2006 All-Area football team
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
It will be a season for Hartselle fans to remember for a long time. The Tigers finished the year with 11 wins, making a strong postseason run to the state quarterfinals in Class 5A. Although the Tigers ended up short of their ultimate goal of a state championship, their accomplishments cannot be denied. For this reason, Hartselle headlines this year's All-Area team with a sweep of the three top positions and 10 of the 24 spots on the first team.
Coach of the Year – Bob Godsey, Hartselle
Bob Godsey, head coach of the Hartselle Tigers, is this year's Coach of the Year. Godsey's Tigers entered the playoffs as a No. 2 seed in Region 8 and advanced to the state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Athens – a team Hartselle defeated on the road during the regular season.
Hartselle finished the 2006 season with an 11-2 record, finishing with 11 wins in a season for the first time since the 2002 team went 11-3. The Tigers opened eyes throughout the state during their memorable season – Hartselle started the year unranked in the Class 5A Top 10 (they were 21st in the complete list of teams receiving votes) and ended the season No. 5.
The Tigers advanced to the postseason after finishing with a 9-1 record in the regular season, with the only loss coming to No. 1 Russellville. Hartselle defeated Benjamin Russell at J.P. Cain Stadium in the first round of the playoffs before traveling to Gardendale.
The Rockets were a familiar foe to Hartselle, which was knocked out of the playoffs by Gardendale in both 2001 and 2003. The Rockets again appeared to have the Tigers' number with the score 24-7 heading into the fourth quarter. But Hartselle responded with 21 unanswered points to pull off a comeback victory for the ages and set up a home matchup with Athens in the state quarterfinals.
The Tigers held a 13-10 lead late in the fourth quarter of that game before a deflected pass led to an Athens touchdown and the Eagles added a score late to make it a final 23-13 win for the visitors and a tough ending to Hartselle's season. But the Tigers can take solace in the fact Athens defeated J.O. Johnson in the state semifinals and then knocked out heavily-favored Eufaula in the championship game.
It was a season where Hartselle continually surprised foes with a balanced offense and hard-hitting defense. Godsey and his staff deserve a great deal of credit for keeping the Tigers motivated during a grueling season.
Runner-up: Donald Weeks, Priceville
Offensive Player of the Year – Wes Chenault, Hartselle
A lot of things have to go right for a team to finish with 11 wins. But an argument can be made that perhaps the most important facet to Hartselle's success was its balance on offense, something that wasn't always the case in 2005. That season, the Tigers rushed for 2,295 yards but passed for just 743. This year, Hartselle finished with 2,093 rushing yards and 2,005 passing yards.
Senior quarterback Wes Chenault would be the first to tell you that those yards weren't all his doing – a strong offensive line and group of sure-handed receivers were pivotal as well. But that doesn't change the fact that Chenault was primarily responsible for leading the Tigers on offense, and for this reason Chenault is this year's Offensive Player of the Year.
Chenault's numbers sparkle across the board. The two-year starter completed 55.8 percent of his passes (140 of 251), threw for 1,915 yards and had 21 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He was also a threat to run when a play broke down, rushing for 297 yards on 75 carries (3.9 yards per carry average) and a touchdown.
Chenault's improvement – he completed 45 percent of his passes in 2005 and threw for just two touchdowns – combined with Hartselle's strong running game to make an offensive combination that few teams could stop this season.
Runner-up: Marquez Jones, Hartselle
Defensive Player of the Year – Caleb Blanton, Hartselle
In many ways, senior linebacker Caleb Blanton is a microcosm of the entire Hartselle team.
Listed at just 5-foot-9 and 140 pounds, he seems undersized for a linebacker. But try telling that to Hartselle's opponents, who saw Blanton do it all this season.
He led the Tigers with 125 tackles (62 solo and 63 assists), including 13 tackles for a loss. Blanton, a three-year starter, also picked up seven sacks, two interceptions and scored a touchdown.
His coaches describe him as an "outstanding leader and hustler" and he led a unit that held its opponents to just 18.9 points per game and had a turnover margin of plus-15 (33 takeaways against 18 giveaways). Blanton's outstanding senior season earns him Defensive Player of the Year and completes a perfect sweep for Hartselle on the three headline spots of this year's All-Area team.
