As we close in on Christmas, The City Paper would like to pass out a few honors for Nashville high school players who excelled on the football field this season.
In no particular order, we offer these up these holiday platitudes for consumption:
• Best quarterback: C.J. Beathard, BGA: Among the many excellent quarterbacks in the area, Beathard was likely the best, passing for more than 2,000 yards and leading the Wildcats to the playoffs. He was16-of-17 in a win over MBA. The Mr. Football finalist and Ole Miss commitment also sparked the West to victory over the East in the Toyota all-star game recently at Carson-Newman.
Goodpasture’s do-everything Keenan Reynolds, who had more than 3,000 yards of total offense; Donelson Christian Academy’s Kyle Kennedy who broke virtually every school season and career passing record for the Wildcats, stood out, as well. Also, Max Staver of Brentwood Academy, Andrew Bowers at Ensworth, DeMarco Moore, Antioch and Matt Kuivinen of Franklin had excellent seasons.
• Best running back: Corn Elder, Ensworth. The Tigers star accounted for more than 2,100 yards rushing and 2,993 all-purpose yards. He also had five interceptions at defensive back. He led the Tigers to their second straight DII-AA state championship and was named Mr. Football.
Also worthy of mention: 2,400-yard rusher with 24 touchdowns, Class AA Mr. Football finalist Ladarius Vanlier (Maplewood).
D’Montre Wade, Brentwood Academy, Aubrey Dixon, Davidson Academy, Rafael Hopkins, Father Ryan, Blake Smotherman, Ezell-Harding, Zabian King, Overton, Montez Brown, Glencliff, Antonio McKissack, East Literature, Darius Williams, Antioch and Jhamil Wright, MBA also excelled.
• Best receiver: Colin Johnston of Donelson Christian Academy and Jordan Smith of BGA rate highest on the list.
Johnston set several DCA receiving records and finished with almost 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. Smith had about 840 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in a playoff season.
Honorable mention: Sam Cranford of CPA, the Lions leading receiver with 40 catches for almost 700 yards, helped his team reach the 4A state playoff semifinals.
Also, Al Thompson of Brentwood Academy, Cory Batey of Ensworth, David Page of Franklin, John Thomas Lynn of Goodpasture, Dalton Ponchilla of FRA and Tony Mason of McGavock had outstanding receiving seasons.
• Best lineman: Graham Shuler, Brentwood Academy. A two-way star, Shuler was a Mr. Football finalist and was selected to play in the annual U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio Jan. 7.
Rick Thomas of Overton led all Nashville linemen with 122 tackles. Montez Brown of Glencliff, Jahmare Anthony of Hillwood and Randall Smith of Maplewood all finished with more than 100 tackles.
Aubrey Dixon of Davidson Academy was named DII-A defensive player of the year and was the leading tackler for the Bears, and Ike Abade of Overton also was stellar on defense.
Brentwood Academy’s Woody Baron (a Mr. Football finalist) and Maplewood’s Dustin Binkley were atop a list of many in this underappreciated category.
• Best defensive end: Caleb Azubike, McGavock. He made 117 tackles, 30 for loss, had 14 sacks. He was selected defensive MVP in the recent Toyota East-West all-star game, setting a game record 17 tackles.
• Best defensive back: Jamonte Graham, Father Ryan. The Irish standout had four interceptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns. He was in on 80 tackles, had two sacks and six touchdown-saving tackles. He also rushed for 536 yards on offense.
Also: Navonte Parks and Kenny Robertson of Maplewood had excellent seasons in the Panther secondary.
• Best cornerback: Ryan Bossung of Father Ryan tied a state record with 13 interceptions, good for 197 yards, returning one for a TD. The senior was also in on 67 tackles and caught 18 passes for 261 yards on offense.
Also, Pearl-Cohn’s Demario Donnell had six picks, while Zabian King of Overton, Tyler Bumbalough of Antioch and Anthony Johnson of Hillwood all had at least five interceptions.
• Best kicker: Landon Foster, Independence. A Mr. Football finalist, he averaged 38.6 yards per punt, with a long of 61, and had nine (including five in one game) downed inside the 20. He also had 38 kickoffs for touchbacks, including at least two in every game, kicked 11 field goals and 30 extra points for a total of 63 points.
• Late impact player: Rico Watson, Ensworth. After suffering a broken foot and missing the first six games of the season, Watson came in for the injured Elder early in the championship game and rushed for 221 yards in 16 carries and three touchdowns and was named offensive player of the game.
• Best all-around player: Corn Elder, Ensworth. The junior standout won the DII-AA Mr. Football and, although injured early in the finals game, finished with almost 3,000 all-purpose yards.
Ensworth teammate Cory Batey was also a standout two-way player, as the senior led the Tigers with 40 receptions for 700 yards and was an outstanding defensive back, returning two picks for touchdowns.
Senior Ryan Bossung of Father Ryan also was among the most versatile, with not only his state record-tying 13 interceptions but his impact as a receiver on offense, as well.
• Co-coaches of the Year: Ricky Bowers, Ensworth and Arcentae Broome, Maplewood.
Bowers the guided Tigers to their second straight state football championship, the only title for a Nashville area team. Ensworth (11-1) avenged its only loss with a win over Baylor in the finals.
Broome saw his Panthers reach the Class 4A final after guiding them to the semifinals last year before they lost to top-ranked Greeneville to finish 11-4. Maplewood handed CPA its only regular season loss in October.
Runners-up: Ingle Martin (CPA), in his first season, his Lions finished 12-2, reached the playoff semifinals and lost their two games by a total of three points, with high mention for Roc Batten, BGA (got off to 6-0 start, finished 7-4 with playoff appearance) and Mike Woodard, Antioch (surprise region championship finish).
Exciting hoop night at Lipscomb
Junior guard Chance Bouldin hit a deep 3-pointer from the right wing at the final buzzer as Franklin Road Academy edged host David Lipscomb 43-40 Friday night.
With three seconds left, the Panthers made two passes, starting from the baseline and found Bouldin for his game-winner.
“It was a great atmosphere for high school basketball, two teams really getting after it,” FRA coach John Pierce said.
Bouldin, who had 18 points, also led the Panthers with 14 in a 46-40 win over Baylor on Saturday as FRA improved to 8-2.
David Lipscomb won an exciting girls game 31-28 in the opener but saw guard Emily Easter go down with an ankle sprain early after she scored five points. The Mustangs hope she will be back in time for the FRA Christmas tournament, opening Dec. 28.
USN boys off to hot start
In one of the top games on Monday’s basketball schedule, the red-hot University School of Nashville boys team faces MBA (3-2) at 6:30 p.m. in the Christmas Classic at Columbia Central High.
Sparked by Nilan Hodge, the Tigers are off to an 8-1 start after a 67-52 romp over DCA last Friday. Hodge, a Mr. Basketball finalist last spring, made four 3-pointers and scored 23 points.