Editor’s Note: The 2019 All-County football team was selected by the Advocate and Democrat sports staff through the use of coach nominations, statistics and experience through team coverage.
MVP: Major Carter, Tellico Plains
Carter defined what it means to be a team’s “most valuable player” this year for Tellico. Just a sophomore, he was a weapon on both sides of the ball, catching 37 passes for 581 yards and nine touchdowns as a wide receiver and notching two interceptions and 29 tackles at defensive back. The Bears counted on him arguably more than any other county team did a player this year, and he made good on that trust.
Rookie: Jovan Johnkins, Sweetwater
Johnkins’ freshman status may have been listed on the roster, but it wasn’t apparent once the lights came on Friday nights. He started on both the offensive and defensive lines, grading out as the Wildcats’ best offensive lineman and totaling 43 tackles, six sacks and a fumble recovery as a defensive end. Expect those stats to only increase during his sophomore campaign and onward.
Coach: Mike Martin, Sweetwater
Martin’s coaching resume was already impressive before he took the Sweetwater job, with successful stints at Meigs County and East Ridge. But the work he did in his first year with the Wildcats should now be at the top of that list. He turned a program that went 2-8 the year before into a 7-4 playoff team, mainly through his staff’s efforts in crafting a balanced offense and a stout defense. His mission to bring consistent winning to Sweetwater started on the right foot.
QB: Austin Long, Sweetwater
After playing a good amount last season, Long took over as the Wildcats’ uncontested starting quarterback as a junior this year. He helped lead the Wildcats to the playoffs by throwing for 1,272 yards, 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also ran for 200 yards and four scores, serving as a reliable pocket passer who could also pick up first downs on the ground when needed.
RB: Drew Hicks, Sweetwater
Hicks returned to Sweetwater after briefly transferring to Knoxville Catholic, and his presence was immediately felt. He produced bruising runs as one of the Wildcats’ two bruising tailbacks, providing a workhorse component that then allowed for Martin to call play-action passes. The senior will be missed by Sweetwater next season and beyond.
RB: Evan Swanson, Sequoyah
While Sequoyah’s offense wasn’t able to find consistent success this season, Swanson helped out as the Chiefs’ go-to runner. Often, he carried the ball play after play, giving Sequoyah something to rely on. Swanson endured the hits to help his team, providing senior leadership and a team-first attitude that head coach Ryan Bolinger needed during his first season.
WR: Matt Lee, Sequoyah
Lee, a senior, was dangerous with the ball as one of Sequoyah’s top playmakers. He helped out a Chiefs’ roster that saw turnover at the quarterback position, with starter Gabe Litrreal sidelined for most of the season and senior River Jenkins forced into action. The Chiefs also used him on jet sweep runs often, showcasing Lee’s do-it-all athleticism.
WR: Kaleb Johnkins, Sweetwater
Jovan wasn’t the only Johnkins that made an impact for the Wildcats in 2019. Kaleb Johnkins was one of Sweetwater’s go-to receivers, making plays as a solid pass-catcher for Long. He will return for the Wildcats as a senior next season, giving Martin and the Wildcats a tried-and-true receiving corps leader.
WR: Gaige Fairbanks, Tellico Plains
Fairbanks was one of Tellico’s most explosive offensive players this season, catching 16 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns despite dealing with injury. He was a player that first-year head coach Jon Rechtorovic and his staff could rely on, even after veteran quarterback Dale Rinehart suffered a season-ending injury. Just a junior, he will return as a senior next year.
TE: Justice Benson, Sequoyah
Benson’s highlight play occurred when he scored Sequoyah’s first touchdown on the season (and the first of the Ryan Bolinger Era) on a 67-yard touchdown pass from River Jenkins against Chattanooga Central in Week Three. The junior was big for the Chiefs in their season finale loss to Anderson County as well, receiving handoffs in the running game and finishing with 136 yards on eight carries.
OL: Kolton Stakely, Tellico Plains
Also a key player on Tellico’s baseball team, Stakely helped anchor the Bears’ offensive line this year as a senior. He helped pave the way for running back Levi Roberts and protect a Bears quarterback group that was hampered by injuries. Tellico will miss the leadership he provided in the trenches.
