By Derrick Mahone
The Southern Crescent has always been loaded with talented players at all positions. College coaches annually head to the area to recruit the talent.
Over the first five weeks of the season, The Daily sports staff searched the area to put together the perfect player. Taking the best attributes of five players from the area, a perfect player was pieced together.
Shaun Nichols is one of the brightest football players in the Southern Crescent area.
Dutchtown coach Jason Gatt says the senior fullback/defensive lineman's classroom intelligence has helped transform him into a complete player on the football field.
"Shaun has a very high football IQ," Galt said.
Dutchtown is 4-0 with a bye week, and Nichols is a big part of the team's early season success. Galt says the fullback/defensive lineman is both a vocal leader and one that leads by example.
"I love to preach consistency with the team," Nichols said. "I think 90 percent of football is played from the shoulders up. I think being smart helps me in remembering plays."
He is nicknamed "Face" by his teammates and coaches, because they want him to be the face of the team. He combines his smarts (3.5 grade-point average) with his football ability. Despite his size, 5-foot-10, 240 pounds, Nichols is one of the strongest players on the team.
Galt said that his size will limit him to playing on the Div. II level.
"He has a good work ethic, and that commands respect from his teammates," Galt said. "He is one of about three players that plays both ways for us. He is definitely important to this football team."
A first year starter, Henry County signal-caller Chris Moody is enjoying a productive season.
The junior has completed 55 percent of his passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Moody said he is making the adjustments to becoming a starting quarterback. During the past three seasons, Henry County has had at least one wide receiver to sign with a NCAA FBS school.
This season, the Warhawks are 1-2 heading into tonight's game against Sandy Creek, the defending Class AAAA champion.
Moody has found out that being a starting quarterback can have some drawbacks.
"All the criticism," he said. "That kills me. When we lose, it's the quarterback. It's been a tough thing to deal with."
But the upside?
"Winning," Moody continues. "When we win, then the quarterback did his job."
To show off his arm strength, Moody said he can stand on the 50-yard line and throw the ball through the goalpost.
Christian Reeves has the combination of size, speed and hands that makes him a dangerous threat in the Chargers' offense. The senior receiver is listed as 6-foot-4, 215 pounds with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash.
"I think I probably became a natural receiver my junior year," Reeves said. "It really clicked to where things just kind of come naturally. You turn and you've got to make an adjustment to the ball. Maybe it's behind you or you've got to go up and get it. You think about your route and everything, and then catching the balls kind of second nature."
ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said that Reeves' work ethic is second to none. His combination of natural talent and hard work makes him and all-star candidate.
"He works his tail off," Gess said. "He's really focused on his route running. He worked on that this summer. His hands are great. He works hard on it. God-given talent, too. I think what's really pushed him over the top as one of the best wide receivers in the state is just his size and his ability to run with that size and his ability to bring the catch in."
A highly-recruited linebacker, North Clayton's Amarlo Herrera knows how to deliver a hit.
"He is very reckless on the field," North Clayton coach Rodney Hackney said. "He has a true passion for the game, sometimes too much. He definitely has one of the strongest hearts you will find in a football player."
In helping the Eagles to a 2-1 record, Herrera has 46 tackles, including 25 solos. He also has three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Herrera, who has committed to playing at Georgia next season, has been a big leader on an Eagles' defense that has scored three touchdowns this season. North Clayton has given up only 27 points this season, all in a loss to Lovejoy.
"I love hitting and being physical on the field," Herrera said. "I got a lot of passion for football because I've been doing this since I was small. This is the only sport that I've ever known."
At the beginning of the season, Mount Zion coach Jamie Aull asked senior running back Quartterrio Morgan to carry an even bigger load of the offense with a sophomore quarterback on board.
Morgan has more than lived up to his end in helping the team to a 3-0 start.
"The kid is the hardest running running back that I've been around," Aull said. "He is not the biggest, but he definitely can deliver a blow."
Through the first three games, he has 70 carries for 426 yards and three touchdowns. Morgan is about 300 yards off the mark he was at this point last season, but Aull is still happy with his production.
"Everybody knows who he is," Aull said.
Morgan, who is being heavily recruited by several NCAA FBS schools, is able to withstand a lot of pounding to his 5-foot-11, 185-pound body on a weekly basis.
"He does a good job of avoiding the big hits," Aull said. "We tell our players that they are either the hammer or the nail. Quarters is always the hammer, and never the nail."
-- Brian Paglia contributed to this story.