MAC All-State football honors awarded to 12 local student-athletes

Published 2:19 pm Saturday, December 9, 2023

As the 2023 high school football season wrapped up last weekend in Oxford, the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) released its annual All-State Football team. The teams for each classification are voted on by coaches that are MAC members in that class. Here are the 12-area student-athletes that garnered individual honors from the MAC this season.

Korbin Ashmore, Wesson

MAC 3A 2nd Team All-State Defensive Lineman

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The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Ashmore led Wesson with 18 tackles for a loss. Ashmore was in on 61 total tackles for an 8-2 Wesson team coached by Jeremy Loy. A junior, he led the Cobras with four sacks and five quarterback hurries. A lineman on the offensive side of the ball too, Ashmore recovered two fumbles in 2023.

Kannon Cato, Lawrence County

MAC 4A 2nd Team All-State Kick Returner

The speedy Cato averaged 36.4 yards per kick return and had a long that went for 75 yards for coach Jesse Anderson and Lawerence County. Twice Cato returned kicks for touchdowns as LC made the third round of the 4A playoffs and finished with a 7-6 record. As a quarterback, he passed for four touchdowns and rushed for 1,267 yards and 24 scores during his senior season.

Gaylon Gayten, Brookhaven High

MAC 5A 2nd Team All-State Defensive End

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Gayten has found a home at defensive end for the Brookhaven High Panthers and coach Tucker Peavey. A junior, Gayten was in on 50 tackles this season and led Ole Brook with 10 sacks. He was also responsible for 12 tackles for a loss, five quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble for a BHS team that went 7-5 and made the second round of the 5A playoffs.

Xavier Gayten, Brookhaven High

MAC 5A 1st Team All-State Running Back

A Mississippi State commit, Gayten carried the ball 218 times for 2,055 yards this season as a senior. He averaged 9.4 yards per carry and scored 25 rushing touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown and twice ran kickoffs back for a score. Gayten ran for a season high 250 yards in a first round playoff win over Vancleave for coach Tucker Peavey and a BHS squad that went 7-5.

Ahmad Hardy, Lawrence County

MAC 4A 1st Team All-State Running Back

Hardy led the entire state of Mississippi with his 2,442 rushing yards in 2023 to cap his senior season. He scored 27 touchdowns on the ground for coach Jesse Anderson and a Lawrence County team that went 7-6 and lost in the 4A quarterfinals. A MAC Second Team selection as a junior, Hardy ran for a career high 400 yards in a 53-47 win against Sumrall.

O’Mari Johnson, Wesson

MAC 3A 1st Team All-State Free Safety

A sophomore who already holds offers from Arkansas, Florida State, LSU, MSU, Ole Miss and others. Johnson made 52 tackles in 2023 and grabbed four interceptions. His longest interception return went for 61 yards, and he also broke up six other passes. A repeat MAC All-State selection, Johnson did a little bit of everything as a running back, wide receiver and return man as he accounted for 1,759 combined yards of offense and a team best 25 touchdowns for coach Jeremy Loy and the 8-2 Cobras. 

Jordyn Kees, Loyd Star

MAC 2A 2nd Team All-State Running Back

In his first season directing the Loyd Star single-wing offense, Kees was dynamic with the ball in his hands, rushing for 2,100 yards and 30 touchdowns.

He averaged 6.9 yards per carry for coach Adam Smith and a Hornet team that went 10-2 and reached the second round of the MHSAA 2A playoffs. Kees ran for a season high 280 yards in a 39-34 win at 3A Franklin County.

Nathan Lewis, Brookhaven

MAC 5A 1st Team All-State Linebacker

The heartbeat of the Brookhaven High defense, Lewis made a team high 114 tackles in 2023. He led the way for Ole Brook with 15 tackles for a loss and registered seven tackles. The stocky 5-foot-9, 185-pound Lewis also had four quarterback hurries, forced three fumbles, recovered one fumble, and blocked a kick for coach Tucker Peavey and the 7-5 Panthers. He also rushed for 310 yards and four scores as a running back.

Andrew Merrell, Bogue Chitto

MAC 2A 2nd Team All-State Punter

A repeat All-State selection, Merrell averaged 37 yards per punt for a 5-5 Bogue Chitto squad in 2023. His long punt went for 45 yards, and he also made 37-of-45 PAT attempts this season as a senior. Merrell also made 26 tackles and broke up five passes as a defensive back for coach Gareth Sartin.

Markavion Owens, Lawrence County

MAC 4A 2nd Team All-State Fullback

The physical 5-foot-9, 210-pound Owens helped pave the way for a rushing attack that posted 4,858 yards in 2023. A senior, Owens carried the ball 139 times for 761 yards and four touchdowns as coach Jesse Anderson and the Cougars reached the quarterfinals of the MHSAA 4A playoffs and finished with a 7-6 record.

Easton Sartin, Bogue Chitto

MAC 2A 2nd Team All-State Running Back

The hard running Sartin bounced back from missing his junior season to a knee injury by rushing for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. The son of Bogue Chitto head football coach Gareth Sartin, he averaged 7.4 yards per carry. Easton Sartin also caught 10 passes, three of which went for a score. As a linebacker, he also made 96 tackles for a BC team that went 5-5.

Bryce Smith, Brookhaven

MAC 5A 2nd Team All-State Punter

Smith picked up his second MAC All-State honor after being named 1st Team punter as a sophomore and missing his junior season due to a knee injury suffered while punting. This season as a senior, he averaged 30.5 yards per punt and had a long that went for 48 yards. Smith also kicked a field goal, made 34 extra points and caught 10 passes as a tight end for a 7-5 BHS team that went to the second round of the 5A playoffs under head coach Tucker Peavey.