Southern's Hunter honored as All-Area Player of Year

Dec. 23, 2012 @ 02:33 AM

A common theme for Tri-County area football teams in 2012 was injuries. 

Southern Vance linebacker Reggie Hunter was not immune. But the heart and soul of the Raider defense battled through pain and put forth a stellar senior season with 65 tackles and five sacks. 

Hunter, one of eight Southern all-conference selections, is the All-Area Player of the Year. 

First-year Warren County coach John Ward didn’t lead his team to the state playoffs and the Eagles lost their only Tri-County contest of the season to Southern, 26-0.

Ward’s Warren County team finished 4-7 overall, narrowly missing the 2-A playoffs based on conference winning percentage. Wins and losses aren’t so much as important here as Ward’s infusion of energy and discipline into an Eagle program that desperately needed it. For that, he is the All-Area Coach of the Year.

Hunter injured his knee in Southern’s game against Warren County at Raider Stadium early in the season. The Eagles stayed close for a half before Southern pulled away for a win.

Hunter’s size wouldn’t blow a scout away. He’s listed at a generous 6-feet even and 200 pounds. But the 2011 3-A Carolina Conference Defensive Player of the Year hit often and he hit hard, making punishing strikes the norm.

In a signature moment in Southern’s double overtime win over Northern this season, Hunter applied pressure on Viking quarterback Tyquan Bryant as he rolled out searching for an open receiver. The pass was swatted away by Deon Smith, giving the Raiders a 6-0 win and another Optimist Bowl title.

The combination of speed, strength and ability to meet ball carriers made Hunter the area’s top defender.

Hunter has also been a versatile player. When healthy, he was a threat for big return yardage on special teams. He also regularly made appearances in Southern’s offensive backfield. In 2012, he wasn’t as productive as the prior season, but Hunter still made a few trips to the end zone.

He is joined on the All-Area Defensive Team by Smith, the area’s lone all-conference defensive back selection.

Other Raiders on the defensive team are defensive end Xavier Gregory and tackle Jaquez Bullock. Bullock, 6-foot-7, 350-pounder, is only a junior and will anchor Southern’s defense in 2013.

Sheldon Smith, who was second in tackles for Southern with 150, is an all-purpose selection. 

The Raiders offense is represented by running back Chris Henderson and receiver Shawn Henderson. Never 100 percent due to injury, Chris Henderson still put up 750 rushing yards. His brother, Shawn, emerged as possibly the top wideout in the area with 480 receiving yards and five scores. 

Northern Vance had two defensive selections: lineman Jonas Simmons and linebacker Devin Anderson. Senior Benjamin Stewart is on the team as all-purpose. 

Workhorse running back Tray Elam leads the Vikings’ offensive players. He’s joined by receiver Travon Scott and offensive linemen Preston Ellis and Montel Clark.

J.F. Webb’s all-area defensive players are Antonio Bowden (back), Bryan Smith (linebacker), Matt Hobgood (line), and Rufus Terry (all-purpose). Smith was easily the Warriors’ leading tackler, finishing with 108. 

Webb was led offensively by junior quarterback Corey Evans and junior running back Tobiah Lewis. Evans had 769 passing yards for six touchdowns along with 301 rushing yards and seven TDs on the ground. Lewis led the Warriors with 874 yards and three scores.

Receiver Dashawn Skipwith (467 yards, three TDs) and linemen Zach Watkins and Gearl Majors round out Webb’s honorees. 

Sophomore George Burnette, an all-area defensive line selection, led Warren County with 90 tackles, adding three sacks. Fellow linemen Clyde Jones had 61 tackles and five sacks. 

Joining Burnette and Jones on the defensive team is Eagle linebacker Chris Privett, who finished with 80 tackles. Privett is the only all-area player to be selected for both offense and defense. The junior ran for 746 yards and six scores in Ward’s single-wing offense. 

Warren County quarterback Jaquan Jones led the team in rushing with 858 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior fullback Devonte Hargrove, a key blocker for the Eagles, had eight scores and finished with 829 yards on the ground. 

Warren County seniors Brandon Hargrove and John Sidberry are all-area offensive line selections. 

Hired in June, Ward didn’t get a full summer of workouts with his team and the Eagles had to adapt to the old-school wing offense. The veteran coach succeeded Waverly Jackson, who took over the team after the resignation of Steve Powell just days before the start of the 2011 season. 

Ward brought structure to a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 1999. With players like Jones, Devonte Hargrove, Privett, and Burnett returning, an end to that drought may be in the near future.

All-Area Offensive Team

Backs: Corey Evans (J.F. Webb), Tobiah Lewis (J.F. Webb), Tray Elam (Northern Vance), Devonte Hargrove (Warren County), Jaquan Jones (Warren County), Chris Privett (Warren County) Chris Henderson (Southern Vance)

Receivers: Shawn Henderson (Southern Vance), Dashawn Skipwith (J.F. Webb), Travon Scott (Northern Vance)

Line: Brandon Hargrove (Warren County), John Sidberry (Warren County), Preston Ellis (Northern Vance), Montel Clark (Northern Vance), Taheed Evans (Southern Vance), Zach Watkins (J.F. Webb), Gearl Majors (J.F. Webb)

All-Area Defensive Team

Backs: Deon Smith (Southern Vance), Antonio Bowden (J.F. Webb)

Linebackers: Chris Privett (Warren County, Bryan Smith (J.F. Webb), Reggie Hunter (Southern Vance), Devin Anderson (Northern Vance)

Line: Jaquez Bullock (Southern Vance), Xavier Gregory (Southern Vance), George Burnette (Warren County), Clyde Jones (Warren County), Jonas Simmons (Northern Vance), Matt Hobgood (J.F. Webb)

All-purpose: Rufus Terry (J.F. Webb), Benjamin Stewart (Northern Vance), Sheldon Smith (Southern Vance)

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.