Cloudland's Byrd captures second straight MVP award

from staff reports

   3,000 all-purpose yards. 72 tackles. 38 touchdowns. 13 conversions. 10 interceptions. 3 sacks. 1 PAT.
   Those are the numbers Cloudland junior Mark Byrd put up this past season in football, and numbers that earn him the Most Valuable Player award on the All-Carter/Johnson County football team for the second straight year.
   Byrd, who rushed for 1,728 yards (10.7 per carry avg.) and completed 35 of 47 passes for 561, gained the rest of his yards on receptions and kick, punt and interception returns.
   Despite missing two games, the all-state player set a new TSSAA record by rushing for 1,055 yards from the quarterback position during the regular season.
   Twenty three of Byrd's touchdowns came on the ground. Passing for eight TDs and scoring seven on returns, he led the Highlanders to a semifinal appearance in the Class 1-A state playoffs.
   Other impressive performances were turned in during the 2002 campaign. The Offensive Player of the Year award goes to Elizabethton Cyclone Walter Brown, who ran for 1,688 yards to break to school's single regular-season rushing record.
   Using two playoff games to reach the 1,800-yard plateau, Brown (all-state) racked up a total of 26 touchdowns on the year.
   Defensive Player of the Year honors go to Cloudland linebacker Dane Christman (all-state), the runner-up for the Mr. Football lineman award in Class 1-A.
   The junior topped the 'Landers in both tackles (153) and quarterback sacks (12).
   Hampton High's J.C. Campbell garners Coach of the Year accolades after leading the Bulldogs to an 8-2 regular-season record and their first conference championship since 1996.
   Generating 1,168 yards of offense while having a hand in 20 touchdowns (12 rushing, 8 passing), Hampton junior Mitchell Morton used an excellent season to win the job of All-Carter/Johnson quarterback.
   Tailbacks Dakota Benfield (Cloudland) and Michael Peterson (Hampton) were top-notch, with Benfield (all-state) gaining 1,523 yards on the ground and scoring 140 points, and Peterson rushing for 1,134 yards and accumulating 14 TDs.
   Unaka's Joey Parlier holds down the fullback spot after slugging it out between the tackles for a team-high 1,100 rushing yards.
   A pair of rock solid performers for Cloudland, Dale Baker and Jason Grant, fill two selections on the offensive line, and they are joined by a pair of players -- Johnson County's Bill McMillan and Elizabethton's Chad Street -- chosen to the All-Mountain Lakes squad, as well as All-Watauga player Kenneth Campbell of Happy Valley.
   Jason Poteet, who totaled 18 receptions and two TDs for the Longhorns, is the tight-end. Hampton's Eric Swain (24 receptions, 380 yards) and Elizabethton's Lester Bailey (18 receptions, 330 yards) were selected as the wide receivers.
   Justin Bishop (100 tackles, 11 sacks) of Johnson County, Cloudland's Nathaniel Baker (95 tackles, 10 sacks) and Hampton's Robby England (84 tackles, 7.5 sacks, all-state) lead the defensive line with some impressive numbers. Elizabethton's Clinton Vannoy and Happy Valley's Daniel Dover tied for the fourth spot on the line, as both players achieved all-conference honors.
   There was fierce competition for the four openings at linebacker, with honors going to Vince Redd (all-state) of Elizabethton, Cody Cannon of Happy Valley, Jimmy Sarrett of Hampton and Mark Barnett (all-state) of Cloudland. Each player totaled more than 100 tackles this season, and Barnett chalked up 11 sacks.
   The secondary is paced by Warrior senior James Matherly, who topped the Watauga Conference in interceptions with six. Elizabethton's Adam Turley and Michael Porter, a pair of All-Mountain Lakes defenders, and All-Watauga defensive back Corey McKinney (2 interceptions, 67 tackles) round out the group.
   Elizabethton anchors the kicking game as Craig Estep (41 PATs) and Brandon Blevins (second team All-MLC) nab the place-kicker and punter positions, respectively.
   Johnson County's Aaron Payne is the kick returner. One of his returns went for a touchdown (vs. Elizabethton).
   Happy Valley junior Tim Whaley proved himself to be an all-around weapon for the Warriors. Whaley rushed for a team-high 991 yards, returned punts (one for a touchdown) and kicks, caught six passes for 108 yards and a TD; passed for a score, scored 12 TDs overall, intercepted a pass and finished as one of Happy Valley's top tacklers.