GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With an offense built around a rugged ground game for the early part of the 2016 season, Clay High football’s go-to guy was not always the guy carrying the ball, but the guy …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With an offense built around a rugged ground game for the early part of the 2016 season, Clay High football’s go-to guy was not always the guy carrying the ball, but the guy in front of the guy carrying the ball.
Senior offensive lineman Jarrod Leeds, primarily a left guard, but with a unique quickness going left to right on Clay’s power plunges on the right side, has been the integral cog in a five-man battering ram in front of the likes of Colin Wilson, Cedrick Brown, Marcus Jones and Jaylan Jenkins for most of the season, while newby quarterback Caleb Eason was able to pass his way to three of four playoff wins. Eason probably felt little tension in the passing pocket because of his Secret Service detail of which Leeds was the head honcho.
Because of his leadership in the trenches and his longstanding level of excellence over four years as a Blue Devil, Leeds has been selected as the Clay Today Offensive Player of the Year.
“Actions speak louder than words and that was definitely the case with Jarrod,” said Clay High coach Joshua Hoekstra. “He truly led by example in the off season and it paid off for him. I know how excited his family and the Clay High Football family is that Jarrod will be enrolling in January at Georgia Southern University.”
Now, the traditional sense of a player of the year award, as the college Heisman Trophy is one, is annually awarded to a guy with a fistful of yardage, touchdown or catches. Leeds’ power up front provided the most widely networked array of offensive weaponry in recent Clay High football lore.
For 2016, the Clay offensive numbers gradually improved with each week with the first five games netting 893 rushing yards, the second five games netting 1,413 and the final four games, against playoff team defenses, netting 974 yards. Touchdown production on the run went from 21 scores for the 10 regular season games and 17 for four playoff games.
Passing numbers reflect the same numbers; first five games seeing 677 yards, second five games seeing just 504 as Clay was still pinpointing use of the pass with Eason now in place, and, finally, in four playoff games, seeing 806 passing yards.
Leeds is set to attend Georgia Southern University in January after heading off a Clay playoff run that ended in the Class 5A state semifinal with a 52-42 loss to Ponte Vedra High School.
The rest of the Clay Today All County First Team includes an equally impressive array of firepower led by running backs KeShawn King, a sophomore tailback for Oakleaf High that powered for six 100-plus rush games en route to a 1,351 yards with 16 scores. King exploded in his first year as a varsity player with a 321 yard game against a highly-touted Fleming Island High defense that registered two shutouts. King also caught 18 passes with two touchdowns.
Next to King, Middleburg High senior Robert Lowder was a strength runner for the surprising Broncos who made their first region playoff in 13 years behind Lowder’s 920 rush yards and 10 touchdowns. Much of Lowder’s yardage came after initial contact at the line of scrimmage and with him being the focal point of coach Karl Smeltzer’s offensive scheme.
At the quarterback slot, Oakleaf High senior Jordan Johnson returns as a Clay Today First Teamer despite a second non-playoff season due mainly to key losses to district foes. Johnson maintained his level of excellence; 1,813 yards passing for 18 touchdowns and just seven interceptions while scoring three times on the run.
For the receivers; Johnson’s main target, senior Rontrez Morgan was highly-touted as the best pass catcher coming back to Clay County and he proved it true with 40 catches and eight scores; 11 against district champion Gainesville Buchholz. Morgan averaged an impressive 70 yards per game with near-18 yards per reception keeping defense eyes on him at all time. Morgan also was a dynamic kick returner for the Knights with a 30 yard average on kickoffs with an 83 yarder against Fleming Island and two 50-yarders against Class 5A state finalist Ponte Vedra High School.
For the other side of the field, Ridgeview High’s Kiaran Turner was a lethal weapon for the 0-10 Panthers who had some glimpses of offensive excitement mainly from Turner’s 32 catches and two scores from quarterback Tyler Huff.
At tight end, Fleming Island’s Nick Ferendo established himself as a legit downfield weapon with 14 catches and two scores while also adding athleticism to the Golden Eagles’ defense as a defensive end. Ferendo made a few game changing catches that kept the Fleming Island offense on the field in tight situations.
