VALDOSTA -- They dominated Class A this season. So it's only natural that the Clinch County Panthers should also dominate the Class A All-State team.
Seven Clinch players were named to the 2002 Class A All-State team, released today. That is the most of any school at any classification.
Quarterback Joe Louis Mingo, tailback Lorenzo Kelsaw, guard Adam Tolle, defensive tackle Todd Dupree, linebackers Paul Tolbert and Jarvis Henderson and defensive back B.J. Richardson received All-State honors.
Mingo and Tolbert, who are half-brothers, are the only siblings to make All-State this year. And what an impression these brothers made.
Mingo was perhaps the most dangerous offensive player in Class A, completing 73-of-135 passes for 1,250 yards and 20 touchdowns, and running the ball 141 times for 1,067 yards (a very impressive 7.6 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns.
"I'm not sure there's a better quarterback in the state in Class A," Clinch head coach Cecil Barber said last week. "He's been awful good for us."
Tolbert was dangerous in more ways than one on defense. He was all over the field, recording 146 tackles, the best on the Panthers and Region 1-A. Many defensive plays ended for Clinch with No. 4 involved. This was Tolbert's second consecutive All-State selection.
Behind Tolbert in tackles was Henderson. Only a sophomore, Henderson recorded 108 tackles, an average of 7.2 a game. He'll anchor the Clinch defense for the next two years. Along with Richardson, a junior, who made 59 tackles, and was excellent in coverage.
"Tolbert and Henderson are good (linebackers) I tell you," Barber said.
Dupree, a senior, was the leader of the defensive line. His combination of speed and strength were tough to combat, and led to 93 tackles. Dupree also split time at fullback, and ran for 328 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards a carry.
Kelsaw was as good a running back as there was in Class A. The junior tailback ran for 1,725 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards a carry. That included a 222-yard performance in the state semifinals against Hawkinsville, and a three-touchdown game in the finals against Dooly County.
Kelsaw continues a trend at Clinch: All-State tailbacks. In 2000, Antonio Jefferson was picked All-State. Last year, it was Antonio Brown. Now it's Kelsaw.
The exploits of Mingo, Kelsaw and the rest of Clinch's potent offense would not have been possible without good blocking. Clinch had a big, often-dominant offensive line opening holes for it. And arguably the best of those linemen was Tolle, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound senior guard that was difficult to beat in the trenches.
Clinch teammate Rance Morgan, who intercepted eight passes this season and led the Panthers with 17 catches for 292 yards and 5 TD, was an honorable mention All-State selection.
There were also three other Valdosta-area players named All-State, two of them from Winnersville itself.
Valdosta High defensive tackle John Dennis Wetherington has been one of the state's best defensive linemen the past two years. This year, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior recorded 68 tackles and 8 sacks for the Wildcats, giving him 139 tackles and 18.5 sacks over the past two years.
Lowndes High tackle Blake Bonner was one of the state's best linemen. Bonner, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior, anchored the Vikings line at left tackle, after moving over there from center this year. He and the other linemen were also asked to learn a new blocking scheme, as Lowndes went from a wide-open passing attack to a ground-heavy offense.
"Blake did a good job for us this year," Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. "He deserves it. He's a big kid who works hard, and gets the job done."
Cook High defensive back Cornelius Brown was named All-State for the second consecutive year. Over the past three years, Brown has been one of AA's best defensive backs, and was respected as such this year by opposing offenses.
Making honorable mention in AAAAA was Valdosta safety Eric Williams. Valdosta's team captai
n registered a team-best 79 tackles for the Wildcats, and had the most tackles over the past three years for VHS. He was a three-time All-Region selection, and this year also ran for 223 yards and 4 TD.
Cook quarterback Thomas Arnold, a junior, also received honorable mention All-State status after leading the Hornets to a second straight playoff appearance, a year after quarterbacking Cook to a 13-1 record and No. 3 state ranking.
The All-State team was chosen by a group of prep journalists from across the state.
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