RICHMOND, VA -- Quarterback Lyndon Garner of Division 2 state champion Essex is The Associated Press Group A player of the year for 2009, and Mike Scharnus of Division 1 state titlist Altavista is the AP's coach of the year.
The awards were announced Monday, along with the AP's All-Group A team, as selected by a panel of sports writers from around the state. Essex and Altavista also led the way there, placing four players each on the first team.
In leading Essex to a 14-0 record and its first championship, Garner completed 138 of 222 passes for 2,945 yards and a Group A single-season record 41 touchdown passes. He threw just eight interceptions, half of those in the 30-0 victory against Radford for the title. Garner also ran for 368 yards and 10 touchdowns during the season.
Scharnus, who took over an Altavista program that had gone 2-8 in 2006, led his team to a 13-1 record, winning as many games as the school had won in the three previous years combined. It was the first state championship for Altavista, and the second for Scharnus, who also won at Rustburg in Group AA Division 3 in 2000.
Joining Garner from Essex on the first team are junior wide receiver Deon Hammond, senior offensive guard Anthony Nelson and senior linebacker Chuck Samuel.
Chosen from Altavista were seniors Winston O'Brien at center, Chris Clark at linebacker, Johnny Wimbush at defensive back and junior placekicker Blake Todd, who hit 5 of 6 field goal attempts and 56 of 60 PAT tries.
Garner is joined in the offensive backfield by seniors Martinez Miles of Division 1 runner-up J.I. Burton, Chris Rodriguez of Region C Division 2 runner-up Fort Chiswell and Sam Shiley of Clarke County, which won its first 10 games before falling in the region playoffs.
Miles ran 298 times for 2,129 yards and scored 30 touchdowns; he also had three interceptions on defense. Rodriguez gained 2,154 yards and also scored 30 touchdowns, finishing his career with 4,357 rushing yards and 55 TDs overall. Shiley gained 1,720 yards on 174 carries and accounted for 36 TDs.
Hammond caught 55 passes for 987 yards and 12 touchdowns and also passed for three scores. The other wide receiver, sophomore Dakota Stanley of Haysi, caught 62 passes for 943 yards and eight TDs. The tight end is senior Daniel Bradford of Floyd County, who had 32 catches for 541 yards and five TDs before he broke his ankle in the ninth game.
The offensive line consists of the two 2008 All-Group A selections at guard, Nelson and Greg Ray of Giles, along with Damien Tomblin of Clarke County and Lacurt Boone of Franklin at tackle and O'Brien at center.
The kick returner is senior Andre Dickerson of Gretna, whose averaged 49 yards on seven returns, two of which he brought back for touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,342 yards and 18 scores.
Senior Adrian Bryant of W&L-Montross, who was in on 175 tackles, seven sacks and had an interception for a touchdown, heads the defensive line that also includes Josh Oliver of Radford, Drew Lester of George Wythe-Wytheville and Antah Johnson of Gate City.
Oliver was in on 134 tackles, had 14 1/2 sacks and blocked three kicks; Lester was part of 111 tackles with 24 for a loss and 10 sacks; and Johnson took part in 100 tackles, including four for a loss and 3 1/2 sacks.
A third repeater from last year, Samuel led the Essex defense with 80 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions while also serving as the Trojans' second-best runner and a good pass receiver. The other linebackers are Altavista's Clark, Taylor Rhoads of Clarke County and Taylor Burton of Powell Valley, all seniors.
The defensive backs are paced by Wimbush, who also threw for one touchdown and ran for two others in Altavista's 27-7 victory against J.I. Burton in the title game. He's joined by fellow seniors Kevin Dale of Gretna and John Pratt of Holston, and junior Dusty Clark of Gate City.
The punter, junior Hobert Stanley of Haysi, averaged 40.2 yards and is the fourth repeater from last year's team.
Brandon Atwell of George Wythe-Wytheville was chosen as the utility player. Atwell rushed for 1,430 yards and 21 touchdowns, caught 21 passes for 341 yards and four TDs, punted for a 39.4-yard average, and kicked 2 field goals.