Several Apalachee and Winder-Barrow football players earned recognition on the all-GHSA Region 8-AAAAAA team that was released last week, and two of them were among the top honorees.
Apalachee senior running back/defensive back Shaan Cook was named the region’s co-two-way player of the year, sharing the honor with Habersham Central wide receiver/defensive back Joshua Pickett, while Winder-Barrow junior defensive end Jacob Merrifield was the co-defensive lineman of the year, splitting the award with Gainesville’s Makius Scott.
Cook had a strong senior campaign for the Wildcats, rushing for 907 yards at 8.3 yards a carry and scoring 11 touchdowns on the ground. He also had 11 catches for 143 yards and three touchdown receptions for a team that went 3-7 on the year.
Senior offensive linemen Nate Hodnett and Jose Jean-Juste, senior linebacker Tyrik Sims (133 tackles in 10 games) and senior defensive back AJ Forbing (also the team’s starting quarterback) were Apalachee’s other all-region team selections.
Merrifield was a strong force up front for the Winder-Barrow defense, tallying 66 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and six sacks in the team’s nine regular-season games. Defensive stats for the Bulldoggs’ state playoff game at Harrison were not available.
Senior quarterback Jhaydon Sullivan, along with his favorite target, senior wide receiver Brett Landis were all-region selections on offense. Sullivan threw for 1,288 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions and added 705 rushing yards (4.8 per carry) and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Landis caught 47 passes for 790 yards and scored five touchdowns.
The Bulldoggs also had a trio of senior defensive players selected to the team — linebacker Nate Allen (99 tackles, five sacks in nine games), linebacker Carson Jackson (88 tackles) and defensive back Zack Price — while senior kicker/punter Harlin Brown made the team as well. Brown went 7-of-10 on field goal attempts with a long of 47 and made 27 of his 28 extra-point tries. He also averaged 42.4 yards a punt.
Each team had three players make honorable mention. Apalachee’s included senior linebacker Tyson Wilson, senior lineman Ethan Offutt and junior lineman Chase Hunter. Winder-Barrow’s included junior running back J.C. Green, junior linebacker/fullback Chandler Maxwell and senior offensive lineman Levi Vertrees.
Dacula senior quarterback Jarrett Jenkins was named the region’s player of the year after helping lead the Falcons to a 13-1 season, fourth straight region title and a spot in the state semifinals before they lost to eventual state champion Harrison.
Lanier had the region’s offensive and defensive players of the year (senior running back Taj Barnes and senior linebacker Phillip Webb). Gainesville junior quarterback/linebacker Gionni Williams was named the region’s athlete of the year, and Gainesville senior Jordan Williams was named the offensive lineman of the year.