Player of the year—Malik Foreman, Dobyns-Bennett
Coach of the year—Shawn Witten, Elizabethton
Malik Foreman, Dobyns-Bennett , 5-11, 170, Sr., QB
Reed Hayes, Science Hil, 6-1, 185, Sr., QB
Devaun Swafford, Dobyns-Bennett, 5-11, 176, Sr., RB
Ethan Thomas, Elizabethton, 6-1, 190, So., RB
Cory Rowe, Sullivan North , 6-1, 190, Sr., QB
Trevor Gilliam, Dobyns-Bennett , 6-2, 250, Sr., DL
Adam Mitchell, Tennessee High , 6-3, 190, Jr., WR
Taylor Whitehead, Cloudland , 5-11, 170, Sr., RB
Will Adams, Science Hil, 5-10, 170, Sr., RB
Malik McGue, Science Hil, 5-6, 145, So., WR
Terrence Turner, Elizabethton , 5-10, 175, Sr., CB
Not only was Malik Foreman the best player in Northeast Tennessee this season, he was one of the best to have ever played in this area.
Dobyns-Bennett’s senior quarterback — who also played wide receiver, cornerback, and returned punts and kickoffs — was selected as the Johnson City Press Elite 11 player of the year Wednesday.
Foreman beat out Science Hill quarterback Reed Hayes for the honor, but the duo will forever be linked as key players in the regular season showdown where the Indians won 37-34.
The Hilltoppers and Indians dominated the Elite 11, putting three players each on the squad. D-B running back Devaun Swafford and defensive tackle Trevor Gilliam earned the honor along with Science Hill running back Will Adams and receiver Malik McGue.
Elizabethton placed two players on the team with sophomore running back Ethan Thomas and cornerback Terrence Turner.
Rounding out the squad were Cloudland running back Taylor Whitehead, Tennessee High receiver Adam Mitchell, and Sullivan North quarterback Cory Rowe.
Elizabethton’s Shawn Witten edged D-B’s Graham Clark, Science Hill’s Stacy Carter and Sullivan North’s Robbie Norris for coach of the year honors. Witten’s team got off to a 0-2 start before ripping off 11 straight wins and earning home-field advantage for Friday’s Class 3A state semifinal contest against Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Foreman, a 5-11, 170-pound senior who has committed to Vanderbilt, was a beast for the Indians this season. He finished the year with 1,270 yards rushing, 586 yards passing, and 278 yards receiving.
The speedster started the season at wide receiver, but moved under center after a Week 4 injury to Chris Cook. That’s when the odyssey began. D-B’s offense hit a gear never seen in school history, and the Tribe finished with a record 630 points — good enough for a top-10 finish in the history of Tennessee football.
Once Foreman moved to quarterback, he averaged 200 yards of offense per game.
Foreman was simply a touchdown machine. He had 17 rushing, nine passing, four receiving, two interception returns, two on punt returns, and one kickoff return for a combined total of 35. And his three kick return scores came on a total of just eight chances for the season.
If that wasn’t enough, Foreman was a lock-down defender. He broke up eight passes, had six interceptions, caused seven fumbles, and added five tackles for loss.
He led the Indians to a 12-0 start before their season ended with a Class 6A state quarterfinal loss to Maryville.
Hayes burst onto the scene this year, taking over at quarterback and becoming the first Science Hill player to wear jersey number 11 since it was retired for Steve Spurrier several decades ago. Hayes certainly did it proud, playing like a seasoned veteran in his first year as a varsity starter.
He totaled 2,321 yards passing with an sturdy 32 touchdown tosses. He also rushed for 751 yards and 11 scores, giving him 3,072 yards of total offense and 43 total touchdowns.
The 6-1, 185-pound senior guided Science Hill to a 9-0 start before it bowed out with a pair of gut-crunching losses.
As for Swafford, he was far from an afterthought behind Foreman. In fact, Swafford actually scored more touchdowns, finishing with 32 after a three-score performance in the state quarterfinal loss to Maryville.
The 5-11, 176-pound senior rushed for over 1,200 yards with 26 touchdowns. He caught four scoring passes, and returned two punts for touchdowns.
As a defensive back, Swafford totaled three interceptions.
As a freshman, Thomas was tagged with the “potential” label. He wasted no time in shedding that label and making it reality.
Going into Friday’s game, the 6-1, 190-pound sophomore has rushed for 1,899 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry.
Thomas has scored 16 touchdowns, including an 86-yard burst in the 41-38 quarterfinal win over Sullivan North. He has gained over 100 yards rushing in every game except one this season, and has helped the Cyclones to a record of 11-2.
For two years Sullivan North rarely lost a game, and Rowe was the big reason for it. He guided the Raiders to a record of 23-3 over that span.
This season, he totaled 1,743 yards of offense, including 1,171 on the ground. He accounted for 24 touchdowns (16 rushing and 8 passing), but his worth couldn’t be measured in numbers alone. Rowe ran the wing-T offense with a precision and touch that made the Raiders nearly impossible for a defense to successfully contain.
While Foreman and Swafford were the “go guys” for the Indians’ offense, Gilliam was a defensive beast. The 6-2, 250-pound senior drove offensive coordinators crazy by spending way too much time in opponents’ backfields.
Gilliam finished with 76 tackles, and more than doubled any Indians’ teammate with 16 tackles for loss. He added three quarterback sacks, three hurries and caused two fumbles.
At 6-3 and 190 pounds and athletic, Mitchell was a matchup problem for all defenses. By season’s end, his massive numbers told the story: 73 catches for 990 yards and 18 total touchdowns.
Mitchell helped the Vikings turn around a disappointing regular season with a strong playoff run to the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
Whitehead was about the business of scoring points, leading Northeast Tennessee with 161 during the regular season. The 5-11, 170-pound senior finished the year with 1,790 yards rushing to go along with 25 touchdowns.
He helped the Highlanders turn around a tough 2011 campaign by compiling a record of 8-4 and earning a trip to the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Adams and McGue combined to terrorize Science Hill opponents on both sides of the football all season. Adams, a 5-10, 170-pound senior, rushed for over 700 yards and scored 14 total touchdowns. On defense, he had over 50 tackles and picked off four passes.
McGue, a 5-6, 145-pound sophomore, reeled in 36 catches for 725 yards and ended up with 12 total touchdowns. He was a big-time threat as a kick returner, and on defense had three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Turner, a 5-10, 175-pound senior, started the season very slowly on the offensive side of the ball because of a nagging hamstring injury. In the first three games, he totaled only 125 yards rushing.
However, in the next nine games, Turner averaged 98 per game and has 1,004 yards rushing for the season. Also, he recorded 12 of his 13 touchdowns in that stretch.
But even when he wasn’t able to go full speed on offense, Turner was a fixture in Elizabethton’s secondary. He has provided the Cyclones with tough coverage, and made his presence felt as as a tackler — especially in the regular season win over Sullivan North. Turner has 40 tackles, one interception, two fumble recoveries, and eight passes broken up.