Rising above: 2023 All-County football teams announced

Published 7:08 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

The 2023 football season was one of the most entertaining and engaging years in recent memory with great individual and team performances all around the county.

From Thompson’s run to a sixth straight state championship game to Helena’s nine-game win streak to turnarounds at Briarwood and Spain Park and much more, this season was filled with moments that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

It seemed like every week, both new and familiar faces shined bright under the Friday night lights, making big plays for their teams to drive them to victory.

That made this season’s race for the All-County teams as competitive as ever, and after hours of deliberation, it’s time to find out who earned their place among Shelby County’s best.

 

First Team Offense:

Quarterback: Trent Seaborn, freshman, Thompson. In his first full season with the Warriors, Seaborn lived up to the hype and became the top quarterback in the county. During the regular season, he completed 73% of his passes and threw for 2,002 yards and 22 touchdowns, and in the playoffs, he put together great performances when his team needed it the most as he reached his second state championship game as just a ninth-grader.

Running Back: Jordan Washington, senior, Helena. With a full season to prove his worth, Washington assumed the mantle of not just the county’s best running back, but the best player in the county overall. He ran for 1,810 yards off 257 carries to lead the county, and scored 24 touchdowns on the ground for 27 total to power Helena to an incredible season.

(For the Reporter/Dawn Harrison)

Running Back: Rykelus Robertson, senior, Vincent. Robertson continued to improve in his final season with the Yellow Jackets to become a reliable force in the backfield. He racked up 1,448 yards on 198 carries for 16 touchdowns, and he averaged 7.3 yards per carry to reach the playoffs.

Offensive Line: Luke Schultz, senior, Briarwood. In his third year starting for the Lions, Schultz was the backbone of a veteran line that helped quarterback Josh Thompson and running backs like Luke Reynolds find success. While his future lies in Division-I football with Mercer, Briarwood was certainly grateful for his help in reaching the second round.

Offensive Line: Reece Mims, senior, Helena. In a standout year for offensive lines, Helena’s rose to the top, and Mims led the group to a successful season. The Huskies’ senior center helped break open holes for Helena’s running backs to run for big yardage plays and first-year starter Carson Acker to find himself and evolve into a stellar quarterback.

Offensive Line: Ben Locks, senior, Montevallo. After previously contributing to the Bulldogs as a wide receiver, Locks switched over to the line for his senior season to help fill a need and quickly rose to the top of his new position group. His blocking at the tackle spot gave Razareo Conwell space to shine and his production from the line led Montevallo to a great season, even as he kicked a pair of last-second field goals to win the game on special teams.

Offensive Line: Zack Gable, senior, Vincent. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior carried the load for the Jackets o-line, making 386 key blocks and recording 33 pancake blocks all while earning a 94% grade for the season.

Offensive Line: Connor Langston, senior, Spain Park. If it felt like anybody could succeed from the Jags backfield, that was because of Langston’s stellar blocking throughout the season. The 6-foot, 250-pound All-Metro selection was a leader on the line and helped both the passing and running game succeed in his senior season.

Receiver: Kolby Hearn, senior, Thompson. In a very talented Warriors receiver room, Hearn made his name during his senior year, building on the promise of his junior season to become one of best receivers in the area. He had 581 yards off 28 catches for an incredible 20.8 yards per reception, and his six touchdown catches were among many stellar receptions in crucial moments.

(For the Reporter/Dawn Harrison)

Receiver: Jonathan Bibbs, senior, Spain Park. Bibbs took his game to another level in his senior season, becoming the county’s leading receiver and new quarterback Brock Bradley’s top target. He was the only receiver in the county who eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving as he had 61 catches for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Receiver: Colben Landrew, sophomore, Thompson. Landrew was easily the breakout star of the year with his athleticism and phenomenal catches in coverage. He led the Warriors with 10 receiving touchdowns off 24 receptions while going for 492 yards, securing SEC offers in the process in just his first season playing football.

Athlete: Deuce Oliver, senior, Thompson. No matter if he was lined up at wide receiver or returner, Oliver’s speed and shiftiness led to jaw-dropping highlights and big plays for the Warriors. He had the most yards of any Warriors receiver, going for 626 yards and three touchdowns off 54 catches, and he returned 12 punts for 211 yards on the year.

