Sharp, Francis named Herald-Sun 2012 All-Area Co-Players of the Year

Dec. 24, 2012 @ 08:56 PM

The 2012 high school football season ended with Carrboro coming up 19 seconds short of a state 2-AA championship and 3-A Hillsborough Orange falling in the state semifinals.

Carrboro, which had to play its final 21⁄2 playoff games with receiving star Marlin Johnson hobbled by an ankle sprain, still came within an eyelash of a state title in only its sixth year of existence. A one-yard, third-down plunge by future University of Virginia player LaChaston Smith won it for South Iredell 30-27.

Carrboro’s 15-1 run was remarkable as some nine starters out of a varsity nucleus of 26 players played extensively on both offense and defense and somehow never wilted.

For their effort and success, the Jaguars are The Herald-Sun’s 2012 All-Area Team of the Year and Coach Jason Tudryn, who has been with Carrboro’s program since its inception, is the All-Area Coach of the Year.

With the winners picking up the spoils, explosive Carrboro running back Trai Sharp, a sophomore who kept eluding defenses even after Johnson’s injury eliminated the Jaguars’ deep threat and allowed opponents to stack the box against him, joins Hillside senior running back Khris Francis as the All-Area Co-Players of the Year.

Francis, who will matriculate at North Carolina on a football scholarship in January, was last year’s All-Area Player of the Year and was the prohibitive favorite to repeat, which he has.

The two-time All-PAC-6 4-A Offensive Back of the Year, topped the 2,000-yard rushing barrier for the second straight season, despite the Hornets’

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early playoff elimination. Francis didn’t have the advantage of the area’s most experienced offensive line this time around. With junior center Brandon Thompson hobbled by injury early, the Hornets started five sophomores tackle-to-tackle.

Still, Francis finished with 251 carries for 2,100 yards, 19 pass receptions for 328 more and 32 touchdowns.

Sharp electrified Jaguar fans and opponents alike with his propensity for gravity-defying inside-out cuts and long touchdown sprints. In 16 games, he carried the ball 259 times for 2,375 yards, caught 26 passes for 432 more and returned 18 kicks 432 yards.

His touchdown total was 38 — 33 rushing, four receiving, one on a kick return.The final numbers were 303 total touches for 3,190 all-purpose yards.

The player, team and coach of the year honors were gimmes this season.

For the rest of the team, not all choices were cut and dried. To make them, we relied on the eye test of a battery of reporters who covered the 17 1-A, 2-A, 3-A and 4-A programs in The Herald-Sun readership area of Durham, Orange, Chatham, Person and Granville counties as well as interviews throughout the season with several area coaches familiar with players across classifications.

We took nominations and suggestions from coaches who named outstanding players on their own teams they felt convinced were All-Area caliber and players they’d seen in person or on tape from other programs who stood out to them.

It can be difficult to evaluate players at many positions — particularly on the offensive line and on defense — because in many cases statistics are not available for those players or are not kept consistently across programs when they are. In addition, top defenders can be limited in their numbers of tackles or interceptions simply because they are so good that offenses are geared to avoid them.

Likewise, many of the very best players in the area play the same position — running back — because the ground game is so important in high school football. Feeling that those players tend to be relegated to afterthought status in all-star teams like these simply because players like Trai Sharp and Khris Francis are so dominant, we are adding several of those players to this year’s team as “Athletes.”

As part of the selection process, we only considered players who had been voted to their own classifications’ all-conference teams by their league’s coaches. Every player who was named the outstanding player in his conference on offense or defense, or at his position, is included on the 2012 Herald-Sun All-Area Team.

At some positions — including quarterback — more than one player was named to the team. The team does not included second-team or honorable mention picks and, when it was unclear who was decisively better at a position, those players were all included.

Thus the first team quarterback goes to two players — Carrboro senior Alex McVeigh and Southern sophomore Kendall Hinton. McVeigh led his team deeper into the playoffs than any other area quarterback, while Hinton showed a cannon of an arm and showed promise as the top area quarterback for the next two years.

