As the football season reaches the state semifinal round, it turns out Rollins and his Elizabethton teammates were much better than anticipated.
A Mr. Football semifinalist, Rollins added another honor Wednesday when he was chosen as the Elite 11 player of the year by the Johnson City Press and Kingsport Times-News. Rollins will lead the undefeated and No. 1-ranked Cyclones into the Class 4A state semifinals on Friday.
Joining Rollins at the top of the Elite awards was David Crockett’s Prince Kollie. The strong safety was selected as the defensive player of the year.
Rounding out the top trio, Elizabethton’s Shawn Witten was the pick as the coach of the year. The Cyclones set a school record for victories in a single season with 13 and defeated two-time defending state champion Greeneville twice. Dobyns-Bennett’s Joey Christian was also considered for the honor.
Here’s a look at the annual squad, which has been chosen for at least four decades:
Player of the year
Bryson Rollins, Elizabethton
Defensive player of the year
Prince Kollie, David Crockett
Coach of the year
Shawn Witten, Elizabethton
Not only is Rollins a special athlete, he’s also a heady player.
His consistent efforts are a big part of the Cyclones’ 13-0 record as they head into the game against Nolensville.
Rollins has racked up 2,005 yards passing while completing 71 percent of his attempts. He has 26 touchdown tosses with only three interceptions.
As a runner, Rollins has gained 792 yards and scored 14 times. His 40 total touchdowns leads the area.
When it comes to the quarterback position at the high school level, Larkins’ has no peers in Northeast Tennessee history from a production standpoint.
The East Tennessee State University commitment finished as the state’s No. 2 all-time passer with 11,042 yards, falling just 80 yards short of the top spot. Larkins ranks in the No. 23 position on the all-time national list.
This season, Larkins passed for 2,859 yards with 34 touchdowns as the Pioneers went 7-4, closing the season with four gut-wrenching losses.
For his career Larkins threw 105 touchdown passes, good enough for No. 6 on Tennessee’s all-time list.
An argument could be made to include Kollie twice on the Elite 11.
As a safety, Kollie was a game-changer. He racked up 78 tackles, had seven passes defended, picked off a pass, recovered a fumble and caused three fumbles.
As a receiver, he was second in the area with 1,085 yards while also scoring nine touchdowns. Kollie had six 100-yard receiving games, including five in a row during one stretch.
Sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story, but in this case one combination does. Whitson threw 24 touchdown passes with only one interception in 223 attempts.
His impressive play kept the ball in the hands of the Indians’ offense and helped D-B reach the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
Whitson had 2,265 total yards and accounted for 29 touchdowns.
It would be hard to imagine any player fitting more perfectly into the Cyclones’ offense than Maupin. He provides the middle-of-the-field rushing yardage that makes Elizabethton so hard to defend, and does it at an elite level with 1,402 yards going into Friday’s game.
As an exclamation point, Maupin carried 51 times for 286 yards in the two victories over Greeneville. He has 11 touchdowns on the season.
With 78 receptions, nobody in the area was more active catching the football than Hackler. And once he had the ball in his hands, he was a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Hackler finished with an area-best 1,092 yards receiving and scored 12 touchdowns. He had six 100-yard receiving efforts.
As a cornerback, he totaled 33 tackles, defended eight passes, picked off three balls and recovered a fumble.
It would have been interesting to see how many yards Reed would have accumulated if not for a Week 6 injury. He missed two games altogether and totaled only 23 carries in three others.
Still, he finished the season with 1,505 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns and helped the Rebels into the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Quite honestly, when October began Blair was not on the Elite 11 radar. But over the next six weeks, the blip on the screen kept getting bigger and louder.
Blair finished the season with 1,308 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. He gained 1,109 of those yards from Week 6 through Week 12 as the Trailblazers pulled off a stunning six-game winning streak before losing in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
A matchup nightmare for most defenses, Hughes gives the Cyclones major big-play ability on the outside.
He has 44 receptions for 882 yards for an average of 20 yards per catch. He also has 16 touchdowns despite missing two games with injury. Also, Hughes has become a big defensive asset as the season has gone along with 41 tackles and two interceptions as a safety.
The Hilltoppers had a special weapon and they employed him often. Hensley put together one of the best kicking seasons in area history.
He connected on 12 of 15 field goal attempts, including makes of 49 and 51 yards against Dobyns-Bennett, the difference in a 23-17 victory. Hensley’s field-goals-made total was a top 10 performance on the state’s all-time list.
He was 34 of 34 on extra-point attempts and missed only three touchbacks all season in his full-length kickoffs. He also averaged 38 yards on 27 punts with a long of 55.
It was a banner regular season for the Vikings and McBrayer was front and center. He led his team to the Region 1-5A title before it stumbled in a first-round playoff loss to Gibbs.
McBrayer totaled 2,294 yards of offense with 1,947 through the air. He passed for 23 touchdowns, was picked off only three times, and rushed for nine other scores.