Runner-up: Chris Humphries, Brewer
First team offense:
Offensive backfield – Chenault is joined by two talented running backs in Hartselle's Marquez Jones and Danville's Craig Orr. Jones, just a sophomore, was the spotlight back in Hartselle's running game this season and finished the year with 14 touchdowns and 1,305 yards on 227 carries. He was also a threat in the Hartselle passing game, making 18 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
Orr combined with freshman running back Levi George to give Danville a potent backfield during the 2006 season. The sophomore Orr finished with 535 yards on 85 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per carry.
Offensive line – The offensive line is strong with Hartselle's Caleb Murphy and Dusty Schofield, Falkville's Garland Smith, Priceville's Wes Long and Brewer's Greg Pinkerton. Murphy is a junior while Schofield, Smith, Long and Pinkerton are seniors. Long is a four-year starter at center for Priceville, which finished 2006 with a 5-5 record and just missed the playoffs in its first year after moving from Class 2A to Class 4A.
Receivers – Hartselle's Tyler Young and Falkville's Steven Lindsey form a talented duo of wide receivers on this year's team. Young finished the season as Chenault's favorite receiver, leading the team with 745 yards on 52 catches. He scored six touchdowns and showed a knack for making acrobatic catches.
Lindsey had a fine senior season for a Falkville team that made the playoffs for the second straight season after going winless in 2004. He finished with 575 yards on 40 catches and scored seven touchdowns. The senior also had perhaps the most important defensive play of the year for the Blue Devils, making a late interception in his team's 20-12 win over Cleveland that clinched the playoffs for Falkville.
The tight end is Brewer's Chris Humphries, who also plays linebacker for the Patriots. Humphries finished the season with 29 receptions for 530 yards and three touchdowns.
First team defense:
Linebackers – Blanton is joined in the linebacker corps by Hartselle teammate Michael Reed, Priceville's Will Halbrooks and Danville's John Dalton.
The junior Reed finished with an outstanding season for Hartselle, collecting 113 tackles (45 solo and 68 assists), including six for a loss. He was a turnover-causing machine, forcing four fumbles and recovering two of them. One of those recovered fumbles came in Hartselle's second-round comeback playoff win in Gardendale and proved to be the winning score when Reed took it into the end zone.
Halbrooks caused plenty of turnovers on Priceville's defense, finishing the year with four fumble recoveries and two interceptions. He was strong in the tackling game as well, finishing with 89 tackles and two sacks.
Dalton, a senior who plays both ways for Danville, finished the season with 98 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.
Defensive line – Four teams each had one starter named to the defensive line this year. Those four are Hartselle's Daniel Filiatrault, Falkville's Jonathan Lindsey, Priceville's Heath Parker and Brewer's Zack Graham.
Filiatrault finished the year with 66 tackles (15 solo and 51 assists) from the nose guard position. Lindsey was another nose guard with a strong season, finishing with 48 tackles including five for a loss and three fumbles caused.
Parker had 63 tackles, recovered two fumbles and collected four sacks. Graham finished the year with 38 tackles and five sacks.
Defensive backs – Priceville's Lonny Sutton, Hartselle's Quinn Dunlap and Falkville's Jonathan McNatt form a formidable trio in the defensive backfield.
Sutton had 44 tackles for the Bulldogs and forced a total of seven turnovers – five interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He also scored two touchdowns on defense for Priceville.
Dunlap was a strong two-way player who also led Hartselle with eight receiving touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball for the Tigers, he had 59 tackles (39 solo and 20 assists) and five interceptions. He made a name for himself on special teams as well, blocking two punts and a field goal.
McNatt, a sophomore who also was Falkville's starting quarterback, had 51 tackles and four interceptions for the Blue Devils.
Hartselle kicker Ray Canafax was a perfect 35-for-35 on extra points during the season and made 8-of-12 field goals. He was also the Tigers' first-string punter.
Falkville's Brandon Clark makes the list as punter, finishing the year with a 37.0 yards-per-punt average.
Brewer's Eric Parker is this year's return specialist, after finishing 2006 with two kickoff returns for a touchdown. A starter at defensive back as well, he almost always gave the Patriots excellent starting field position, averaging 32.5 yards per kickoff return.