Local, area schools well-represented
Northeast Jones senior Patrick Little played only one season of high school football, which makes his feat — and foot — even more impressive.
The baseball standout was selected as the top punter in Class 4A by the Mississippi Association of Coaches. Little, who signed a letter of intent to pitch for Hinds Community College, punted for the Tigers last season. He was busy, too, with an offense that struggled much of the year and got its only win in the season finale. But he still caught the eyes of coaches to earn the MAC’s first-team honor.
Little, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall, averaged 34.2 yards on 36 punts, with a long of 51 yards, and he placed six of his kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The “hang time” statistic is not kept in high school football, but if it were, Little’s would be impressive. His booming punts consistently towered up around the stadium lights.
“Patrick did a tremendous job for is this season,” NEJ coach Keith Braddock said. “Just his consistency, hang time and distance, but consistency was the main thing.
“He is a special kid, on and off the field. Patrick is a winner, and he proved it as our punter.”
Braddock said he’s never heard of another one-year player making the all-state team.
“He simply worked his way into being a great punter for us,” Braddock said.
A much more experienced local special teams player is also earning postseason honors. West Jones kicker/punter Walker Thompson was selected as the Clarion-Ledger’s first-team specialist after making 16 of 23 field goals, including a long of 47 yards, and making 41 of 49 extra-point attempts. Thompson, who has committed to Ole Miss, averaged 40 yards on 59 punts. He had a long punt of 56 yards and he placed 31 kicks inside the 20-yard line.
The Mustangs, who made it to the state championship for the first time in school history, were well represented on postseason squads. The Ledger’s team was made up of all classifications.
Defensive end Byron Young was the pick for 5A Defensive Player of the Year by the state paper and the MAC. The Alabama commit had 125 tackles, with a whopping 29.5 for loss, including 17.5 sacks. The defense he led had six shutouts and held opponents under 10 points per game.
Laurel offensive lineman Charles Cross also made the Ledger and MAC first team. The 6-5, 270-pound tackle who signed with Mississippi State anchored a line that helped the Tornadoes average 343 yards — 222 rushing.
Taylorsville quarterback Ty Keyes and receiver Raven Arrington made the Ledger’s second-team offense. Keyes was the MAC’s 2A Player of the Year after leading the state in passing yards for a second straight season despite missing almost two games. He suffered an ankle injury in the South State championship game against Bay Springs and missed the Tartars’ state championship game. Despite that, he passed for 3,736 yards and 39 touchdowns and Arrington was a first-team MAC selection after catching 57 passes for 1,203 yards — almost 21 yards per reception — and 13 TDs.
West Jones’ Damion “Big Country” Cunningham joined Young on the defensive line on the MAC’s 5A first team. He had 117 tackles, 16.5 for a loss, including 10.5 sacks.
Laurel receiver Jontarius Henderson (22 catches, 549 yards, 2 TDs) made the MAC’s first-team offense and Tornado teammate Levi Walker (105 tackles and 2 interceptions) made the first-team defense. Running back Zias Perryman of Laurel (113 carries, 1,149 yards, 19 TDs) made the MAC’s second-team offense.
On MAC’s 2A teams, Bay Springs fullback Jamarious Hosey (226 carries, 1,742 yards, 24 TDs) was picked for the first team along with offensive linemen Jakobe Jones of Bay Springs and Zarian McGill of Taylorsville. Collins junior Hershey McLaurin was the first-team QB (140-for-236, 2,477 yards, 25 TDs) and Markel McLaurin was a first-team receiver (37 catches, 867 yards, 9 TDs).
Taylorsville linebackers C.J. Williams (62 tackles) and Chanton McCray (59 tackles) led the first-team defense, along with Tartar lineman Ty Boland (26 tackles, 5 for loss) and strong safety Calvin Boyland (40 tackles). McCray and Boland are juniors.
Bay Springs tight end Jakhorey Page was picked for the second-team offense and a trio of teammates — defensive end Jakahrus Page, junior defensive back Markus Ruffin and punter Jacario Ducksworth — were picked for the second-team defense. The Bulldogs’ Derrien Lee made the second team as a kick returner. Collins defensive end Darius Baker and linebacker A.J. Barnes, and Heidelberg defensive lineman Tyjuan Jones also made the second team.
On the MAC 1A team, Stringer running back Anthony Thomas (156 carries, 1,717 yards, 20 TDs) made the first-team offense and teammates R.J. Holifield (66 tackles, 5 for loss) and Devon May (19 tackles) made the first-team defense as linebackers. Stringer kicker Hunter Burkeen made the second-team offense and free safety Keyshawn Dease made the second-team defense.
In 3A, Seminary’s Nathan Pickering was Defensive Player of the Year and offensive lineman Seth Gilmore was a first-team selection.