Hinton threw for 2,700 yards 28 touchdowns and ran for some 300 more. McVeigh took a back seat to Sharp and 1,398 receiving yards by Marlin Johnson, but stepped up with a 100-yard rushing night in the 2-AA title game and finished the year passing for 2,480 yards and 23 touchdowns. He also ran 81 times for 522 yards and five scores.

Johnson had the most productive year of all area receivers and is joined on this year’s team by a pair of other juniors, Southern’s Maurice Trowell and Hillside’s Trevion Thompson.

Trowell was Hinton’s deep target, catching almost 1,000 yards worth of passes. Thompson, who wears defensive backs like a second jersey, is one of the nation’s most sought-after high school recruiting targets.

At tight end, Javien Knight is alone among area talents. A frequent pass target who took much of the pressure off Thompson, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Knight was such an excellent blocker that he was named the PAC-6 4-A offensive lineman of the year.

Joining Francis and Sharp in the backfield is Jalen Pittman, the Orange High senior who’s running took the Panthers to the East Region 3-A championship game.

Offensive linemen picks encompass guards, centers and tackles. They include, in no particular order Jalen Peterkin of Southern, Scott Peretin and Ezavian Dunn of Carrboro, Brandon Thompson of Hillside, Gilbert Hannah of Northern and Logan Tisch of Chapel Hill.

On defense, the tackles and ends are Khalon Howard of Hillside, Miles Braswell-Sample and Kourtney Farrow of Northern, Chris Alston of East Chapel Hill, Dominique McCulley of Orange and Taz Strudwick of South Granville.

Linebackers are Dwight Campbell of Hillside, Jourden Blackmon of Northwood, Jamal Pittman of Orange and Justin Shaw of Northern. Pittman joins his brother as the only two siblings on the team.

At defensive back are Korrin Wiggins of Hillside, Shamek Dolby of Carrboro, Rodney Shepard of Northern, Alex Duncan of Chapel Hill and Owen Lucas III of Southern.

Athletes are Darius Allen of Chapel Hill, Joseph Downey of Person and Darius Smiley of Riverside.

The top kicker and punter, respectively, are Mike McPeak of Carrboro and Caleb Stocking of Northern.

2012 HERALD-SUN ALL-AREA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM

Co-Players of the Year

Trai Sharp, RB, Carrboro

Khris Francis, RB, Hillside

Coach of the Year

Jason Tudryn, Carrboro

Team of the Year

Carrboro

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Alex McVeigh, Carrboro, and Kendall Hinton, Southern.

Running back — Trai Sharp, Carrboro; Khris Francis, Hillside; Jalen Pittman, Orange.

Receivers — Marlin Johnson, Carrboro; Maurice Trowell, Southern; Trevion Thompson, Hillside.

Offensive line — Jalen Peterkin, Southern; Scott Peretin, Carrboro; Taz Strudwick, South Granville; Ezavian Dunn, Carrboro; Brandon Thompson, Hillside; Gilbert Hannah, Northern; Logan Tisch, Chapel Hill.

Tight end — Javien Knight, Hillside.

DEFENSE

Defensive line — Khalon Howard, Hillside; Miles Braswell-Sample, Northern; Kourtney Farrow, Northern; Chris Alston, East Chapel Hill; Dominique McCulley, Orange; Taz Strudwick, South Granville.

Linebacker — Dwight Campbell, Hillside; Jourden Blackmon, Northwood; Jamal Pittman, Orange; Justin Shaw, Northern.

Defensive back — Korrin Wiggins, Hillside; Shamek Dolby, Carrboro; Rodney Shepard, Northern; Alex Duncan, Chapel Hill; Owen Lucas III, Southern.

SPECIALISTS

Placekicker — Mike McPeak, Carrboro.

Punter — Caleb Stocking, Northern.

Athlete — Joseph Downey, Person; Darius Smiley, Riverside; Darius Allen, Chapel Hill.