Athlete: Emerson Russell, senior, Chelsea. As one of the county’s most versatile weapons, Russell made his presence felt all over the field for the Hornets. The 5-foot-7, 155-pound back was limited to seven games due to injury but still went for over 1,000 yards rushing. He ran for 1,037 yards off 142 carries for 10 touchdowns and also added 161 receiving yards and two scores.

Kicker: John Alan McGuire, junior, Thompson. McGuire continued to build up his resume as one of the best kickers in the state and nation, going 51-55 on extra points, 6-for-10 on field goals with a long of 49, securing 46 touchbacks on 56 kickoffs and averaging 42.4 yards per punt to impact the game for the Warriors.

 

First Team Defense:

Defensive Line: Parker Copeland, senior, Helena. The definition of a game-wrecker, Copeland dominated the line of scrimmage for a county-high eight sacks, 65 tackles, 45 solo tackles, 19 tackles for loss and an interception for good measure as well.

Defensive Line: Charlie Adams, senior, Montevallo. Adams closed the book on a solid Bulldogs career where he started every game for four seasons by becoming a one-man wrecking crew up front. He tied for the county lead in tackles for loss with 27, added 7.5 sacks to extend his school record, recovered a fumble and racked up 72 tackles, 65 of those being unassisted.

Defensive Line: Luke Dickinson, senior, Briarwood. Dickinson’s quickness helped him get into the opposing backfield often and cause damage. He had six sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 28 quarterback hurries while recording 62 tackles on the season.

(For the Reporter/Jason Homan)

Linebacker: Nate Thomason, senior, Helena. The future Memphis Tiger was the county’s leading tackler with 140, including a whopping 96 solo tackles, but his impact didn’t stop there. He also secured seven sacks and an interception to lead a dominant Helena defense.

Linebacker: Joseph Roberto, senior, Helena. After a season away from Shelby County, Roberto slid right back into the Huskies linebacker room to secure the third-highest tackle total in the county. Roberto had 135 tackles on the year, including 93 solo, 14 for loss and six sacks as another dangerous weapon in the Helena front seven.

Linebacker: Grayson Gulde, junior, Vincent. Gulde continued his growth as one of the most dangerous linebackers in Class 2A by racking up 139 tackles, which was one of the top performances in Class 2A and one tackle shy of the county lead. The junior had 10 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two sacks and four quarterback hurries to round out a stellar season.

(For the Reporter/Jason Homan)

Linebacker: Jack Cornish, senior, Briarwood. Frequently described by Briarwood coach and best linebacker in state history Matthew Forester as one of the best players he’s ever coached, Cornish’s leadership on and off the field helped the Lions succeed in 2023. He earned 133 tackles, including 77 solo tackles, five tackles for loss and two sacks, in a big senior year.

Linebacker: Anderson Brooks, senior, Chelsea. Brooks made plays all around the field in a big season for the senior. He had 104 tackles, including 53 solo, eight for loss and four sacks, was elite in coverage with two interceptions and six pass breakups and came up big on special teams with two blocked field goals.

Defensive Back: Kaleb Harris, senior, Thompson. Harris burst onto the scene in 2023 to become the top defensive force for the Warriors in a year when they needed stars to step up. The Auburn commit was stellar when shadowing receivers with three interceptions and six pass breakups, but he also was one of Thompson’s best tacklers with 88 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

(For the Reporter/Jeremy Raines)

Defensive Back: Anquon Fegans, junior, Thompson. If opposing quarterbacks didn’t respect Fegans in coverage, they certainly do now after another stellar year from one of the top defensive backs in the country. He had three interceptions, nine pass breakups and caused three fumbles while also racking up 55 tackles on the year.

Defensive Back: Grey Reebals, senior, Briarwood. Reebals was one of the biggest impact players around the field for the Lions, securing 65 tackles, three interceptions, six pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns as well as 26 carries for 487 yards on offense and a blocked kick on special teams.

