Peoples named top defender

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Eleven Grayson and Galax players filled 16 total spots on the all-district football first teams.

By Craig Worrell, Sports Editor

There is never a bad year in which to earn all-district recognition. In some years though, the honor carries a little more weight.

For the Mountain Empire District, 2012 was one of those years.

The MED was arguably as strong this past season as it has ever been, as four of the six district teams entered league play with 4-1 records. Several games between the four contenders came down to the final minute. A fourth-down conversion here, an incomplete pass there, and any one of those four teams could have ended up with the district championship finally earned by Fort Chiswell.

Three MED teams won at least one playoff game each. Three of the top eight teams in the 16-team Division 2 playoff field were from the MED. Galax was a very dangerous 8-seed in the Division 1 bracket, a team that, if at full strength, could have given any team in the field all it could handle.

Twin County players filled 11 first-team spots on offense and five on defense, and several players picked up first-team honors at multiple positions, led by defensive player of the year Steven Peoples of Galax.

Peoples, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior defensive back, was chosen as the top defender in a district loaded with deserving candidates. Peoples was a half-point off of the team lead for tackles on the season with 61, he accounted for seven tackles for a loss, came down with three interceptions and he leveled ballcarrier after ballcarrier each week as one of the hardest hitters in the district.

Joining him on the first team defense were teammates Jesse Davis at end and Donte Peoples in the secondary. Davis was Galax’s top tackler on the year with 61.5, while Donte Peoples finished with 38.5 total tackles.

All-state as a junior, Jarel Smith of Grayson County didn’t slow down any as a senior and was again an easy pick on the defensive line, while teammate Jake Parnell repeated as a first-teamer at linebacker.

Galax and Grayson dominated the offensive balloting. Galax’s Chaz Sizemore and Grayson County’s Brett Phipps and Jordan Adams were first-team picks on the offensive line, paving the way for much of the success enjoyed by the top-tier skill players.

Both Donte Peoples and Steven Peoples were first-team runningbacks, combining for almost 3,000 yards and scoring a total of 51 touchdowns. Donte Peoples, a senior, would have flirted with the 2,000-yard plateau had he not missed nearly three full games with an ankle injury. As it was, the elder Peoples ran for 1,606 yards and scored 27 TDs in a little more than nine games. Steven Peoples added 1,390 yards and 24 total TDs in 12 games.

Max Rodgers repeated as first-team quarterback. The 6-4, 205-pound junior accounted for 2,310 yards and 30 touchdowns, completing 56 percent of his passes for 1,858 yards and 20 touchdowns against four interceptions, while running for 452 yards and 10 scores.

Rodgers’ top two targets were the top receivers in the district. Mikey Rodgers, a 6-2, 200-pound senior, achieved the rarity of surpassing 1,000 receiving yards, doing so on 54 catches. Spencer Roberts, a 5-6, 140-pound senior, had 36 catches for 625 yards.

Roberts also rushed for 574 yards on 89 carries to earn the utility player spot. Donte Peoples also picked up two first-team offense awards, voted the district’s top return specialist.

Grayson County’s Mario Ruiz nabbed the top spot in a league full of solid kickers after booting one field goal and 41 PATs.

Fort Chiswell runningback Daniel Hamm was the district’s offensive player of the year, and the Pioneer staff earned coach of the year honors.

Hunter Moore of Grayson County was a second-team pick on the offensive line, joined by runningback John Bilbrey, wideout James Williams and kick returner Spencer Roberts.

Picking up second-team honors on defense were Grayson defensive backs Roberts and Lucas Rudy, Bilbrey at linebacker, along with Galax linemen Chaz Sizemore and Ben Sanchez.

Honorable mention selections were Joseph Dixon, Caleb Spurlin, Zamir Echeagaray and Bryant Cox of Galax and Clay Anders, Hardin Halsey, Caleb Billings, Ray Cox and Dylan Morris of Grayson County.


