PAGLIA: One final footnote on 2012 season

Brian Paglia, bpaglia@henryherald.com

Brian Paglia, bpaglia@henryherald.com

Now feels like the right time (finally) to put the period on the high school football season.

The sport tries to make it hard. It’s started to mimic the college and professional ranks, which have succeeded in generating news and interest and message board vitriol on a year-long basis.

There’s National Signing Day in February, spring practice in May, passing leagues and tournaments all summer which gives way to fall practice and the season every southern Friday Night Lights fan anticipates and savors. Playoffs in November. State championships in December.

But, now, the final marker along the journey has come with the release of the 2012 Georgia Sports Writers Association’s All-State team released by the Associated Press on Wednesday.

With it comes one final opportunity to see how the Southern Crescent stacks up against the rest of Georgia.

That’s too tempting a carrot for this sports writer not too snatch.

Year after year, high school football fans boil over in metro Atlanta-south Georgia and public vs. private debates. But they’re rarely — if ever — including the Southern Crescent in the discussion.

That’s starting to change. Lovejoy has reached back-to-back state championships. Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy won the Class A private school title. Stockbridge won 11 games and its first region title. Dutchtown got its first SEC commitment in quarterback Donovahn Jones. Henry County has perhaps its first ever Notre Dame commitment in ELCA’s Isaac Rochell.

Which brings us back to the All-State team.

Here are the state’s finest. Not as much the state’s biggest names, though most if not all made it, but the finest players in every pure sense and definition of the word.

We here at the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald cling proudly to our All-Southern Crescent team. Coaches honorably select all-region teams.

But we know the All-State team carries a special significance.

It’s respect not just from Clayton and Henry counties or even south metro Atlanta.

It’s respect from the four corners of Georgia.

And 25 players from the Southern Crescent got that respect. Fifteen came from Clayton County. Ten more came from Henry County. Even throw in a defensive player of the year and a coach of the year.

Yes, with success comes respect.

Lovejoy reaches the Class AAAAAA finals, so it’s no surprise the Wildcats had 11 players named All-State, led by defensive lineman Nathaniel Norwood, who was named defensive player of the year. That’s the second straight season Lovejoy has had a classification’s top defensive player.

ELCA wins the Class A private school title, so naturally the Chargers have seven players named All-State and Jonathan Gess wins coach of the year.

Jonesboro reaches the state playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, so it’s no wonder the Cardinals’ two SEC commitments in Cameron Sutton (Tennessee) and Taurean Ferguson (Vanderbilt) made the cut.

Union Grove wins 10 games for just the second time in 10 years, so 2,000-yard rusher Derrick Craine and lineman Tyler Vaughn make it.

Stockbridge reaches the quarterfinals for the first time in school history, so ball-hawk defensive back Javon Brandon makes it.

Of course, we’re not forgetting Jonesboro’s Quinton Edwards, Riverdale’s Troy Wyche or Drew’s Ben Kittler. Or those who might have deserved selection, like ELCA linebacker Josh Shockley with his 100-plus tackles on Class A’s top defense.

Which brings us back to the All-State team.

If it’s a year where the Southern Crescent can reasonably wonder why several players (like Locust Grove’s Cortez McDowell) didn’t get picked, then it’s a good sign of the quality of competition.

Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at bpaglia@henryherald.com. On Twitter? Follow him @BrianPaglia.