Defensive Back: Eli Holliman, junior, Shelby County. Holliman’s 80 tackles and 56 solo tackles were already enough for an impressive season, but it was his defensive touchdowns that helped the Wildcats remain in games. He returned two of his three interceptions for a touchdown and also brought a fumble back for a score to get his team on the scoreboard.

 

Second Team Offense:

(For the Reporter/Dawn Harrison)

Quarterback: Brock Bradley, sophomore, Spain Park. Bradley had a lot of high praise entering the season, and he lived up to it on the football field as the underclassman had a breakout first full year as a starter. He went 127-210 for 1,845 yards and 22 touchdowns against just four interceptions, proving to be an efficient and effective passer with a 60% completion rate.

Running Back: AJ Green, senior, Thompson. The Warriors do-it-all running back was one of the secrets to his team’s success on offense this season. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior earned 916 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns off 106 carries in a two-man backfield and also had 10 catches for 118 yards in the regular season before he led all Thompson receivers in the first-round game against Florence.

(For the Reporter/Markee Canada)

Running Back: Razareo Conwell, junior, Montevallo. Conwell was a breakout player in the backfield for the Bulldogs and powered some of his team’s biggest wins of the season. He ran for 1,221 yards and 15 touchdowns off 189 carries, good enough for 6.5 yards per carry, all while standing just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds.

Offensive Line: KC Walters, senior, Thompson. The Warriors offensive line grew over the course of the season to become a solid unit overall, and Walters was a key piece of that. His presence as a senior created a solid pocket for Seaborn to work with as well as for the Warriors running backs to succeed between the trenches.

Offensive Line: Matthew Speights, senior, Thompson. Speights wrapped up his Warriors career with another great year on the offensive line, making the blocks needed to help his team succeed throughout the season and become one of the top offensive units in the state.

Offensive Line: Cash Tatum, senior, Pelham. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound veteran made his second year on the Panthers offensive line his best, earning an 87% grade, creating space for Clayton Mains to both throw and run and serving as one of the team’s leaders.

Offensive Line: Derek Diaz, junior, Montevallo. While he stands at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Diaz was one of the most crucial pieces for the Bulldogs thanks to his versatility and skill. He was the highest graded lineman while playing every position across the line, but his guidance as the team’s center was key during a tough stretch of injuries for the team.

Offensive Line: Logan Sanders, senior, Chelsea. Sanders did his part to help protect quarterback Carter Dotson during his senior year, allowing just one sack all season to earn a grade of 88%.

(For the Reporter/Neal Wagner)

Receiver: CJ Tolbert, senior, Pelham. Tolbert stepped up to the challenge and became Pelham’s top receiver in 2023. He racked up 798 yards and six touchdowns off 41 catches for an impressive 19.5 yards per reception, and he also was stellar as a returner with 216 yards off 12 kickoff returns.

Receiver: Hunter Hale, senior, Helena. Arguably the most versatile football player in the county, Hale not only excelled as Carson Acker’s top target, but he was dangerous on every kickoff and punt return as well. As a receiver, he caught 48 passes for 590 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he also capped off an excellent returning career with 379 kickoff return yards and a touchdown off 13 returns as well as 214 punt return yards and a score off 11 returns.

Receiver: Reggie Jackson, junior, Spain Park. While he was limited to just seven games due to injury, Jackson made the most of his opportunities to have an incredible junior season. He caught 20 passes for 347 yards and six receiving touchdowns while also adding a rushing score and kick return touchdown as well.

Athlete: Luke Reynolds, junior, Briarwood. Reynolds’ defensive stats alone warranted All-County honors with a county-high four interceptions to go with 69 tackles, three pass breakups, two blocked kicks and a defensive touchdown. However, it was his seven games at running back that helped elevate the Lions to greatness as he went for 516 yards and six touchdowns off 94 carries.

(For the Reporter/Larry Dancy)

Athlete: Bradley Horton, senior, Shelby County. After making his return from injury for the final seven games of the season, Horton made his presence felt with 514 yards off 97 carries, helping the Wildcats generate offense on the ground while playing both ways as a linebacker.

