By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Quitman High School followed up the best season in school history with an even better one and the Panthers were rewarded on the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-State team.
Four Panthers were named to the Class 4A first team by the coaches, joined there by West Lauderdale linebacker Jarkeith Ruffin.
While Ruffin was the lone Knight honored, Quitman went 13-2, recording the most wins in school history and reaching the South State championship game for the second straight season – last year's berth was the first time the Panthers advanced that deep in the postseason. That success led to a pair of offensive players and a pair of defenders earning first-team honors, led by offensive linemen Lance Lyon and Chris Berry. Lyon, a senior, is a guard, while Berry, also a senior, is a center and has also been selected to the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game.
They were matched on the defensive side by junior defensive tackle Eris Spencer and junior safety Tavarious Moore. Moore was second on the team with 78 tackles, also picking off four passes. Spencer, meanwhile, had 57 tackles and three sacks.
Quitman also placed junior tight end Kyle Colston on the second team after Colston hauled in 12 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. Noticeably absent, though, from the Quitman contingent was star quarterback Franklin Jones. The senior signal-caller threw for 1,441 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 1,790 more with 29 touchdowns.
Meridian High also had multiple selections, led by Class 6A first-team safety C.J. Hampton. The junior, who committed to Ole Miss prior to the season, had 48 tackles and three interceptions for the Wildcats, who made the first round of the playoffs. Meridian also had two second-team selections on offense in junior tight end Corey Davis and senior offensive lineman JaQarius Scott. Davis had 30 receptions for 323 yards and two touchdowns, while Scott recorded 14 pancake blocks.
In Class 5A, Neshoba Central was unable to make the playoffs for the second straight season, however the Rockets still placed four players on the All-State team, two on first team and two on second team. Making the first team for Neshoba was junior defensive end Ken Edwards, following an 86-tackles, four-sack campaign; and junior punter Matthew Turcotte, who averaged 42.45 yards on 49 punts, downing 15 inside the opponents' 20. The Rockets placed two more on the second team in linebacker Thomas McCool and safety Shundrick Russell. McCool, a senior, racked up 139 tackles, getting double digits in each of the Rockets' first nine games. He also had two sacks and two interceptions. Russell, also a senior, had 82 tackles and four sacks.
Philadelphia's undefeated regular season and return trip to the third round of the Class 3A playoffs netted three selections, headed by first-team cornerback Anthony Triplett. The senior had 11 interceptions, returning four for touchdowns, recovered two fumbles and had 40 tackles. Senior safety Kaleb Moore was a second-team selection with 89 tackles, including three games with 12, three sacks, four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. The Tornadoes' offense had senior guard Doug Taylor selected on the second team.
Repeating as Division 5-2A champions, Union had two players honored on the Class 2A team, both selected to the first team. Tackle Jon Parker was selected on the offense and Jessie Gill, who dazzled as the Yellowjackets' quarterback as well, was honored for his work at safety.
In the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, both Lamar and Russell Christian had a pair of second-team selections on the all-classification all-state team. Lamar, which was edged in the second round of the playoffs by Brookhaven Academy, had offensive lineman Brett Stewart and running back Corey Skinner, both seniors, honored. Skinner rushed for more than 1,600 yards with the bulk of those coming behind Stewart.
The Warriors, who won the MAIS 8-man state title, had defensive back John Epps and kicker Jacob Stephens selected. Epps, a senior, had four interceptions, 4.5 sacks and 62 tackles. Stephens, meanwhile, hit 66 extra points and a field goal in scoring 77 points for Russell in the wild world of 8-man football where two-point attempts are the norm.