Byrd shows way on annual All-Carter/Johnson all-stars

from staff reports

   Explosive things come in pretty small packages. Cloudland football player Mark Byrd is living proof of that.
   After a brilliant season in which he led the Highlanders to the Class 1-A state championship game, Byrd, the diminutive sophomore, gets the nod as this year's All-Carter/Johnson County Most Valuable Player.
   Scoring 20 touchdowns and passing for 15 more, Byrd accounted for more than 1,600 yards of combined rushing and passing and captured first-team honors on the AP all-state team as a defensive back.
   Complementing Byrd on this year's honor roll are Happy Valley junior Lamar Rollins, voted Offensive Player of the Year; Elizabethton junior Vince Redd, Defensive Player of the Year; and Mike Lunsford, Coach of the Year.
   Rollins, the Warrior quarterback, passed for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 638 yards on the ground over an impressive 11-game stretch. He had a hand in eight other scores.
   As for Redd, the Cyclone linebacker averaged 10 tackles a game, registered four quarterback sacks and was selected as the Big Eight Conference's top defensive player.
   Lunsford, 34-4 over the last three seasons, coached the first true Upper-East Tennessee team to make it to a state final under the modern playoff system.
   The rest of the team starts with Elizabethton's Ryan Curtis at quarterback. The junior came on strong the second half of the season and finished with 1,241 yards and 21 TDs through the air.
   The running back positions are held down by two gamebreakers, Cloudland sophomore Dakota Benfield (1,523 yards rushing, 28 TDs) and Elizabethton junior Walter Brown (857 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns).
   Hampton senior Jeremy Hall makes the team at fullback, topping all other players at the position with 565 yards on the ground.
   A pair of big, burly Highlanders, John Hicks and Jon Townson, grab two spots on an all-senior offensive line. They are joined by standouts Tolby Lowe of Johnson County, Weston Peters of EHS and Hampton's Harry Page.
   Tight-end Jesse Bowers wasn't used much in the Happy Valley passing game, but earns a spot after proving himself as one of the top blockers in the area.
   The two wide-receiver slots belong of Happy Valley senior Chris Campbell (31 receptions, 427 yards) and Johnson County junior Tommy Short (25-690), with Hampton junior Michael Peterson (733 yards rushing, 375 receiving, 12 TDs) seizing all-purpose accolades.
   Promising Unaka sophomore Brandon Irick, with 645 offensive yards, fills the offensive "athlete" position.
   Defensively, Cloudland seniors Brandon Odom and Keith Buchanan anchor the All-Carter/Johnson defensive line. Odom collected 66 tackles while constantly being double-teamed, and Buchanan harvested 88 stops, seven fumble recoveries and five quarterbacks sacks.
   Another Highlander, sophomore Dane Christman, joins the line following a season in which he a team-high 143 tackles (117 solo) and nine QB sacks. Cyclone senior Jon Jativa, an all-conference performer, and Johnson County junior Justin Bishop (112 tackles) round out this unit.
   Filling the linebacker voids are Happy Valley senior Forrest Holt (114 tackles, 4 sacks), Hampton junior Jimmy Sarrett (88 tackles), EHS senior Jason Grace and Cloudland junior Mark Barnett (119 tackles).
   Holt and Sarrett led their respective teams in tackles.
   A talented defensive backfield is made up of two players -- Elizabethton senior Neal Wandell and Hampton sophomore Mitchell Morton -- noted for their ballhawking skills and outstanding athleticism, a big run-stopper in Hampton senior Mel Ramey (83 tackles) and a well-rounded performer in Cloudland senior Jonathan Gibbs (3 interceptions).
   Happy Valley senior Andy Hilton closes out the defensive selections as the "athlete" of the group. Hilton amassed 78 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception during the Warriors' season.
   Special teams include 'Betsy senior Lincoln Orellana, who booted 26 extra points and a field goal. Elizabethton's Brandon Blevins is the punter, where he achieved All-Big Eight status.