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December 4, 2012

2012 All-Central Region Football Team

Playoff teams dominated this year's version of the VirginiaPreps.com All-Central Region Team. Of the 56 spots on the first and second teams, 37 went to players from playoff participants, an even higher proportion than usual. Unsurprisingly, Hermitage and L. C. Bird took the most spots on the first team, with four each, and the Skyhawks had both Players of the Year. Varina and Meadowbrook weren't far behind with three selections apiece. Bird added another four picks on the second team, with Hermitage grabbing three more, Varina taking two more, and Meadowbrook garnering an additional pick as well. Among D-5 schools, regional champion Hanover took top honors with a total of four selections. The other three D-5 playoff teams each had three picks. What's funny is that it just worked out that way: This wasn't done by design as a way of balancing the team.

Here are some general points to remember about our selection method and restrictions.

Though it forces us to make tough choices each year, we lean more towards exclusivity than inclusion. Our team includes only twelve offensive, twelve defensive, and four special teams players.

The offense will include two players at the running back and wide receiver positions, five linemen, with one player named at quarterback and tight end. Our one concession is to add an athlete position to be used primarily as a "catch-all" or utility spot. On defense, we opt for a 4-4 alignment, choosing four defensive linemen, four linebackers, three defensive backs, and one athlete.

We use the position for which the player was submitted in the all-district voting. So, a tight end who gets split out on a regular basis may still be a tight end for our purposes, or an outside linebacker who is functionally a defensive end on most downs will be considered at whichever position he filled on one of the district teams.

In the specialists spots, we choose one punter, one kicker and two returners. Also note that we do not name players to more than one position for our all-region teams. So, in the case of someone who was a great offensive and defensive lineman, or who, like Hermitage's Brian Brown, was a great wideout and a great defensive back, that player only makes the team in one spot. However, we reserve the right to put players like that in new positions once we select the all-state team. For example, that great defensive lineman who made it on offense for my team could theoretically wind up as an offensive lineman come state voting time.

The one tradition I've held over from the old All-CRR Team I selected from 2003-2009 is designating multi-year selections with asterisks. The number of asterisks equals the number of previous selections, although no one on this team has made it more than a total of two times.

So, let's talk about a touchy subject that we have to work through every year: The tough calls at certain positions. Without question, running back was the most difficult. As you'll see below, both Capital District Co-Players of the Year on offense didn't make the first team (although they were honored with special recognition). Both Chris Simpson and Morris Jackson had incredible statistical years. However, they had two other district POY to compete against: Paul Robertson (who became the no-brainer choice after what he's done in the playoffs) and Derrick Green, the Colonial's top offensive player.

I went with Green for two reasons. One, I think he gets penalized a bit because he played on a loaded team with a great defense. He rarely had to play for more than about a half. Meanwhile, Atlee found itself needing to score 35+ to win most weeks, and Lee-Davis was often in a down-to-the-wire battle. You may be saying, "Sure, but production is production, and Jackson and Simpson ran for around 2,000 yards each, while Green was a few hundred yards short of that." Except that here's what Green did against teams with winning records:

24 carries, 135 yards, 2 TD

33 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD

20 carries, 142 yards, 3 TD (played about a half)

n/a carries, 132 yards, 4 total TD (played one half)

11 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD (played a half)

21 carries, 215 yards, 3 TD (played three quarters)

19 carries, 79 yards 2 TD (playoff loss to L. C. Bird)

Of course, a case can be made for Simpson, who averaged a little over five yards per carry to Green's seven-plus, and who made All-Region for the coaches, or for Jackson, who made second-team all-region for the coaches and who topped 2,000 yards. And that's to say nothing of L. J. Jones at Hanover, or D. J. Reid at Thomas Dale, both stellar backs in their own right.

But, we pick two, and our two are Green and Robertson.

Like I said: Hard choices.

There was a different kind of problem at tight end. Gary Dorsey of L. C. Bird is unquestionably one of the best blockers in the region, and is a dominating force as a tight end for the Skyhawk running game. However, Atlee's Chad Jacob was - by far - the leading receiver in the entire area, producing more catches and yardage than any wideout in the area, much less any tight end.