Kicker: Austin Lewis, junior, Helena. Lewis was one of the most reliable and efficient kickers in the county, making 50 of his 54 extra points while going 5-for-9 on field goals with a long of 45 yards to help the Huskies find the scoreboard on more possessions.

 

Second Team Defense:

Defensive Line: Garrett Witherington, sophomore, Briarwood. As just a sophomore, Witherington was a dominant force on the defensive front. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound lineman earned 44 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and seven batted balls, and he came up big with two safeties and a pair of blocked kicks to shift momentum.

Defensive Line: KJ Chapman, sophomore, Vincent. The Jackets’ sophomore standout caused havoc in opposing backfields with 16 tackles for loss, six sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, 55 tackles and a forced fumble in nine games played.

Defensive Line: James Schmucker, senior, Pelham. In his final season on the Panthers line, Schmucker racked up 68 tackles, including 38 solo tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss and two sacks to impact games up front.

Linebacker: Will Felton, senior, Pelham. Before taking his talents to South Alabama, Felton spent one more season proving his talent for the Panthers. He recorded over 100 tackles on the season, going for 105 tackles, including 61 solo tackles, six tackles-for-loss and five sacks to cap off a memorable career.

Linebacker: Jayden Davis, senior, Thompson. Davis was one of the most disruptive forces on the Warriors defense, causing two fumbles and earning four sacks as well as nine tackles-for-loss and 42 tackles overall.

Linebacker: Cooper Pennington, sophomore, Shelby County. The young Wildcats phenom continued his rise in his second season on varsity. He finished the year with 98 tackles, including 61 solo tackles, while also taking five tackles for a loss and an interception.

Linebacker: Elfreeman Morton, senior, Montevallo. Morton rarely needed help finishing off plays, as of the 88 tackles he secured in nine games, 84 of them were unassisted. In addition, he finished the year with 12 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.

Linebacker: Ray Albright, senior, Vincent. While his career was cut short due to injury, Albright made the six games he did play in his senior year count. His 77 tackles rank among the best in the county even against 10-game starters, and he had 50 solo tackles, 16 tackles-for-loss and five sacks, including one for a safety, to fuel Vincent’s early season run.

(For the Reporter/Cari Dean)

Defensive Back: Owen Key, senior, Chelsea. Key found success even against the top receivers that Class 7A, Region 3 had to offer, earning eight pass breakups and an interception to go with his 79 tackles on the year.

Defensive Back: Aiden Poe, junior, Vincent. The Jackets’ multi-sport star was his team’s go-to source for big plays thanks to his three interceptions as well as a forced fumble and blocked punt. He had 68 tackles and 39 solo tackles while playing multiple positions on all three phases.

Defensive Back: Ethan Carr, senior, Briarwood. Carr held his own against some of the area’s best receivers with two interceptions and seven pass breakups, and he also finished the year with 60 tackles and a pair of forced fumbles.

Defensive Back: Peyton King, senior, Montevallo. In his third season as a starter, King became the leader of the Bulldogs defense and put up big numbers while setting his teammates up for success. 56 of his 62 total tackles were unassisted, and he also had nine tackles-for-loss, four pass breakups and three sacks.

 

Honorable Mention: Carson Acker, Helena. Clayton Mains, Pelham. Josh Thompson, Briarwood. Dakarai Shanks, Spain Park. Derick Shanks, Spain Park. Michael Dujon, Thompson. Jamariun Ford, Calera. Sawyer Click, Briarwood. Javon Rogers, Montevallo. Jaxon Shuttlesworth, Chelsea. Nick Sulenski, Chelsea. Sawyer Smith, Oak Mountain. Carter Fountain, Briarwood. Grant Vines, Helena. Jake Garner, Pelham. James Whatley, Oak Mountain. D’Ivan Brown, Calera. Taylor Alford, Calera. Jared Smith, Spain Park. Nik Alston, Spain Park. Nylan Hill-Goode, Montevallo. Payton Lewis, Thompson. Tyler Hicks, Thompson. Jacob Porco, Oak Mountain. Adam Cornwell, Chelsea. Bishop Rellah, Pelham. Jonathan Roberto, Helena.