Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

December 14, 2012

ALL-AREA FOOTBALL SMALL SCHOOL: Can't be D-nied

Brewer’s defense, as well as offense, earns Fairview senior Player of Year; Eagles coach voted best in area

ASHLAND — Want a quick fact about the leading rusher on the all-time top-running team in state history?

He prefers to play defense.

Want to know why the coach of that team thinks advanced as far as it did?

Because of its defense.

The Class A state runner-up Fairview Eagles had healthy representation on The Independent's 2012 All-Area Small School Team with eight players. Chris Brewer, a senior running back/linebacker, earned Player of the Year and Nathan McPeek achieved his third All-Area Coach of the Year honor in the last four years.

The team is voted on by area coaches. Small schools include Fairview, Raceland, Russell, Lawrence County, East Carter, West Carter, Lewis County and Paintsville.

“The award's not about me, it's about our program and our staff,” McPeek said earlier this week. “Everyone said we had talent — and I agree with that, we had a lot of good players — but if they don't buy into what you're trying to accomplish and all those things, then you can't be very successful.”

After a 3-0 start that included a couple close contests, Fairview roared to a 14-0 mark before falling in the state finals to Mayfield, 55-8, in Bowling Green. Brewer carried 16 times for 148 yards in the final game of his career.

“We really came together as a team,” Brewer said. “Of all my other years here, this one's definitely been the best. Not just because we made it so far but because we were a special group of people playing together.”

A three-time 1,000-yard rusher who racked up 1,667 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the season, the 5-foot-10, 235-pound Brewer takes as much pride in his defense, if not more.

A defensive jack of all trades, Brewer played defensive end as a sophomore, outside linebacker as a junior and then made the challenging switch to middle linebacker as a senior.

He struggled in his new role at first, but hard work off the field helped him blossom into the team's leading tackler.

“I hadn't played middle linebacker since middle school. It's really something completely different,” Brewer said. “You have to know pretty much everything about the (opposing) offense. Coach (McPeek) would hand me film and a scouting report. I would study a couple hours each night.”

Brewer amassed 104 tackles as the centerpiece of a defense that relented just 13.6 points per game through the state semifinal round. Hazard managed just six points against the Eagles in Westwood.

“You read about offensive stats all the time, but I probably like defense better just because you can rear back and hit somebody and not have to worry about fumbling,”Brewer said.

Brewer is a three-time All-Area selection. He consistently churned up yards on the ground in each of those seasons. His career rushing statistics: more than 450 attempts, 4,200-plus yards and 47 TDs.

Devon Turner and Elijah King were also two huge reasons for Fairview’s rushing dominance. Turner tallied 1,575 yards and 24 scores in his senior season and King, who made the All-Area team as a defensive back, had 1,379 rushing yards and 21 TDs in just 12 games.

Mason Rutherford rounded out Fairview’s senior All-Area selections for his work in the secondary. He was also the Eagles’ top pass catcher, with 567 yards.

Others representing the state runners-up were junior offensive tackle Anthony Roark, sophomore O-tackle Cody McPeek, sophomore defensive end Caleb McKnight and freshman linebacker Tanner Dolen.

“We started eight guys in the state championship game that (will return next season),” McPeek said.

Fairview’s final rushing total tallied 6,098 yards, unofficially a state record for a team in a single season.

“Everybody talked about our offense this year, but our defense is what got us to the state championship game,” McPeek said.

Defense was supposed to be Lawrence County’s leaning post this season, but a breakout season by junior quarterback A.J. Cyrus helped the Bulldogs rack up plenty of points. It also landed him on the All-Area team despite a deep pool of talent at the position.

Cyrus ran 176 times for team-bests of 1,051 yards and 20 TDs. He threw for 521 yards and seven scores (five interceptions).

Lawrence County beat Morgan County in the first round of the playoffs partly thanks to a superb tackling display by senior Jordan Wellman. Wellman had a staggering 32 tackles in the contest.

The Bulldogs also had Charlie Bradshaw, Arric Quillen and Blake Prince on the All-Area squad.

Raceland had several impressive games this season, including a 54-14 throttling of Lawrence County in Week 6. The Rams had seven All-Area selections after a 9-3 campaign.

They were senior leader Devin Thomas, 1,000-yard rusher Daylin Beach, leading tackler Alec Risner (85 tackles), 6-3 junior linebacker Mac Boggs, eight-TD receiver Rodney Vance, wideout/defensive back John Valencourt and all-around athlete Connor Messer, a sophomore.

Messer made the team as the punter by default, but he was all over the field. As a defensive back, he led the area with nine interceptions, including three returned for TDs, and had 65 tackles. As a receiver, he paced the team with 33 catches for 633 yards and eight TDs. He also turned out 119 yards rushing and 93 passing.

Russell had a disappointing first-round exit in the playoffs, but the Red Devils did churn out six All-Area players. Gage Stevens, at linebacker, was tops in tackles (68) for the team. Googie Hayes tallied 894 yards of offense (receiving and rushing) after starting at quarterback a season ago. Troy Huffine was the tough-yardage guy on offense and a solid defensive back. Tyler Bevis and Jacob Adkins, both seniors, were standout linemen for the Devils.

Russell's Patrick Soucy is the All-Area kicker. The junior connected on 35 extra points.

Lewis County followed up a historical season with only four wins. However, two players still got All-Area recognition — Nick Ruark had 1,004 yards and nine scores on 59 receptions. Dalton Stamm was a sophomore representative for the Lions.

East Carter's two honorees were Cade Stidham and Cole Boggs. Stidham was the team’s leading rusher and a staple on the defensive line. Boggs, at 6-2, was a the Raiders’ receiving threat.

Paintsville junior linebacker Prater Helton represented the Tigers.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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