This was another difficult decision because we're talking about a position that functions very differently in different offenses. This is another instance where we're in a "glass half-full / glass half-empty" scenario without much clear-cut about it. The coaches went with Dorsey, and I respect that (and Dorsey's abilities), but I went with Jacob. I couldn't justify leaving off a guy who was the most productive receiver in the area by a comfortable margin.

Those are only two examples of several difficult calls. Compiling teams like these is always a challenge with the plethora of great players we have in this area, but the result is a final team that is absolutely loaded. Here is the 2012 VirginiaPreps.com All-Central Region team:

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region First Team Offense

Quarterback - Gerard Johnson, Sr. (Meadowbrook): Johnson, the Central District Offensive POY, was perhaps the most dynamic player in the region. He ran for 1,204 yards, averaging over 10 yards per carry, and passed for 1,592 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Running Back and Offensive Player of the Year - Paul Robertson, Sr. (L. C. Bird): The Dominion Offensive POY began the year as a semi-unknown after backing up Yahkee Johnson for two years. Robertson amazingly surpassed Johnson's single-season achievements with an incredible playoff run. He's rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in the playoffs alone, and has 2,756 yards and 31 rushing touchdowns as of this writing.

Running Back - Derrick Green, Sr. (Hermitage)*: The area's top college recruit rumbled for 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging over seven yards per carry, while leading the Panthers to a district title and taking a second-straight Colonial Offensive POY award in the process.

Wide Receiver - Travis Phillips, Sr. (Patrick Henry): The Patriots' newfound passing game made use of Phillips' considerable talents, as he hauled in 34 balls for 858 yards and an impressive per-catch average of 25.2 yards, second only to CeQuan Jefferson in the region.

Wide Receiver - Tabyus Taylor, Jr. (Hopewell): One of several game-breakers on the Blue Devil offense, Taylor contributed 59 receptions for 970 yards (including playoffs), making him the leading yardage receiver in the area with post-season taken into consideration.

Tight End - Chad Jacob, Sr. (Atlee): Despite being a tight end, Jacob easily led the entire region in both catches (59) and yardage (961) during the regular season, also scoring 13 touchdowns and totaling 84 points on the year for the Raiders.

Offensive Line - Darius Garcia, Sr. (Manchester)*: Garcia earns first-team honors for the second year in a row as he helped power an offense that amazingly scored at least 40 points in eight out of ten games this season.

Offensive Line - Lavonte Hights, Sr. (Meadowbrook): Hights helped block for two of the most dangerous players in the Central District in quarterback Gerard Johnson and running back Brandon McShine, contributing to Meadowbrook's historic 2012 season.

Offensive Line - Martavius Robinson, Sr. (L. C. Bird): Robinson, an outstanding all-district and all-region lineman, was one of the big reasons why Paul Robertson was able to find his way through gaping holes for much of the season.

Offensive Line - Eric Tetlow, Sr. (Mills Godwin): The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Tetlow was a major force for a productive Godwin offense that included two players (Dane Forlines and Jeremy Sternlicht) who each averaged over 96 yards rushing per game.

Offensive Line - Kris Wilson, Sr. (Varina): The Blue Devils have had one of the most formidable offenses in the region over the last two years, and the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Wilson was a major part of that.

Athlete - Sam Rogers, Sr. (Hanover): Do-it-all Rogers was already a 1,000-yard rusher when he resumed his quarterback duties late in the year, exploding with a series of huge games. He also led the Hawks to the regional title and a near-upset of Stone Bridge in the state semi-finals.

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region First Team Defense

Defensive Line - Purcell Bervine, Sr. (L. C. Bird): Bervine, an All-Dominion and All-Region pick for the coaches, has been a force for one of the best defenses in the state, recording 4.5 sacks and 78 tackles as of this writing.

Defensive Line - Darius Goodman, Sr. (Hermitage): Goodman helped keep the Panthers at the top of the state rankings for most of the regular season, bolstering a defense that held six opponents to single-digits and recorded three shutouts.

