From Staff Reports
North Murray High School had three first-team honorees among its 13 total selections to the All-Region 5-3A Football Team, which was selected by the region’s coaches and released Wednesday.
Junior wide receiver Payton Swilling, junior offensive lineman Hunter Martin and senior linebacker John Chastain were all granted first-team status.
Swilling finished this season — North Murray went 4-6 but was in the race for the region’s final spot in the state playoffs until the regular season’s end — with 35 catches for 532 yards and nine touchdowns. An offseason injury kept Swilling out of the quarterback competition this summer, but he became the top target of Mountaineers quarterback Hinton McConkey, who passed for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound Swilling was too much for most cornerbacks to handle consistently, North Murray coach David Gann said.
“He’s just such a big body, he made it hard for people to cover him,” Gann said. “He got pretty good on the out route, and he probably got seven or eight touchdowns just on the out route.”
The Mountaineers’ other first-team selection on offense was Martin (5-11, 225), who lined up at left guard and handled much of the trap blocking for North Murray. As a smaller but mobile linemen who was successful in opening space for backs to maneuver, he stuck out to opponents, Gann believes.
“We ran the trap a lot, and he got noticed by coaches because he would trap people,” Gann said. “He’s so athletic.”
Chastain (5-11, 235) was the lone first-team defensive selection for the Mountaineers despite actually spending more time on the other side of the ball. Chastain finished the season with 39 total tackles and a pair of interceptions.
“He’s been a four-year starter for us, but he played part time for us at linebacker this season,” Gann said. “He’s such an unselfish player that he agreed to move full time to linebacker on offense. But he made so many plays on defense when he was there, and he is so well-known by other coaches from his prior years on defense.”
McConkey — who threw just five interceptions in 176 pass attempts and also rushed for 698 yards on 92 carries — was one of four Mountaineers on the second-team offense. He was joined by sophomore running back Drake McCowan, who rushed for 1,022 yards on 159 carries and 15 touchdowns; senior tight end Justin Mathis, who had seven catches for 104 yards; and senior Jordan Ray, a 6-3, 310-pound tackle who graded out at better than 90 percent for the season.
The Mountaineers had one second-team selection on defense — junior cornerback Darius Towns, who made 34 tackles this season.
Honorable mention selections were sophomore wide receiver Jordan Adams, junior linebacker Jonathan Cain, junior offensive lineman Caleb Campbell, junior defensive back Matthew Clayton and sophomore linebacker Juan Salaises.
• ADDITION: In a story on the All-Region 7-4A Football Team in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Citizen, second-team selection Tyler Clayton of Northwest Whitfield was not included because he was not on the list of honorees sent to the newspaper.
Clayton, a 6-foot, 210-pound senior linebacker, finished this season with 117 tackles — four for loss — three sacks, two interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and four forced fumbles and broke up a pair of passes.