Last week, this column named the “Keep Pounding” all-county defensive football selections, and this week it’s the offense’s turn.
The 2019 season has been an odd one for offense. Points are still being scored, but no quarterback had more than 700 passing yards during regular season play and no running back more than 1,000 yards rushing.
This season has been about deep positional groups and rotation of positions as the county’s best skill-position players have seen time at multiple spots.
That kind of flexibility in sports is common, which leads me to rethink how this column sorts its all-county lists. In the past, I’ve always stuck to traditional positions, such as naming a starting quarterback, running back, receiver, etc.
However, this has led to shifting players who may not play a certain position just so they can fit on the list. This seems counter-intuitive, so next year, “Keep Pounding” all-county lists for all sports will likely not be position-based. In football, for instance, it will simply be the best 11 offensive and 11 best defensive payers in the county.
This year, it’s the 11 best position-based offensive players and the best kicker from the three county schools – Croatan (9-2 overall), West Carteret (4-7) and East Carteret (3-8).
Selections were made based on a combination of individual statistics, strength of competition, team success and sportsmanship.
As a note on statistics, Croatan is that only team that has updated its seasonal numbers on MaxPreps.com. The News-Times has compiled statistics for all games save for two road contests for East and one for West.
Without any further ado, here is the 2019 “Keep Pounding” all-county offensive team: quarterback Jacob Nelson of East, running backs Colton Sullivan of Croatan and Camden Ballou of West, receivers C.J. Rocci of West and Qualik Nolon of East, H-back/Z receiver Adam McIntosh, and linemen Cameron Barnett, Matt Felipe and Cameron Boone of Croatan, Frank Eastman of West and Mike Smith of East. The kicker is Aidan Kimbrell of Croatan.
Below is a brief breakdown of why each player was selected:
All three county teams have seen changes made to the quarterback spot, so the selection here was hard. Nelson, the starter at East since Oct. 11, is only a freshman but has already had a huge impact as a Mariner. This season, he has 484 passing yards and 265 rushing for 749 total, as well as eight total touchdowns.
Unlike signal-caller, the top running back spot on this list was not a difficult decision. Sullivan has been a very effective runner this year, averaging 7.1 yards per carry with 140 for 990 yards and 16 touchdowns. The junior is two scores away from matching the program-best 18 touchdowns scored by Sam Nay in 2015. Sullivan also has one catch for a 32-yard touchdown.
The second running back spot was less clear-cut, but the nod went to Ballou for the senior’s tough running behind an offensive line that struggled at times to make holes. The 5-11, 205-pound senior runs strong and has 713 yards this season with nine touchdowns on 132 carries for a 5.4-yard average.
Rocci is listed here as a receiver, and he does indeed lead the Patriots in receiving yards with 459, but the fact is the junior is asked to do much more for his team. The 5-10, 170-pounder also has 364 rushing yards for 823 total with 10 total touchdowns. He is also the team’s kicker.
Like the other skill-position players on this list, Nolon is versatile and used at a variety of positions for East. The 5-10, 185-pound junior has 299 receiving yards and 249 rushing for 548 total, as well as
There were three offensive players that could have fit at H-back/Z receiver, but McIntosh got the nod because he can literally do anything that could be asked of an offensive player. The 6-0, 180-pound sophomore has 424 rushing yards, 442 passing and 21 receiving yards for 887 total, in addition to scoring seven touchdowns.
Offensive linemen don’t typically have individual statistics, leaving the offense’s overall production as the best signpost for success. If that’s the case, Croatan’s three interior offensive linemen – the 5-9, 195-pound Barnett, 6-1, 260-pound Felipe and 5-11, 308-pound Boone – certainly fit the bill. The Cougars are averaging a county-high 265.2 rushing yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry. Croatan runners have combined for 2,917 yards and 45 touchdowns behind the road-grading line.
West’s offensive identity evolved over the duration of the season, but Eastman remained the most consistent throughout. The 6-1, 250-pound junior helped the Patriots put up 1,305 rushing yards, an average of 118.7 per game. He also helped protect for 85.6 passing yards per game.
This season has been a preview for the East football talent that will develop and return next year stronger, and Smith is part of that group. The 5-11, 205-pound lineman has helped protect a rotating backfield, aiding in the 938 rushing yards put up by McIntosh, Nolon and Nelson.
At kicker, Kimbrell has seen the most action of the county teams with 19 point-after attempts and five field goal attempts. The junior has converted 17 of his PAT attempts and three of his field goals, his longest being a 28-yarder against White Oak.
(Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)