Defensive Line - Donald Kidd, Jr. (Lee-Davis): Kidd, one of a handful of all-region underclassmen for the coaches, was one of the most disruptive players I saw all season, spearheading a unit that helped Lee-Davis take the top seed in the D-5 playoffs.

Defensive Line - Tyler Powell, Jr. (Cosby): The highly-regarded Powell racked up 13.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles during a surprising season in which the Titans finished 8-2.

Linebacker - Darius Johnson, Sr. (Dinwiddie): Johnson provided outstanding play and senior leadership to an underclass-heavy squad as the Generals held five opponents to 14 points or less on the way to another post-season bid.

Linebacker - Emmanuel Henry, Sr. (Meadowbrook): The Central District Defensive Player of the Year turned in a whopping 99 tackles, four sacks, a safety, and recovered two fumbles to help the Monarchs to the playoffs.

Linebacker and Defensive Player of the Year - Justin Palimore, Sr. (L. C. Bird): Heading into the state title game, Palimore, the Dominion Defensive POY, has 129 tackles, including 80(!) solo, for a defense that allowed a mere 47 points during the regular season, and just 111 through 13 games.

Linebacker - Larry Spears, Sr. (Varina): Spears led a Varina defense that produced three shutouts during the regular season, and held three other opponents to single-digits. He was the Capital District Defensive Player of the Year and a coaches' All-Region pick.

Defensive Back - Brian Brown, Sr. (Hermitage)*: A potential game-changer on both sides of the ball, Brown is a first-team selection for our all-region team again after making it at athlete last season. He was the 2012 Colonial District Defensive Player of the Year.

Defensive Back - Tim Harris, Sr. (Varina): A prototype defensive back and a second-team pick in 2011, the athletic, 6-foot-3, 200-pound Harris neutralized top opposing receivers all year as he picked up All-Capital District and All-Central Region honors from the coaches.

Defensive Back - Ralph Stovall, Sr. (Highland Springs): Stovall's play boosted a defense that presided over three single-digit victories en route to a 9-1 overall record. Stovall earned All-Capital and All-Region accolades from the coaches.

Athlete - CeQuan Jefferson, Sr. (Henrico): Also a dangerous receiver with a region-best 26.1 yards per catch, Jefferson was an All-Capital and All-Region pick by the coaches at defensive back.

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region First Team Specialists

Kicker - John Stiebel, Sr. (Hermitage)*: Stiebel, who was a second-team selection for us last year and first-team in 2010, finishes his career with 27 field goals and an amazing 184 extra points. He was an All-Colonial and All-Region selection by the coaches as well.

Punter - Grayson Shelly, Sr. (Deep Run): The All-Colonial and All-Region punter for the coaches, Shelly is recognized as one of the better punting and kicking prospects in the area, with four-second-plus punt hangtime and a slew of kickoff touchbacks to his credit.

Returner - Dane Forlines, Sr. (Mills Godwin): One of the better all-around players in the area, Forlines was in the running for a spot at four or five different positions, but he makes it here as a returner. He was also selected as such by the coaches.

Returner - Michael Smoot, Sr. (Henrico): In a year in which the Warriors needed big special teams plays to stay competitive, Smoot provided that type of game-breaking performance week after week. He was an All-Capital District pick as a return man as well.

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region Coaches of the Year

Division Six - David Bedwell (L. C. Bird): The Skyhawks winning the Dominion District was nothing surprising. After all, Bird has won or shared the district crown for the past twelve years. However, despite losing a couple of stars to graduation, the Skyhawks managed to win the regional title for the first time since 2005. Not only that, but Coach Bedwell's squad needed two road victories against very good teams (Hermitage and Varina) to achieve that goal. The Skyhawks won a third road game (against Oakton) in the state semi-finals to clinch a berth in the Division Six state championship game. What's more, Bedwell appears to have Bird playing its best football of the season at just the right time. The Skyhawks currently sit at 13-0 and will be shooting for their first-ever state title in Charlottesville on Saturday.

