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

Published 5:43 pm Sunday, January 7, 2024

Kannon Cato, Lawrence County

His position is listed as quarterback, but above all else, Cato was a playmaker for the Cougars (7-6) during his entire career at Lawrence County. As a senior, Cato passed for 312 passing yards and four touchdowns. On the ground, the speedy Cato rushed for 1,180 yards and 23 touchdowns for coach Jesse Anderson. Named All-Area multiple times, he was picked for the MAC 4A All-State Team as a kick returner as he twice took kickoff returns for a score this season.

Samuel Evans, Brookhaven Academy

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He waited until his senior season to play football, but Evans made a huge impact with the ball in his hands this season at quarterback for the Brookhaven Academy Cougars (2-8). Evans didn’t just lead the Cougars and coach Reggie Lea through the air, he was also the top ball carrier on the team. Evans rushed for six touchdowns and 303 yards in a season ending win over Amite School Center.

Cole Gibson, Wesson

A first-year starter, Gibson worked hard for his chance to be the man leading the Cobras (8-2) and he produced while splitting snaps at quarterback for Wesson this season. The 6-foot-2 Gibson stood tall in the pocket and passed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns for coach Jeremy Loy. In 84 attempts, he threw just three interceptions and completed over 67 percent of his passes, averaging 17.1 yards per completion while earning All-Region honors.

Jax Leggett, Bogue Chitto

A senior who played with maximum effort on every snap, Leggett started at quarterback this season for the Bobcats (5-5) after previously being a backup in his career at Bogue Chitto. Leggett passed for 682 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for another 439 yards and two more scores for coach Gareth Sartin to earn All-Region honors. An All-Area selection last season as a defensive back, Leggett made 61 tackles this season, four for a loss, while also grabbing an interception and recovering a fumble.

Landon McNickles, Enterprise

There might not be a 1A quarterback in the state who’ll have bigger expectations ahead of next season than McNickles after his junior year calling the shots for the Enterprise Yellow Jackets (4-6). A second-year starter and repeat All-Area selection, McNickles threw for 864 yards and eight touchdowns for coach Trey Woodard. Opposing defenses had to respect his ability to run the ball though as McNickles also ran for 959 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a defensive back, he also led the team with two interceptions, one which he returned for a score. 

Jordyn Kees, Loyd Star

The keys to the Hornet (10-2) offense were handed to Kees, a freshman, and he delivered bigger results than nearly any ninth grader in the nation. Playing the quarterback position in Loyd Star’s single-wing offense, Kees carried the ball 306 times for 2,100 yards and 30 touchdowns. He was named Region 7-2A Offensive MVP and to the MAC 2A All-State team. Kees rushed for a season high 280 yards in a win over Franklin County to close the regular season.

Easton Sartin, Bogue Chitto

After losing his junior season to a knee injury, Sartin came back in a big way to lead Bogue Chitto (5-5) in his senior year. The son of Bobcat head coach Gareth Sartin, Easton rushed 159 times for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. He was named Region 7-2A MVP and MAC 2A All-State. As a linebacker, he made 96 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two sacks, caused three fumbles, made one interception, recovered one fumble, and blocked on kick.

Zevante Stapleton, Wesson

Another standout who lost his junior season to a knee injury suffered just before the first game, Stapleton worked hard to rebound and again be the lead running back for the Cobras (8-2). Stapleton carried the ball 145 times for 939 yards and nine touchdowns in leading the Wesson ground attack. An All-Region selection, Stapleton rushed for a season high 176 yards in a win over Perry Central for coach Jeremy Loy.

Jaden Lea, Loyd Star

A transfer to Loyd Star as a senior fullback, Lea fit in with the Hornets (10-2) like a hand to a glove. Lea rushed for 582 yards and four touchdowns in his one season in Hornetville. As a linebacker, Lea made 102 tackles and had two tackles for a loss for coach Adam Smith. A transfer from Brookhaven Academy, Lea ran for a season high 182 yards against Wilkinson County and earned All-Region honors for the Hornets.

Markavion Owens, Lawrence County

A battering ram for the Lawrence County offense as a fullback, Owens had a standout season as a senior for the Cougars (7-6). An MAC 4A All-State selection, he rushed for 761 yards and four touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound Owens played with a toughness that made him a leader for Lawrence County head coach Jesse Anderson and his staff. In his career, Ownes rushed for 1,649 yards and nine touchdowns.

Wyatt Garrett, Wesson

There isn’t a spot on the football field that you could put Garrett, a junior, where he wouldn’t shine for the Cobras (8-2). An athlete at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds, Garrett split time at quarterback and finished with 699 passing yards and eight touchdowns for head coach Jeremy Loy and a Wesson staff that includes his dad, Josh Garrett. Coming off an ankle injury suffered in the spring, Garrett rushed for 201 yards and four scores. Defensively, he was third on the team with 71 tackles, which included seven for a loss. Garrett is a repeat All-Area selection who was also named All-Region.

