The Daily Leader’s 2023 All-Area Football: Defensive Team

Published 4:42 pm Sunday, January 7, 2024

Korbin Ashmore, Wesson

Every opposing offensive coordinator of the Wesson Cobras (8-2) in 2023 knew all about the game of Ashmore, a standout senior defensive lineman. A MAC 3A All-State selection and repeat All-Area pick, Ashmore made 61 tackles for coach Jeremy Loy and his staff. He led the Cobras with 18 tackles for a loss as the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Ashmore could play as a tackle or end and he currently holds offers from Mississippi Gulf Coast and Copiah-Lincoln CC.

Brandon Burt, Loyd Star

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There were few times over the last three years when Burt wasn’t on the field as a rush-end for the Loyd Star Hornet (8-2) defense. A repeat All-Area selection, Burt led the Loyd Star defense with 114 total tackles in 2023. Burt made five tackles for a loss and had a team best seven sacks while also grabbing an interception for coach Adam Smith to earn All-Region honors.

Devontavious Drummond, Brookhaven High

The Brookhaven High defensive line was a standout unit through the back end of the Panther’s (7-5) schedule and the play of Drummond, a junior, was a major factor in that. The 6-foot-3 Drummond had 41 total tackles, 11 which went for a loss. An All-Region selection for coach Tucker Peavey, he also had six sacks, five quarterback hurries, and caused two fumbles.

Gaylon Gayten, Brookhaven High

Scan down the Brookhaven High Panther (7-5) defensive line and your eye will quickly find Gayten, a junior end. At 6-foot-6, 225-pounds, no. 99 stands out in size alone. Gayten made 50 tackles in 2023 for coach Tucker Peavey. He used his size and speed to make 12 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and five quarterback hurries. A player who’ll be popular on the camp circuit this summer, Gayten recovered a fumble and caused a fumble this season while being named All-Region and MAC 5A All-State.

Marshall Hart, Bogue Chitto

Another of those Bogue Chitto, two-way linemen that rarely ever come off the field, Hart was an anchor at defensive tackle for the Bobcats (5-5). An All-Region selection, Hart made 65 tackles and was in on 12 tackles for a loss. A standout on the offensive line, Hart was in on one sack, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble for coach Gareth Sartin.

Jackson Porter, Brookhaven Academy

A 6-foot-4 defensive lineman and repeat All-Area selection, Porter was again a cornerstone up front for the Cougars (2-8). One of the leading tacklers on the team and a starter on the offensive line, Porter didn’t often come off the field for first year BA football coach Reggie Lea. An All-District selection, Porter weighs 305 and was picked for the All-Area team as a sophomore, junior and senior.

Ryan Purdy, West Lincoln

A long-limbed senior defensive end on the West Lincoln Bear (2-8) defense, Purdy was a leader in 2023 for the green and white. Purdy put up 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and had five hurries. Purdy was named First Team All-Region 7-2A for coach Brad Bland and the West Lincoln staff.

Kenyon Vanison, Lawrence County

Lawrence County (7-6) has to have strength up front as they play in a physical MHSAA 4A region and senior defensive end Vanison was a big part of that formula in 2023. At 5-foot-10, 200-pounds, Vanison made 50 tackles, including six tackles for a loss for coach Jesse Anderosn. He was also in on 4.5 sacks, had one interception, had one forced fumble and one recovered fumble.

Eric Williams, Brookhaven High

The interior of the defensive line in MHSAA 5A football is no place for the weak and Williams, a senior tackle, is the type of gap plugger that can get the job done for the Panthers (7-5). A powerlifter in the offseason, Williams stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 225 pounds. He made 37 total tackles, had three tackles for a loss, had four quarterback hurries and six sacks while earning All-Region honors for coach Tucker Peavey.

Zack Cotton, Loyd Star

One of the first-year starters who stepped up in a big way for Loyd Star (10-2) in 2023, Cotton, a junior linebacker, finished second on the team in tackles. He made 103 stops, had two sacks, broke up three passes and recovered three fumbles while showing a willingness to take on bigger ball carriers with no fear. Cotton earned All-Region honors for coach Adam Smith.

Payton Kyzar, Enterprise

A rangy, junior linebacker, Kyzar patrolled the second level of the Enterprise (4-6) defense and led the team in tackles in a breakout 2023 season. Kyzar was in on 75 tackles, including seven tackles for a loss. Kyzar also broke up one pass and scored three times on the ground while rushing for 226 yards as a running back for coach Trey Woodard.

