E.A. Sports Today

Player of the Year finalists

Piedmont’s Hayes, Alexander on Class 3A list; Hayes vying with Glencoe’s Ozmint for top back

Neonta Alexander (25) played both ways for Piedmont; he's a finalist for Class 3A Lineman of the Year for his play as a linebacker. On the cover, Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes (11) is a finalist for 3A Back of the Year.

Neonta Alexander (25) played both ways for Piedmont; he’s a finalist for Class 3A Lineman of the Year for his play as a linebacker. On the cover, Piedmont quarterback Taylor Hayes (11) is a finalist for 3A Back of the Year.

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

Piedmont junior quarterback Taylor Hayes and senior inside linebacker Neonta Alexander are the definition of team players.

They made the sacrifices football coach Steve Smith asked them to make throughout the 2015 football season. Those moves paid dividends as the Bulldogs (14-1) captured their second Class 3A state championship in six seasons with a resounding 44-7 victory over Bayside Academy on Dec. 3 in Tuscaloosa.

And now, they are both finalists on their respective sides of the ball for Class 3A Back and Lineman of the Year, the precursor to Mr. Football.

Hayes switched from his two-time all-state linebacker spot to the Bulldogs’ full-time starter at quarterback this season. He threw for 1,760 yards and 19 touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 1,560 yards and 18 scores.

Alexander played a range of offensive positions – from fullback, halfback, tight end and special teams. But his inside linebacker spot was the one in which he excelled.

The 6-foot-1, 215 pound Alexander led the Bulldog defense with 162 total tackles. He also registered three sacks.

Hayes’s competition in the 3A Back of the Year field is Glencoe senior all-purpose player Pace Ozmint and Colbert County senior running back Kearvae Qualls.

Ozmint ran for 692 yards and seven touchdowns on 83 carries. He also caught 19 passes for 451 yards and nine scores. Qualls carried the ball 264 times for 2,056 yards and 23 touchdowns this season for Colbert County.

Joining Alexander as finalists for the 3A Lineman of the Year award is Gordo senior linebacker Ben Davis and Madison Academy junior lineman Austin Troxell.

Davis, a 5-star recruit who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 235 pounds, posted 96 total tackles with a sack and an interception for the Green Wave (12-1).

Troxell, a 6-8, 300-pound four-star athlete, was a dominating run blocker this season for the Mustangs (11-2). He also played on the defensive line, where he registered 45 tackles, including three for lost yardage, before missing the final two and a half games — including a playoff loss to Piedmont — with an ACL tear.

The winners will be announced Jan. 13 in Montgomery.

Here are the finalists:

BACK: Kyriq McDonald, James Clemens; La’Mical Perine, Theodore; Henry Ruggs III, Lee-Montgomery.

LINEMAN: Carlton Martial, McGill-Toolen; Walter Pritchett, Central-Phenix City; Labryan Ray, James Clemens.

BACK: Tyler Johnston, Spanish Fort; Ty Pigrome, Clay-Chalkville; T.J. Simmons, Clay-Chalkville.

LINEMAN: Deonte Brown, Austin; Thomas Johnston, Spanish Fort; Lyndell Wilson, Carver-Montgomery.

BACK: Jordan Bentley, Guntersville; Ostin McPherson, St. Paul’s; Demarcus Williams, Jackson.

LINEMAN: Marlon Davidson, Greenville; Darius Whitfield, St. Paul’s; Quinnen Williams, Wenonah.

BACK: Noah Ard, Cordova; Kaleb Barker, Priceville; Tre’ Nation, Leeds.

LINEMAN: Sterling Jones, St. James; Dee Nalls, Fayette Co.; Josephus Smith, Leeds.

BACK: Taylor Hayes, Piedmont; Pace Ozmint, Glencoe; Kearvae Qualls, Colbert Co.

LINEMAN: Neonta Alexander, Piedmont; Ben Davis, Gordo; Austin Troxell, Madison Acad.

BACK: Peyton Gilliland, Cleveland; Dilan Kilpatrick, Fyffe; Chadarius Townsend, Tanner,

LINEMAN: Blaine Hudson, Elba; Ethan Jones, Fyffe; Austin Lewter, Tanner.

BACK: Terrance Dunlap, Maplesville; Tommy Spivey, Brantley; Grayson Wakefield, Decatur Heritage.

LINEMAN: Cameron Longmire, Georgiana; Tanner Swinney, Hackleburg; Devan Wallace, Maplesville.

BACK: Kris Brown, Escambia Acad.; Nathan Rourke, Edgewood Acad.; Jackson Tate, Edgewood Acad.

LINEMAN: Trey Carter, Monroe Acad.; Steven Stuntz, Springwood School; Mike Williams, Bessemer Acad.

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