O’Mari Johnson, Wesson

One of the most sought-after sophomores in the statewide recruiting class, Johnson did it all once again to help the Wesson Cobras (8-2) in a variety of ways. As a receiver, he caught a team best 43 passes for 807 yards and 11 touchdowns. Lining up in a Wildcat formation in most games, he also rushed 55 times for 465 yards and 10 touchdowns. School such as Arkansas, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are recruiting Johnson, who also led Wesson with four interceptions, three of which he returned for scores. Johnson broke up six passes, made 52 tackles and returned a kickoff for a score while being named All-Region, MAC 3A First Team All-State and All-Area for a second straight year.

Noah Magee, Bogue Chitto

With his size and athletic ability, Magee was a top wideout for the Boge Chitto (5-5) offense as a junior. He led the team with 20 catches for 245 yards and seven touchdowns. Many of those grabs came with the 6-foot-4 Magee going up and over smaller defensive backs. An All-Region football selection and an All-Area starter on the BC basketball team, Magee averaged 12.3 yards per catch in 2023 for coach Gareth Sartin.

Deshawn Smith, Wesson

A year after having a breakout season catching the ball, it was more of the same in 2023 for Smith as he continued to be one of the top receivers as a junior for the Wesson Cobras (8-2). Smith was second on the team with 470 yards receiving and six touchdown grabs. Smith averaged 15.7 yards per catch and also scored twice on the ground. A repeat All-Area selection, he made 35 tackles, caused three fumbles, broke up three passes and snagged two interceptions while also being named All-Region for coach Jeremy Loy.

Brice Ashley, Brookhaven High

The most experienced returnee on the Panther (7-5) offensive line, Ashley put together a strong season at center for Brookhaven High as a senior. Ashley and his linemates were physical up front for coach Tucker Peavey and helped clear the way for over 3,000 yards rushing by the Panther offense in 2023. The play of the  5-foot-9, 220-pound Ashley had a big hand in the line improving as the season progressed.

Connor Cunningham, Loyd Star

Moving over from center to guard, Cunningham was given the important position of being the quarterback of the Hornet (10-2) offensive line for head coach Adam Smith and his single-wing offense. The 5-foot-11, 228-pound Cunningham and his ability to communicate with his coaches was a huge part of Loyd Star putting up over 3,000 yards rushing this season. An All-Region selection, he was also an All-Area pick in baseball.

Jacavious Magee, Lawrence County

A human road-grader, Magee was again exceptional on the offensive line for the Lawrence County Cougars (7-6) in 2023. A repeat All-Area selection, the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Magee is tutored by LC head coach Jesse Anderson, a former Cougar lineman himself. Magee, a tackle, was a massive part of LC gaining 4,858 yards on the ground this season.

Preston Mooneyham, Enterprise

In an offensive line that’s the tone setter for the Enterprise Yellow Jackets (4-6), Mooneyham, a junior, is a versatile player that can play guard, tackle, or center. Mooneyham is hard to miss, at 6-foot-3, 320-pounds. Playing alongside four other juniors on the line for coach Trey Woodard, Mooneyham was part of a group up front that paved the way for 2,000 yards rushing by the EAC offense.

Trevor McRee, Wesson

If you watch a highlight film of McRee suiting up for the Cobras (8-2) last season, you’ll see a 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior that lives for the contact that comes with playing on the offensive line. A tackle, McRee is quick, physical and unafraid to take on the guy across from him. He plays with a similar bend on the Wesson defensive line for coach Jeremy Loy. As a defensive tackle, McRee made 48 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, recovered two fumbles and caused two fumbles while earning All-Region honors.

Cole Spencer, Brookhaven Academy

Already a two-year starter as a sophomore, Spencer still has two more years left of being a key blocker for the Brookhaven Academy Cougars (2-8). A 6-foot-3, 220-pound tackle, Spencer started on the line as a freshman for former BA coach Anthony Hart and then held that spot this year for first year Cougar coach Reggie Lea. He was also an important defensive lineman for the Cougar defense.

Zackary Taylor, West Lincoln

The Region 7-2A Offensive Lineman of the Year, Taylor finished his four-year starting career for the West Lincoln Bears (2-8) with another solid season up front. A versatile player who can play guard, tackle, center, tight end or fullback, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Taylor is a repeat All-Area selection for coach Brad Bland.

Brayden Wright, Bogue Chitto

It’s behind the play of tough, physical offensive lineman, like Wright, a junior, where the Bogue Chitto Bobcats (5-5) have built success for over 20 years under head coach Gareth Sartin. The 5-foot-11, 255-pound Wright played tackle for the Bobcats along with playing the same position on the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, Wright made 30 tackles, eleven for a loss, and caused a fumble while earning All-Region honors.