By Cam Huffman
The West Virginia Sports Writers Association has to put players at particular positions when coming up with its Class AAA All-State team, but the three area representatives on the first team list probably could have been slotted almost anywhere.
Woodrow Wilson’s Andrew Johnson, Oak Hill’s Jalen Jones and Shady Spring’s Houstin Syvertson collected first-team honors when the awards were handed out last weekend, and the numbers provided evidence for each pick.
Johnson was known more as the Woodrow quarterback, where he threw for 1,026 yards and 12 touchdowns during the Flying Eagles’ 6-4 regular season, while also rushing for 781 yards and 12 more scores. He even caught three passes for 27 yards.
On special teams, Johnson returned three punts for 24 yards and seven kickoffs for 112 yards. He punted 32 times, averaging 35.3 yards per boot, and even handled the Beckley kickoffs.
He led the team in scoring with 89 points in 10 games.
“I think it’s a great award for a young man that led us to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons and contributed in every phase of the game,” said Flying Eagle head coach John H. Lilly. “He scored touchdowns in every possible way.”
On defense, the spot that actually earned the all-purpose athlete first team honors, Johnson finished the regular season with 35 tackles, almost always lining up against the opposition’s best player.
“He had the athletic ability to take on the opponent’s No. 1 receiver,” said Lilly. “That’s always a big challenge, but he did a good job with it.”
Jones, who was earlier named the Register-Herald Offensive Player of the Year, was one of four running backs on the first team.
The Red Devil star ended the season as the state’s leading point producer, scoring 197 total points. He rushed for 2,046 yards and 25 touchdowns, kicked 25 extra points and finished off a number of 2-point conversions.
The junior was also a special teams star, returning 10 punts for 317 yards and two touchdowns and six kickoffs for 159 yards.
“He’s got power, he’s got speed and he’s got vision,” said Oak Hill head coach Eddie Souk. “He had a great year and was a big part of our success. He’s not a big kid, but he ran it inside and outside for us.”
Like the other two area first-teamers, Syvertson excelled at a number of different positions during the Tigers’ first season as a Class AAA squad.
The senior ran the ball 100 times for 779 yards and eight touchdowns, caught 35 passes for 423 yards and four scores and even completed 2 out of 4 pass attempts.
On defense, he was the team’s leading tackler.
“He was a super linebacker, his rushing yardage was up there and he started catching the ball more late in the year,” said Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto. “He did a lot of things..”
His leg, though, is what drew the most attention.
Syvertson punted 20 times this season, with nine of them going at least 45 yards. He had three over 50, including a season-best 54-yarder against Independence.
Overall, he averaged 42 yards per punt.
“He worked on his own and went to a lot of camps as a punter,” said Culicerto, who said Syvertson has received interest from schools like WVU and Rutgers and is still contemplating his college future. “He did a lot of traveling up and down the East Coast to go to those camps, and he put in a lot of hard work. It paid off.
“We punted a lot more this year, and the field position he gave us was huge.”
The area was also represented on the second team by Oak Hill offensive lineman Brandon Williams.
Special mention went to Ramon Edwards (Woodrow Wilson) and Adam Weeks (Shady Spring), while honorable mention honorees included Anthony Hosea (Woodrow Wilson), Lamont Lee (Princeton), Troy Lilly (Woodrow Wilson) and Cole McClain (Greenbrier East).
George Washington running back Ryan Switzer was the first team offensive captain.
The North Carolina commitment netted nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards this season. Spring Valley’s Elijah Wellman was the first team defensive captain. The WVU commitment finished the season with 124 tackles, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception that he brought back for a touchdown.
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