All-Record Football

Best of the Best: Midway's Holland goes back to back

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 11/26/21

A look at the best football players at each position, as well as the coach of the year for this season's All-Record Football Team.

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All-Record Football

Best of the Best: Midway's Holland goes back to back

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Best Passer — Wyatt Holland, Midway

Last year’s top passer award winner defends his crown amid strong competition in the Record area this fall.

For the second consecutive season, Holland finished within the top 20 passers in the state, totaling 2,697 yards through the air. His knowledge of the game, combined with pinpoint accuracy, gave way to a 137.8 QB rating – tops among qualified Record area players.

The Raiders’ signal-caller threw 38 touchdowns to just three interceptions and went over 200 yards passing in all but four games, including the season-opening masterpiece where Holland totaled a career-high 618 yards through the air with a state-record 10 TD tosses in an 80-73 win over rival Hobbton.

“Even though it didn’t end the way he wanted it to, his senior season was one of the best I’ve ever seen, from a quarterback standpoint,” Midway coach Cory Barnes said.

“Physically, he provided accuracy, but intangibly ... his leadership and toughness is what set the standard for our team.”

The Raiders finished 6-5 overall, claiming a second playoff appearance in three years before bowing out in the first round.

Holland leaves the program as the proud owner of almost every school passing record, which Barnes acknowledges will be a tough hole to fill in seasons to come.

“He’s just been the constant in our program ... And in my 12 years of coaching, he’s done the best job of playing quarterback in the system that we’ve ran,” Barnes said.

Best Runner — Bobby Dial, Hobbton

At 5-foot-6, Dial doesn’t fit the bill from a physical standpoint as one of the state’s top rushers.

But the Wildcats junior broke out for a career year, becoming one of only a few North Carolina running backs to total north of 1,800 yards from scrimmage. He led all area runners with 1,701 yards on the ground and 21 touchdowns.

“He’s probably one of the most positive people I’ve ever been around, and works extremely hard and has a toughness to him,” Hobbton coach Joe Salas said about the “perfect” weapon for his air-raid system.

“There were nights when he had 10 carries for 50 yards and there were nights when he had 25 carries for 250 yards, and he was all about the team the whole time. He literally doesn’t care whether he gets more carries or less carries, he just cares about the team winning.”

Dial had a Record-leading seven games with 100-plus rushing yards, including three contests with over 200 yards.

The highlight of his 2021 campaign came during the Sept. 27 win at Heide Trask, when Dial ran for a career-high 255 yards and five touchdowns. 

Best Receiver — Josiah McLaurin, Hobbton

When the Wildcats weren’t handing off to their speedy back, the ball was in the hands of an electrifying wideout who made the transformation from running back this season.

McLaurin was the state’s only pass-catcher to haul in 100 receptions, and finished fourth overall in receiving yards (1,288), according to Maxpreps.com rankings.

“He’s just one of the special talents ... great personality, hard worker and just a guy everyone believes in,” Salas said.

“When we throw him a quick screen, it’s basically just a long handoff for him and he’s gonna do the work for us.”

The sophomore standout had a career-high 221 yards and four touchdown receptions against Spring Creek on Sept. 10. McLaurin totaled five multi-touchdown games, finishing with 17 on the year to lead all Record area athletes.

He also added three kickoff touchdowns, including an 80-yard return during the win over Wake Christian Academy on Oct. 8.

Best Linebacker — Ross Stevens, Triton

A baseball standout who took a venture into football last season, Stevens has quickly become one of the Hawks’ most feared defenders.

The hard-hitting junior was reliable and consistent, leading all Record area players with 118 total tackles, setting a modern-day (since 2008) program record in the process. 

“He has a natural ability to find the football and he has fun doing it,” Triton coach Ben Penny said.

“He’s just falling in love with football and he’s a physical kid, he’s a smart kid and he has a nose for the ball.”

Stevens had 10-plus tackles in all but three games, including a career-high 20 against Sanderson on Sept. 3.

According to Penny, he is just the third Triton player since 2008 with over 100 tackles in a season and with one more year left, he’ll have a chance to further cement his legacy in the school’s record books.

Best Lineman — Lucas Layman, South Johnston

Statistically speaking, there wasn’t a better pass rusher in the Record area – and very few statewide – than the Trojans’ quick, twitchy junior.

Layman tallied an eye-popping 16 1/2 sacks, which was a top-three total in the state when South concluded its season. His best effort was a four-sack performance during the team’s 54-14 homecoming win over Southern Wayne on Oct. 8.

“Defensively, they had to plan for a lot, but they had to plan for No. 32 (Layman) every game,” Trojans coach Lee Webb said.

“He’s quick off the ball and he makes us better in practice. I yell at the o-line a lot because he’s full go all the time. ... He definitely surpassed what our goals were for him this year.”

At defensive end, Layman also totaled 77 tackles – 20 for loss – and an interception.

Best Defensive Back — J.J. Cowan, Triton

Quickly becoming a target for opposing coaches each game in just his sophomore season, the Hawks’ two-way star saw his workload on defense reduced throughout the year in order to power the run-heavy offense.

Cowan led the team with nearly 900 yards rushing and was just as dominant when coaches allowed him to lineup at safety, especially when his team needed a lift midway through a trying season.

He finished tied for second in interceptions among Record area players, most notably notching a pick in back-to-back games against eventual state playoff teams. Cowan’s highlight of the year was an 85-yard pick-six against All American Conference champ Pine Forest on Oct. 15.

“He’s ahead of his time, he’s a leader back there and he knows what’s going on,” Triton coach Ben Penny said of Cowan.

The playmaking ballhawk got an interception against Terry Sanford the next week and helped Triton finish with three straight wins to end the season, narrowly missing out on a postseason berth.

“He wants to make sure that we win at football, and that’s what he did at the end (of the season),” Penny said.

Even when we wanted to rest him, he wanted to be on the field and we would stick him right back out there and he would go to making the plays that he’s capable of making.”    

Best Kicker — Carter Daughtry, Triton

A rare commodity in high school football, Daughtry provided a steady leg for the Hawks offense in his first full-time gig.

He led area kickers by connecting on 33 of 36 point-after attempts, while knocking down 5 of 7 field goals with his longest coming from 38 yards out. Daughtry accounted for 48 points, which tied second on the team.

In the kickoff game, he totaled 405 yards and forced seven touchbacks.

Best Coach — Lee Webb, South Johnston

Taking over the lead role after serving the past few years as an assistant, Webb made an immediate impact for the Trojans this fall.

South finished 8-3 overall, taking six of its first seven contests, en route to the program’s first winning season in three years. The Trojans went undefeated against Record teams, getting victories over Western and Triton.

Webb credited his personality for the quick culture change and buy in from players.

“I’m a very intense person. That’s just how I played, how I coached,” he said.

“It’s a grind, and we got a lot of coaches that are cut the same way.”

The high-scoring offense, matched well with a fast and opportunistic South defense to create havoc in the Quad County 3A Conference. The Trojans won two straight to end the regular season, falling just one win shy of tying for a share of the league title.

“It was great. We’re a blue-collar team. We work hard and we’re disciplined in what we do,” Webb said. 

“And we’re blessed to have great seniors and the leadership that we had to be able to take it this far. ... I don’t take credit for it, it was all them.”

Webb’s first year didn’t conclude with a storybook ending, watching his group lose to nearby conference foe Smithfield-Selma in the first round of the 3A state playoffs, but he’s encouraged for the program’s future.

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