**This is the Third of a Four-Part Series of Season-End Awards**
As we look back on another marvelous football season in the Valley, there’s no question there are a few athletes we couldn’t have done it without, including our award winners below.
This article is the Third in a three part series of awards that will be released throughout this week as we transition from the gridiron to the hardwood. These players have exemplified what it means to be an elite player from the Valley, and although these awards are completely fan-voted, we as a staff felt the represented the region on and off the field just as much.
Our Individual Position and Team-based awards will release on Tuesday and Wednesday along with our staff picks on Thursday. But for now, we’ll release our winners for the Squad Award, the Game of the Year, and the Team of the Year.
The ‘Squad’ Award
Best Position Group of the Year
And The Winner Is…
Headed by 2A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year Alex Kirkendoll, the Linebacker corp for Marion County has been deadly for most as they allowed double digit scoring totals only three times in the regular season and securing an average scoring margin of 28 points throughout their Runner-Up journey. Backed with Hunter McClain and several others, this linebackers corp was probably the best in Class 2A and one of the top position groups in the entire state. It’s easy to see why defenses had such a hard time running, and even passing, the ball against Marion County
And Your Runner-Up Is…
With another Mr. Football Finalist in the helm for this group in the form Hunter Davenport, they’ve cripple many rushing attacks and left them out to dry. And when you start out the season holding down South Pittsburg’s rushing attack, you’ve done something special. Their claim to fame, though, has been the improvement of their pass defense as Davenport pulled in 3 interceptions on the year. Also, their threat in the backfield was something to be noticed as Kyle Cates accounted for five and a half sacks and the corp as a whole got to quarterback a total of 10 times. And that was enough to land them a spot in the semifinals next to State Champion Alcoa.
Game of the Year Award
The Absolutely Finest Matchup of the Season
And Your Winner Is…
South Pittsburg vs. Marion County
‘The State’s Most-Storied Rivalry’
Pirates 24, Warriors 17
In a game that was close throughout, the Warriors tied it up late with a minute left in the game on a Houston McElroy point after. What ensued after was simply the stuff of legends. The Pirates, after not claiming a win since 2013 in the rivalry, got the ball on their own 45 and used star wide receiver Cade Kennemore to their advantage. With a 35-yard touchdown from Hogan Holland to Kennemore with 11 seconds to go, they effectively ended the game with a dagger to the end zone. The Warriors would gat a play from scrimmage, but that would be all she wrote in 2016 for the State Most Storied Rivalry.
And Your Runner-Up Is…
Sequatchie County vs. Bledsoe County
‘The Battle for the Stump’
Indians 15, Warriors 12
For a rivalry that has been closer than most over the year, 2016 was slated to be completely lopsided in the Indians favor as they came in undefeated and with a three-game win streak in the rivalry. But for Bledsoe County, as the underdog does in mosty games in the series, found a way to keep close and pressured the Indians late. Early in the fourth, Bledsoe County took the lead on a 5-yard Joseph Gore touchdown, 12-8. It was Austin Stevens, with around four and a half minutes left, who dipped in for a two-yard rush putting the nail in a tight coffin. It was just the latest in close matchups between the Indians and Warriors, and there are sure to be many more in the future.
Team of the Year Award
And Your Winner Is…
The ‘Way-Up’ Warriors
During a season that ended in Cookeville with a loss to Trezevant, the Warriors have shown that they are the undisputed, best team in the Valley. Solid on both sides of the ball, the only two losses they experienced were to the State Champion Bears in the Title game and to the South Pittsburg Pirates that made a Class 1A semifinal run of their own. Backed by Mr. Football Lineman of the Year Alex Kirkendoll and ran by first-year head coach Joey Mathis, the Warriors plowed through opponent after opponent, averaging a score of 41-13 through the season scoring 5 or more touchdowns in 11 of their 15 games. This Warriors squad was truly one of the best in the State and definitely the best in the Valley, but as we know, the Pirate fans might have something to say about that.
And Your Runner-Up Is…
A Tornado-Beaten Warpath
The Indians won a school record of 13 games this season before falling to eventual state champion Alcoa in the semifinals. That alone should tell you the kind of season the Indians had, going undefeated right up until the final whistle. They took down rival Bledsoe County midway through the season before beating the four teams they lost to in 2015, which included Dekalb County, Warren County, and Upperman followed by Notre Dame in the second round of the playoffs. The Indians kept an average scoring margin of 19 points, only allowing more than 20 points in three games, including the loss to Alcoa. With Hunter Davenport playing two ways and Ethan Barker with signal-calling duties, the Indians had a lot of success in both the passing and rushing facets of the game, giving one of the most storied season in school history.
And Your Second Runner-Up Is…
The Tiger Town Triumph
In Tracy Malone’s first year at Whitwell, he’s developed quite a resume for next year’s squad. With a schedule that consisted of four AP-ranked teams throughout the season, including the Bulldogs of Columbia Academy that they tangoed with twice and held a lead over late, the Tigers have a lot to build on next year with a young squad at the helm this past season. That inexperience made their run even more impressive as the Tigers went to the second round for the second straight year and were on the verge of going to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1991. Malone has done an excellent job pulling together a program that’s not used to much success. With Trace Condra pounding away this past season, the Tigers made known their threat through a pistol offense that threw many for a loop. Either way, the Tiger’s run was nothing short of successful in year number one for Malone.