Nate Lewis, Brookhaven High

The Brookhaven High (7-5) defense would not have been the unit it was in 2023 without the outstanding play and leadership of senior linebacker Lewis. A muscular 5-foot-9, 185-pound hard-hitter, Lewis led the Panthers with 114 tackles in 2023. Lewis got better as the season went on as he had 15 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, four hurries, one pass broken up, three fumbles forced, one fumble recovered, and one kick blocked. The dude has that dog in him and was named All-Region for coach Tucker Peavey along with being tabbed for the MAC 5A All-State Team.

Ken May, Bogue Chitto

A player who’s had to battle through injuries throughout his career, May had a memorable senior season as a linebacker for the Bobcats (5-5). May led Bogue Chitto with 101 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and one sack. He also caused a fumble and recovered a fumble and scored three times on offense as a running back. An All-Region selection, May made the All-Area Team last season for coach Gareth Sartin after having a major knee injury in his sophomore season.

Hunter Meredith, Wesson

A guy who’s pushed himself to be better in the offseason lifting and running program, Meredith stepped up into an increased role as a junior linebacker for the Cobras (8-2). He finished second on the team with 91 tackles for coach Jeremy Loy. An All-Region selection and the latest Wesson linebacker to wear No. 42, Meredith broke up a pass and recovered a fumble while making nine tackles for a loss.

Kenan Quinn, Brookhaven High

A senior who stepped up and showed he’d fly to the ball as a linebacker this season, Quinn was an important player on the edge of the Brookhaven High (7-5) defense. An All-Region selection, Quinn made 89 tackles, five tackles for a loss, five sacks, two hurries, made an interception and forced a fumble while also scoring once on defense for coach Tucker Peavey and a BHS team that finished as runners-up in its 5A region.

Cotton Westbrook, Wesson

Just as he was last season while starting for the first time, Westbrook, a junior, was a ball-hawking linebacker for the Wesson Cobras (8-2) in 2023. He led the team with 100 total tackles which included 11.5 tackles for a loss. An All-Region selection and repeat All-Area pick, he made 2.5 sacks while breaking up a pass, causing a fumble and recovering a fumble for coach Jeremy Loy.

Jazerrius Walker, Lawrence County

The Lawrence County defense faced a varied number of offenses in 2023 and the Cougars (7-6) defenders were led by senior linebacker Walker in making those week-to-week adjustments. Walker led Lawrence County with 94 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception in helping lead coach Jesse Anderson and the Cougars to the third round of the MHSAA 4A playoffs.

Kaleb Chase, Wesson

One of only two seniors on the squad, versatile defender Kaleb Chase was one of the emotional leaders in 2023 for the Wesson Cobras (8-2). The versatile Chase could be moved all around the field by coach Jeremy Loy and his staff. He made 51 tackles for the Cobras while breaking up two passes. On offense, Chase caught 19 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns while earning All-Region honors.

Cooper Creel, Loyd Star

There were several times throughout the course of the season where Loyd Star (10-2) got a boost on defense thanks to the play of sophomore defensive back Creel. An All-Region selection, he led the Hornets with three interceptions and six passes broken up. He also made 56 tackles for coach Adam Smith. Creel was an All-Area selection last year in soccer for Loyd Star.

Dequan Fox, Brookhaven High

A player who was at his best as a senior in 2023 for Brookhaven High, Fox was a captain on the back end of the Panther defense. A 5-foot-11, 185-pound defensive back, Fox earned All-Region honors by making 28 tackles and breaking up 12 passes this season. He also had one interception and recovered two fumbles for coach Tucker Peavey.

Tyler Hall, West Lincoln

The unquestioned heart and soul of West Lincoln (2-8) football was Hall, a senior defensive back. Hall made 43 tackles and had two tackles for a loss. An All-Region selection for coach Brad Bland, Hall broke up six passes, snagged two interceptions, forced a fumble and blocked two kicks in 2023 while playing with great effort. On offense, he rushed for 255 yards, tops on the team.

Cooper Strickland, Brookhaven Academy

Brookhaven Academy had plenty of guys going both ways in 2023, but few came off the field less than senior defensive back Cooper Strickland. A roving safety who went wherever his coaches sent him, Strickland was also one of the top receivers on the team. An All-District selection, Strickland was also a strong kicker and punter for first year coach Reggie Lea.