2012 all-Mountain Empire District football team


First team offense

Tight end – Mark Large (5-11, 178, jr., Graham); line – Chaz Sizemore (6-1, 200, sr., Galax), Brett Phipps (6-4, 275, sr., Grayson County), Jordan Adams (5-11, 220, jr., Grayson County), Chase Asbury (5-11, 210, jr., Graham); center – Coleman Thomas (6-6, 295, jr., Fort Chiswell);

Runningback – Daniel Hamm (5-10, 180, sr., Fort Chiswell), Donte Peoples (5-7, 175, sr., Galax), Steven Peoples (5-10, 210, jr., Galax); wideout – Mikey Rodgers (6-2, 200, sr., Grayson County), Levi Mooney (5-11, 180, jr., Fort Chiswell), Spencer Roberts (5-6, 140, sr., Grayson County);  quarterback – Max Rodgers (6-4, 205, jr., Grayson County); 

Utility – Spencer Roberts (5-6, 140, sr., Grayson County), kick returner – Donte Peoples (5-7, 175, sr., Galax), kicker – Mario Ruiz (sr., Grayson County).


First team defense

End – Jesse Davis (6-0, 185, sr., Galax), Brennan Wheeler (6-0, 185, jr., Graham); tackle – Jarel Smith (5-8, 180, sr., Grayson County), James King (6-2, 290, sr., Fort Chiswell), Michael Thompson (5-10, 205, sr., Graham);

Linebacker – Coleman Thomas (6-6, 295, jr., Fort Chiswell), Hunter Cook (5-11, 155, jr., Graham), Jake Parnell (5-10, 170, sr., Grayson County), Steven Peoples (5-10, 210, jr., Galax); back – Donte Peoples (5-7, 175, sr., Galax), Daniel Hamm (5-10, 180, sr., Fort Chiswell), Desmond Perry (5-11, 175, sr., Fort Chiswell), Cody Hatfield (5-11, 170, sr., Graham);

Punter – Tyler Evans (sr., Narrows)

Offensive player of the year

Daniel Hamm, Fort Chiswell

Defensive player of the year

Steven Peoples, Galax

Coaching staff of the year

Fort Chiswell


Second team offense

Tight end – Lane Edmonds (jr., Fort Chiswell); line – John Griffith (sr., Bland County), Austin Widelo (jr., Fort Chiswell), Hunter Moore (sr., Grayson County); center – Daelan Calfee (jr., Graham);

Runningback – Cody Hatfield (sr., Graham), John Bilbrey (jr., Grayson County), Cory Vaughan (sr., Fort Chiswell); wideout – Chandler Burton (jr., Narrows), James Williams (jr., Grayson County), Chase Rathbone (jr., Fort Chiswell), Charlie Benefield (jr., Graham); quarterback – Brett Mabry (jr., Fort Chiswell);

Utility – Rodney Perdue (jr., Narrows); kick returner – Spencer Roberts (sr., Grayson County); kicker – Zayne Gregory (sr., Fort Chiswell).


Second team defense

End – Adam Carbaugh (jr., Fort Chiswell), Tyler Evans (sr., Narrows); tackle – Greg Pistory (sr., Fort Chiswell), Chaz Sizemore (sr., Galax), Ben Sanchez (soph., Galax);

Linebacker – Danny Stevers (sr., Narrows), T.J. Banks (sr., Fort Chiswell), John Bilbrey (jr., Grayson County), Jacob Evans (sr., Graham); back – Charlie Benefield (jr., Graham), Rodney Perdue (jr., Narrows), Spencer Roberts (sr., Grayson County), Lucas Rudy (sr., Grayson County);

Punter – Daniel Eversole (sr., Fort Chiswell).

Honorable mention

Bland County – Dylan Walker, Aaron Rose, Dakota Wright, Jacob Parker.

Fort Chiswell – Danny Eversole, Joe Stoneman, Jordan Crockett.

Galax – Joseph Dixon, Caleb Spurlin, Zamir Echeagaray, Bryant Cox.

Graham – Jarrod Richardson, Colin Beavers, Canaan Looney, Jacob Tibbs.

Grayson County – Clay Anders, Hardin Halsey, Caleb Billings, Ray Cox, Dylan Morris.

Narrows – Austin Liveley, Gage Munsey, Trevor Hart, Kelly Dent.