But the heartbeat of this team was a senior linebacker and receiver who made plays on both sides of the ball. John Kollie wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the middle of the field, and was certainly one of the toughest guys on the field on Friday nights.
For his standout season, Kollie was selected Wednesday as the captain of the annual Johnson City Press All-Tough Guy team.
Joining Kollie at the top of the annual team was the ATG coach of the year: Unicoi County’s Drew Rice. He guided his team to a consistent expression of not only physical toughness but mental toughness as well. The results led to the Blue Devils’ first playoff win in 33 years.
Here’s a look at this year’s ATG squad:
Kollie was the team’s second-leading tackler, but that only tells part of the story. When the big games came, Kollie was at his best. His battling spirit and determination were key parts of Crockett’s 12-1 season.
Not only was White the Blue Devils’ leading tackler, his triumph over adversity was impressive. The senior linebacker played the final three games of the season despite having a torn ACL. Perseverance personified.
Sometimes linemen go unnoticed, but the senior tackle was front and center for the thing the Indians did best. His brute-force blocking and physical toughness were two of the biggest reasons the Indians consistently moved the football on the ground.
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor playoff mud could keep Coffey from his appointed destinations. Coffey’s signature moments came in the postseason win over Midway, where the senior running back carried the mail 39 times and scored all five of his team’s touchdowns in a muddy mess on Roan Mountain.
Part of the tough-guy makeup is the mental toughness that goes hand in hand with the physical. The senior running back and defensive back shouldered the mental burden of needing to produce touchdowns while also gutting out the physical wear and tear of a both-sides-of-the-ball standout.
Standing 6-foot and weighing 176 pounds, the senior wasn’t the prototypical defensive end. However, the all-heart performer was second on the Cyclones in tackles, second in tackles for loss, and led the team with sacks — which are ATG-worthy results.
It takes a lot of physical determination to play linebacker and lead the team in every major defensive category. The senior went a step beyond when he took over midseason at quarterback, leading the team into the playoffs while continuing his standout play at linebacker.
The Hilltoppers’ plan to run the football turned more and more toward the junior running back as the season progressed. But as the tackles and hits increased, Thomas kept right on producing. He was one of the most physical runners in the area.
John Boy Ramsey
It was another hard season on Stoney Creek, but the senior quarterback battled through the challenges. He was still able to put up big numbers despite constant defensive attention and absorbing plenty of bone-jarring hits.
It was tough season physically for Nickles, but the gutsy senior was on a winning team. So he battled through hamstring and shoulder issues, finding gritty ways to make big plays from his linebacker position.
Sometimes a player has to carry his share of the burden. But this senior running back had to do his chores and then some, still standing at the end for a small-school team that took on a big-boy schedule.