OL: Zack Nichols, Sweetwater
A senior on Sweetwater’s stout offensive line this season, Nichols was one of the Wildcats’ best players in the trenches. Sweetwater’s line was tasked with performing for its balanced offense, having to both make holes for the running game and pass block, and Nichols didn’t disappoint in helping lead that effort.
OL: Carter Holmes, Sweetwater
Another strong piece on the Wildcats’ offensive line, Holmes served as one of Sweetwater’s standout group of veterans. As a junior this year, he was an absolutely vital cog in the Wildcats’ offensive scheme. Linemen don’t always get the praise they deserve, but Holmes deserves a ton.
OL: Johnathon Chancellor, Sequoyah
Leadership and veteran presence is huge for any team, especially one adjusting to a coaching change. Chancellor definitely gave Sequoyah that and more. He was one of four Chiefs to be named to the Region 2-4A All-Region team.
DL: Chase “Diesel” Hunt, Tellico Plains
While linebackers typically lead rosters in tackles and get the glory, a team’s defensive line is invaluable to putting their teammates in positions to make big plays. Hunt did that and also made plenty of plays himself. The junior had 49 total tackles and a team-leading three sacks.
DL: Simon Blomstrom, Sweetwater
Blomstrom made plays for Sweetwater in the passing game at tight end, but had a huge impact at defensive end as well. The junior found ways to attack the offensive line for a stout Wildcats defense, getting stops himself while also aiding other members of the unit. He’ll be counted on heavily next year too.
All-purpose line: Jacob Debety, Tellico Plains
One of Tellico’s key senior linemen, Debety did the dirty work in the trenches for a Bears offense that ran forms of both shotgun spread and power I-formation schemes. That gives a linemen a lot to do, both with pass and run blocking, but Debety did it all. He also performed well on the defensive line, registering 19 total tackles.
LB: Bryce Johnson, Sweetwater
Johnson was one part of Sweetwater’s two-headed rushing attack, but arguably his presence was most felt on the defensive side. He had a whopping 116 total tackles, including eight tackles for a loss and four sacks. He also grabbed an interception.
LB: Luke Lay, Sequoyah
Although just a sophomore, Lay was a pivotal piece of Sequoyah’s linebacking corps, one of the team’s strengths. He is a stout, powerful player, able to make tackles in space and drive opposing runners back. He will continue to be a big part of Bolinger’s defense in the coming years.
LB: Reid Shaw, Tellico Plains
Shaw, a sophomore, stepped in at quarterback for Tellico after Rinehart was sidelined, losing some time to injury himself. All the while, though, he helped pace the Bears’ defense at linebacker, finishing 2019 with a team-high 82 tackles.
DB: Justin Floyd, Sequoyah
Floyd was one of the Chiefs’ key wide receivers this season, but his play in the defensive backfield was arguably more impactful. He grabbed multiple interceptions, proving himself as a shutdown corner against some of the area’s top receivers.
DB: Marshall Dukes, Tellico Plains
Dukes is one of Tellico’s most athletic and dynamic playmakers, and his presence was felt hugely when the Bears were on defense. The junior snagged four interceptions, a team-high, and made 44 tackles.
DB: Riley Rose, Tellico Plains
If you attended any Tellico football games this year, you likely heard Rose’s name announced from the press box a bunch due to the amount of plays he made. A senior, he was second on the roster with 62 total tackles. He also forced three fumbles, recovering one.
DB: Blake Jenkins, Sweetwater
Jenkins made an impact as a two-way player for the Wildcats, but his strong defensive back play particularly helped propel his team. The senior’s ability to shut down a receiver, coupled with his prowess in making tackles in run defense, gave the Wildcats more than they needed in the defensive backfield.
Kicker/Punter: Nathan Roberts, Sequoyah
During football off days this summer and fall at Sequoyah High School, the Chiefs’ field would typically be vacant, except for two people: Nathan Roberts and father Allen Roberts, Sequoyah’s head softball coach. Roberts practiced his craft diligently, and it paid off. The senior was near automatic for the Chiefs kicking PAT’s and also had the ability to crush long field goals and kickoffs.