PLAYER OF THE YEAR
South Pittsburg’s senior running back nearly equaled his regular-season rushing totals in just four playoff games. Hale had 1,076 yards in the postseason to finish with a school-record 2,454 yards and 38 touchdowns. Included in that total were 228 yards and five TDs in the Pirates’ Class 1A state championship victory. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had a kid more willing to do whatever it takes to win or be successful,” Pirates coach Vic Grider said. “We’ve had guys with different styles, but when you look at how physical he is, plus his speed and ability to see the field and know where to make cuts, he’s about as complete a runner as we’ve had.” Grider admitted he curbed Hale’s carries during the regular season because he knew how important the two-year starter would be in the playoffs. In limited defensive play, Hale also had six interceptions as a defensive back, including one in the title game.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Pirates claimed the Class 1A state championship for a third time in Grider’s 14 years as head coach at his alma mater. But this one seemed unlikely after the team was soundly beaten at Polk County in week nine. “I think after the way we lost at Polk there were a lot of doubters,” Grider said. “The thing that really bothered the kids — and to be honest, me — was that a lot of those doubters were people in our own community. I really think that inspired this group to go out and prove themselves. I believe that loss at Polk
was a turning point for us.” Led by all-state running back Raquis Hale and a group of nine seniors who won 50 games in their career, South Pittsburg rebounded from the loss to beat four of its next five opponents by the state’s 35-point mercy rule, including
a 41-6 win in the state-title game.
He threw for
2,685 yards and 29 touchdowns with just three interceptions for the 13-1 Chiefs.
A three-year starter, he led the blocking for the Indians to have three 1,000-yard rushers.
He made 83 of 88 extra-point tries and all five of his field-goal attempts, with a long of 38.
The Yellow Jackets ran mostly behind the 315-pound tackle, who also had 30 tackles and three sacks.
He had more than 1,500 all-purpose yards, including 971 receiving yards, and scored 22 touchdowns.
Senior running back
His 1,563 yards and 26 touchdowns were both school records, as he averaged more than 8 yards per carry.
Senior running back
Despite being the focus of every opposing defense, he led the Indians with 1,471 rushing yards and 14 TDs.
He had 1,236 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns and was also a receiving threat out of the backfield.
A two-way starter who also excelled on special teams, he led the line for a team scoring 46 points a game.
He graded out at 91 percent for a team that had an 1,100-yard rusher and a 2,100-yard passer.
The 6-foot-2 target caught 76 passes for 1,086 yards to help the Bears reach the 6A playoffs’ second round.
The three-year starter had 14 pancake blocks and was the lead blocker on most of the Wildcats’ counter plays.
CODY BRANHAM South Pittsburg Junior Lineman
MICHAEL GIBBONS Bledsoe County Senior Receiver
JUSTIN HOUSTON Bradley Central Senior Receiver
JUAN MARTINEZ Sequatchie County Senior Kicker
DEWAUN MASSENGILL Bradley Central Senior Running back
DESTIN NUNLEY Grundy County Senior Athlete
TRAVIS SAVAGE Meigs County Junior Running back
CARTER SCOTT Meigs County Junior Lineman
JOSH SOOS Polk County Senior Lineman
JUSTIS STEWART Sequatchie County Senior Running back
CAMERON TALLENT Rhea County Senior Quarterback
DUSTIN WHITE North Jackson Senior Lineman
TEAMS OF THE YEAR
1 SOUTH PITTSBURG (12-2)
The Pirates earned their second state championship in four years with a senior class that finished with 50 wins.
2 NORTH JACKSON (13-1)
The Chiefs won the Region 7-4A title and advanced to the Alabama state semifinals before falling at Deshler.
3 POLK COUNTY (10-2)
The Wildcats won their second straight District 5-AA title and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.