Division Five - Ricky Irby (Hopewell): 2011 was supposed to be a big year for the Blue Devils. With a proud and storied football tradition in tow, Hopewell's return to prominence never materialized last year after a couple of close early losses. Yet, somehow, Coach Irby managed to get this team to bounce back in 2012. He not only guided the Blue Devils to their first playoff berth since 2004, but he also lead the Devils to their first playoff victory in eight years, beating district rival Dinwiddie to boot. This, despite the fact that Dinwiddie had beaten Hopewell just a couple of weeks earlier. The Blue Devils finished as regional runners-up with an overall record of 8-4 and a lot of optimism about the future under their capable young coach.

Special Recognition

Reggie Butler, Sr. (Hopewell) - Athlete: Butler began the year as a back-up quarterback, but circumstances dictated he become the starter, and a good one at that. When he wasn't throwing the ball, however, he could line up in other spots and be just as dangerous. On top of that, he was one of the better defensive backs in the area. Without his all-around contributions, especially as a former back-up, Hopewell wouldn't have been able to have the season it did.

Gary Dorsey, Sr. (L. C. Bird) - Tight End: I discussed this in the open, but Dorsey is one of the primary reasons the Bird offense has evolved into the monster that it is today. His contributions may not show up on the stat sheet in the same way that Chad Jacob's do, but he's just as valuable in his own way. He took All-Dominion and All-Region honors from the coaches.

Morris Jackson, Sr. (Atlee) - Running Back: As I mentioned before, Jackson and Simpson (see below) were the odd-men-out in the very competitive race for the first-team running back spots. Jackson ran for 2,027 yards and a region-best 33 touchdowns during the year, earning Capital District Co-Player of the Year honors on offense, as well as being a coaches' second-team All-Region pick.

Chris Simpson, Sr. (Lee-Davis) - Running Back: Simpson led the Confederates to their best season in years, finishing 7-3 and taking the top seed in the D-5 playoffs. He ran for 1,988 yards on 371 carries, scoring 15 touchdowns. He was also named Capital District Offensive Co-Player of the Year, and made All-Region at running back for the coaches.

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region Second Team Offense

QB - Terrance Ervin, Jr. (L. C. Bird)

RB - Morris Jackson, Sr. (Atlee)

RB - Chris Simpson, Sr. (Lee-Davis)

WR - Donovan Dowling, Jr. (Varina)

WR - Donte Haynesworth, Sr. (Hanover)

TE - Gary Dorsey, Sr. (L. C. Bird)

OL - Toddrick Bugg, Sr. (Dinwiddie)

OL - Josh Hutto, Sr. (Hanover)

OL - Russell Munn, Sr. (Lee-Davis)

OL - Caleb Wright, Sr. (Meadowbrook)

OL - Marius Young, Jr. (Hermitage)

ATH - Niko Johnson, Sr. (Hermitage)

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region Second Team Defense

DL - JaQuan Anderson, Sr. (L. C. Bird)

DL - Daryl Simmons, Sr. (Varina)

DL - Tyler Smith, Jr. (Hopewell)

DL - Quadree Walker, Sr. (Petersburg)

LB - Kennsel Anderson, Sr. (Hermitage)

LB - Troy Barden, Sr. (Cosby)

LB - David Crytser, Sr. (Hanover)

LB - A. J. Moore, Sr. (Highland Springs)

DB - Reggie Butler, Sr. (Hopewell)

DB - Rashad Goodwyn, Jr. (Dinwiddie)

DB - Lionel Williams, Sr. (L. C. Bird)

ATH - Eric Hess, Sr. (Deep Run)

VirginiaPreps.com Central Region Second Team Specialists

K - Collin McFadden, Sr. (Manchester)

P - Trevor Luke, Jr. (Thomas Dale)

RET - James Cousins, Sr. (J. R. Tucker)

RET - Davon Ross, Sr. (George Wythe)

Catch Tom Garrett's articles and columns all year, right here on VirginiaPreps.com! Follow Tom on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/CRTomGarrett to get updates on the games he covers, plus other scores. You can hear Tom on "Hardly Workin'" with Greg Burton every Friday evening at approximately 5:40 on ESPN 950 AM WXGI.

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