The highest awards for All-Bi-City football in 2013 cover the full spectrum of high school football experience:
A sophomore first-year starter as the offensive player of the year, a senior third-year starter for defensive player and a man whose experience as a head coach spans 17 seasons.
The common thread among all three was that they excelled at each of their respective positions all season, leading their teams to state quarterfinals appearances in their respective divisions.
For their efforts, quarterback Jawon Pass (Carver), linebacker Anfernee Moffett (Smiths Station) and coach Mark Rose (Smiths Station) were named the area’s top performers.
Offensive player of the year: Quarterback Jawon Pass, Carver
Entering the 2013 season, there were plenty of expectations for Pass.
It was his first year as a starting quarterback, he was just a sophomore and already he had national attention from college recruiters, earning scholarship offers from schools like Clemson and Mississippi State before ever starting a game.
It’s one thing to meet expectations, but something else entirely to exceed them as Pass did. The quarterback completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,197 yards, 23 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He also rushed for 404 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading the Tigers to an 11-2 record and berth in the GHSA Class AAA quarterfinals.
“He’s more mature than his age,” Carver coach Joe Kegler said of Pass. “Even last year, when he was playing other sports, he showed that maturity. The biggest thing is that he wanted to contribute right away and do what he could to help the team win. If he needed to go out and throw for over 200 yards, he could do that. If he needed to hand the ball off or run it himself, he could do that too.”
He led an offense that accounted for over 5,000 total yards and, in some games, overshadowed a defense that was perhaps the strength of the team. It is likely he will continue to garner offers from major Division-I schools and continue to climb up recruiting boards. Kegler said for now, though, Pass is focused on developing and helping his high school team win.
“He’s just continuing to understand and grow as a leader,” Kegler said. “He did a great job being a leader even though he was one of only a couple sophomore starters. He had a lot of pressure on him coming in, but we saw what he did last year and knew he could do well.”
Defensive player of the year: Linebacker Anfernee Moffett, Smiths Station
It isn’t the statistics that tell the story about Moffett, though he has plenty of those to lean on.
In 13 games, the Smiths Station linebacker amassed 129 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and three interceptions. He broke up five passes, forced two fumbles and recovered another.
Those numbers alone are enough to consider his one of the finest seasons in the Bi-City in 2013. Couple them with the success of his team, which, led by a stingy defense, won 10 games, advanced to the AHSAA Class 6A quarterfinals and defeated two teams — Opelika and Auburn — that have played for a state title in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and you’d be hard pressed to find any player more deserving.
Panthers coach Mark Rose said Moffett was the lifeblood of the defense. He was a leader and the quarterback of the defense, making all the checks at the line of scrimmage.
“He’s a smart football player,” Rose said. “He doesn’t miss reads. He’s kind of the total package.”
Rose described Moffett as the type of player who knows what to do to succeed, no matter what that is on any given day. The Panthers defense took that personality this season, as well, winning defensive showdowns like a 3-0 win over Opelika or making stops in key moments in a 41-34 win over Enterprise in the second round of the playoffs.
“It was comforting to call offensive plays when you know you’ve got great guys on defense,” Rose said. “They did whatever they had to do to win.”
Coach of the Year: Mark Rose, Smiths Station
This title could have gone to any number of coaches depending on how you looked at the award. Rarely do so many teams make such vast improvements as they did in the Bi-City this season. Coaches from Kendrick’s Jerry Dukes to Pacelli’s Randy Grace, Russell County’s Demond McCoy to Spencer’s Calvin Arnold, and more, all had cases to get the nod.
But Rose was just a touch ahead of the class.
Smiths Station won 10 games in 2013 and finished second in arguably the most difficult region in Alabama. It defeated teams that played in each of the past two state title games, Opelika (2012) and Auburn (2013), and rose as high as No. 2 in the ASWA Class 6A rankings after starting the season 8-0.
Perhaps the most impressive job Rose did as coach this season, though, was rallying the troops and making adjustments when the hot start fizzled out and the Panthers lost their final two games of the regular season. Instead of collapsing, the rebounded to make the state quarterfinals before losing a close 28-21 contest to McGill-Toolen.
“It ranks about as high as you can,” Rose said of the season. “When you accomplish something you’ve never done, and we did that a couple times, it’s about as good as it gets.”
The Panthers played and won in front of 9,000 fans at Opelika and did the same in a hostile playoff environment at Enterprise. Altogether, they became arguably the top team in the Bi-City area for this season.
Rose, as he has all year, praised his players and coaches when asked about his own contributions to the team.
“We were close to doing the same thing last year,” he said. “I’ve said it all year, that the loyalty they showed to this program is what made this possible. There were no bad attitudes in the offseason. They just continued to work and refused to be denied.”