On the offensive line, with Leeds the Player of Year selection, teammate Max Moore is a first teamer with Leeds with Middleburg strongman Bailey Barnard, Fleming Island’s Darius Gooden and Oakleaf’s Eric Rand filling out the top five selection in a county filled with strong, stout athletes up front.
For the utility position, a hybrid athlete that offered his team talent anywhere on the field, Clay High’s Jaylan Jenkins played quarterback, running back and wideout at different spots of the season and accumulated 1,738 offensive yards from 95 carries for 500 yards with three touchdowns, 55 pass completions with nine scores and 26 pass catches for 392 yards with three scores; three over 50 yards in Clay’s playoff run. Jenkins also exploded as a kick returner with 270 yards in the last five games including a 90 yarder in Clay’s region final win ove River Ridge as his position shifted from quarterback to wideout with kick returns.
Clay Today Offense All County First Team
QB: Jordan Johnson, senior, Oakleaf
RB: KeShawn King, sophomore, Oakleaf
RB: Robert Lowder, senior, Middleburg
WR: Rontrez Morgan, senior, Oakleaf
WR: Kiaran Turner, junior, Ridgeview
TE: Nick Ferendo, junior, Fleming Island
OL: Max Moore, senior, Clay
OL: Darius Gooden, junior, Fleming Island
OL: Devon Vatick, senior, Clay
OL: Bailey Barnard, senior, Middleburg
OL: Connor Jernigan, senior, Oakleaf
Utility: Jaylan Jenkins, senior, Clay
Clay Today Offense All County Second Team
QB: Tyler Huff, senior, Ridgeview (0-10), Passing: 110-218 for 1654 yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs; Also rushed 54 times for 279 yards and 5 TDs.
RB: Colin Wilson, senior, Clay, Regular season rushing: 803 yards on 104 carries, 7.7 avg, 8 tds, 5 receptions for 99 yds, 2 tds.
RB: Blake Sanders, junior, Keystone Heights: 184 rushes for 873 yards, 12 tds; 9 receptions for 158 yds
WR: Jakari Williams, junior, Oakleaf: 32 catches, 352 2TDs, 33 long. 11 per catch, 39 yards per game.
WR: Antwain Stone, senior, Middleburg: 28 catches, 296 yards.
TE: Derek Smith, senior, Clay: 6 catches, 119 yards, 3TDs
OL: Austin Slack, senior, Fleming Island
OL: Michael Dickinson, senior, Keystone Heights
OL: Jason Brooks, junior, Clay
OL: Tyler DeHart, senior, Orange Park
OL: Eric Rand, senior, Oakleaf
Utility: K.B. Ashe, senior, Fleming Island: 16 of 41 passes, 248 yds, 1 TD 1 INT; 56 rushes for 419 yds (7.5 avg), 5 TDs; Best game 261 yards vs. Oakleaf.
QB: Demarae Byrd, senior, Orange Park: 128 of 203 passes, 1813 yds., 14.2 yards per pass, 18TD, 7INT, long 83; also rushed 54 for 48 yards, 3TDs
RB: Anfernee McCaskill, junior, Fleming Island: 88 rushes for 579 yds (6.6 avg), 7 TDs, 9 rec 149 yds (16.6 avg)
RB: Darrell Vann, junior, Orange Park: 90 carries 580 yards 4 TDS
7 catches 85 yards
WR: Ajay Belanger, junior, Clay: 27 receptions for 531 yards, 19.7 avg, 9 touchdowns
WR: Jordan Bundy, senior, Orange Park: 21 catches 375 yards 4 TDS
TE: Austin Andrews, senior, Middleburg: Mainly a defensive end
OL: Kaleb Strength, junior, Middleburg
OL: Matt White, senior, Keystone Heights
OL: Matt Adams, senior, Clay
OL: Mitch Cuthbertson, senior, SJCDS
OL: Griffin Burrows, senior, Orange Park
Utility: Terron Allen, senior, Middleburg