Athletes earn Associated Press honors

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All-State awards have begun rolling in, courtesy of the Associated Press, for athletes who provided many enthralling and entertaining games this year on the gridiron. Jackson County Comprehensive, Jefferson and Mill Creek High School have at least one athlete to garner honors from the AP.

Xavier Harper of Jackson County was named to the AAA First-Team Offense. Harper played an intricate part in ending the Panthers’ 20-year playoff drought. Against cross-town rival East Jackson High School, Harper scored three touchdowns – making it one of his best performances of the year.

For Jefferson, winning the 2AA state championship over Calhoun High School was the icing on the cake of its season and now they have more toppings to add. Head Coach T. McFerrin was named the AA Coach of the Year, senior quarterback Bryant Shirreffs took Offensive Player of the Year while Wesley Simonton was dubbed Defensive Player of the Year.

Senior Wesley Simonton led the Dragons in total tackles. Doug Chellew/The Paper.

McFerrin sealed his second state championship in his career this season. In 1995, McFerrin led Elbert County High School to a state title. He also led eight different teams to a postseason appearance.

Shirreffs finished the year with 1,372 rushing yards and scored 20 touchdowns. Shirreffs threw for 2,369 yards and aired out 18 touchdown passes. Shirreffs is also currently in the running for Player of the Year from Georgia High School Football Daily as he is currently ranked eighth on the list of nominees.

Shirreffs was also selected to participate in the Georgia North-South All Star Game on Dec. 29 in Columbus. Shirreffs shared snaps with AJ Erderly of West Forsyth High School. The North team won 14-7.

Simonton caused havoc all year long on the defensive side and tallied 189 tackles, along with seven-and-a half sacks, 26 tackles for loss, five pass break ups, one interception, two forced fumbles and one blocked field goal.

The Hawks boast two athletes in Kelsey Griffin and Jacorey Lewis who were honored for their talent on the turf. Lewis accumulated 2,317 yards and 31 trips to pay dirt.

Senior Kelsey Griffin will be playing in college football’s most competitive conference. Latrice Williams/The Paper.

Lewis has received interest from Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi.

Griffin, who is committed to the University of South Carolina, forced a double-team all year long. The future Gamecock was a beast on the defensive line for Mill Creek and showed exactly why he is listed on ESPN’s Top 150 football recruiting list.

Some of Griffin’s most memorable performances came against Mountain View High School where he registered eight tackles, one tackle for loss and one forced fumble.

Ironically, two of Griffin’s most noteworthy performances came in two critical losses. Against North Gwinnett High School, Griffin tallied 10 tackles and one tackle for loss.

He had 14 tackles, one pass break up and one tackle for loss against Norcross High School.

Mill Creek helped Head Coach Shannon Jarvis achieve his first nine-win season since his coaching career with the Hawks began back in 2004.