend.

This is the first all-area nod for Durham, who garnered honorable mention as a junior.

LB — Evan Townsend, Christian Heritage: In the Lions’ breakthrough GHSA campaign, much of the attention was on their high-powered offense, which was driven by a pair of receivers who each had more than 40 catches.

But if you weren’t paying attention to Christian Heritage’s defense, you were missing half the reason they progressed from a 5-5 mark in 2012 to 8-3 this year.

The Lions’ season was bookended by less-than-stellar results — they gave up 35 points to Model in the opener and 41 in the opening round of state — but there were plenty of good performances in between, including four shutouts.

Townsend, a junior, was a major part of that defensive success. His 155 total tackles (15 for loss) were just four behind Mora’s tally. He also had five pass breakups, four quarterback pressures, two sacks and a forced fumble — and he did all of that despite pulling every-snap duty on the offensive line.

This is the second straight all-area selection for Townsend, who was a second-teamer for the All-Sub-region 6A-A squad.

DB — Erick Dominguez, Coahulla Creek: The Colts have struggled in their first two varsity campaigns after beginning play with an 8-2 mark against junior varsity foes in 2011. They have just four wins in 20 games, and now they’re searching for a new head coach after firing Jared Hamlin at the end of this season.

But there have been bright spots for Coahulla Creek in its short history on the football field, and Dominguez is most certainly one of them.

The senior safety earns his second straight appearance in the all-area lineup after coming back from a broken angle in spring practice to remain the Colts’ defensive leader. While his one interception was far off the pace he set as a junior, when he compiled an area-best seven, he did finish with 82 total tackles this year.

That number ranked second at Coahulla Creek — sophomore linebacker Baley Jones led the way with 128 stops — and was No. 1 among area defensive backs.

DB — Jamon Horne, Northwest: Remember how the defensive line’s pressure allowed for risky throws? Players like Horne completed the two-part process of forcing turnovers.

Yet another takeaway artist in the Bruins’ lineup, Horne picked off five passes and returned one for a touchdown to help Northwest turn defense into a scoring opportunity. The cornerback also had 55 tackles, five pass breakups and a forced fumble to help the Bruins put together their best showing in Robinson’s three seasons as head coach.

This is the first all-area nod for Horne, who received first-team honors for the All-Region 7-4A lineup.

DB — Jordon McKinney, Dalton: A first-year starter and a sophomore, McKinney served notice he wasn’t going to wait to make plays when he picked off two passes in the Catamounts’ season opener against Ringgold.

He finished the season with six interceptions — including an athletic pick in the end zone at a key moment in Dalton’s thrilling 31-28 win against Northwest, important in Dalton’s road to the region title — and broke up 11 passes. He also forced a fumble and had 52 total tackles.

McKinney’s willingness to play aggressively paid dividends for the Catamounts this year, and Dalton coaches are no doubt banking on him continuing to improve and causing even more trouble for opposing quarterbacks as an upperclassman.

This is the first all-area selection for McKinney, who was a first-teamer in the All-Region 7-4A lineup.

Honorable mention: Christian Heritage — Will Fischer (Sr., WR), Harrison Kranzlein (Sr., OL), Austin Lowe (Sr., ATH), Brian Pierce (Sr., DB); Coahulla Creek — Baley Jones (So., LB), Darius Miller (Sr., ATH), Joel Phillips (Sr., DL), Michael Ward (Sr., WR), Levi Wilson (Sr., WR); Dalton — Nathan Bryant (Sr., DB), Devonte Davis (Sr., LB), Jordan Keener (Sr., DL), Kelvis Rhodes (Jr., RB), Kiko Rodriguez (Jr., K), Grant Sane (Sr., LS); Murray County — Spencer Baggett (Jr., ATH), Tyson Beaty (Jr., OL), Kevin Chavez (Jr., LB), Petee Waldon (So., WR); North Murray — Jordan Adams (So., WR), Jonathon Cain (Jr., LB), John Chastain (Sr., ATH), Matthew Clayton (Jr., DB), Hinton McConkey (Jr., QB), Payton Swilling (Jr., WR); Northwest — Cyrus Addison (So., LB), Ross Chadwick (Sr., OL), Blake Ownbey (Jr., LB), Caleb Shiflett (Jr., QB); Southeast — Matt Cloer (Sr., OL), Colter Faith (So., WR), Michael Pearce (Sr., DL), Jonathon Sanchez (Sr., K/P).

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