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Honors roll in: Titans land 7 players on All-TMC football team

Honors roll in: Titans land 7 players on All-TMC football team

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Seven McDowell Titan football players were named to The Mountain 3A/4A All-Conference team in voting by the league’s coaches released Monday.

Three Titans were named to the first team, with four earning second-team status. Three McDowell players made all-conference for the second consecutive season.

Senior linebacker Grayson “Buck” Blackwelder, senior guard James Day and junior tight end Jeremiah Ellis were named to the first team.

Senior offensive lineman Jesse Barrier, senior quarterback Gabe Marsh, senior defensive lineman Jake Marsh and junior defensive back Magesty Summey were named to the second team.

Blackwelder, Day and Gabe Marsh made their second straight appearances on the all-conference team. All three made the All-Northwestern Conference team during the COVID-shortened spring season, McDowell’s last as part of the NWC.

Blackwelder, the team’s emotional leader, led the 5-4 Titans in tackles, making 61 stops, 37 of them solo. He was tops on the team in tackles for losses with 11 despite missing the final game of the season with a shoulder injury. Blackwelder finished his outstanding three-year varsity career with 206 tackles, 130 solo stops, 14 tackles for losses, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

Day was a menacing physical presence at right guard despite missing a game with a broken finger. The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder played mostly on offense this season after doing double-duty in the spring, and helped the Titans average 297 yards of offense per game. He still managed 15 tackles on defense to go with one tackle for loss, one sack and a caused fumble.

Ellis, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder with a remarkable set of hands, was the Titans’ leading receiver. Ellis caught 19 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns, despite opponents paying special attention to him after seeing him on film in the Titans’ first few games.

Despite being drastically undersized at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Barrier was one of the team’s most effective and consistent offensive linemen all season. Barrier also spent some time at defensive tackle, making nine stops, two of them for losses. He also had a sack and a caused fumble.

Gabe Marsh, a steady, two-year starter at quarterback, went 75-of-131 passing (56%) for 943 yards and five touchdowns with eight picks. He also ran 57 times for 147 yards and six more scores. In his three seasons with the varsity, Marsh finished 124-of-238 for 1,569 yards – good for tenth place all-time among Titan QBs – and nine TDs with 15 interceptions. He also ran for 270 yards and six scores on 112 carries. Marsh’s 280-yard effort in a win over Avery was the fourth best single-game output in school history.

Jake Marsh, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound powerhouse, led the Titans in quarterback sacks for the second season in a row with two. He finished third on the team with 42 tackles, 31 of them solo, and was tied for second in tackles for losses with five.

Summey, a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder who emerged as a standout in the defensive backfield late in the summer, kept up his solid play all season. Summey led the Titans in interceptions with three and tied with Jake Marsh for second with five tackles for losses. Summey finished with 31 tackles, including 18 solo stops. He also added a quarterback sack and a caused fumble.

Conference champions Asheville, who went 6-0 in TMC play, swept the league’s top awards.

Junior quarterback Khalil Conley was named Offensive Player of the Year. Conley was 76-of-130 passing for 1,464 yards and 22 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He also ran for 550 yards and five more scores on 77 carries.

Asheville senior linebacker Micah Ward earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. Ward, a 6-foot, 225-pounder, made 111 tackles, including 98 solos. He added six tackles for losses, five passes defensed, four sacks and four caused fumbles.

Asheville’s Cort Radford was named Coach of the Year after leading the Cougars to a perfect conference record and a 9-3 overall mark. The Cougars advanced to the second round of the State 4A Playoffs before falling 13-12 to Mallard Creek on Friday.

Joining Day and Ellis on the first-team offense were linemen Kadin Lynch and Tanner Graham of Asheville, Tyquan Littlejohn of Erwin and Henry Luu of A.C. Reynolds; quarterback Ricky Tolbert of Reynolds; running back Caleb Madden of Asheville; and wide receivers Sayvon Hayden-Gibson of Asheville, Leighton Reynolds of Erwin and JoJo Ikeme of Reynolds.

The first team defense included Blackwelder; defensive linemen Russell Barnett of Reynolds, Tyson Conner of T.C. Roberson and Daniel Rivera of Erwin; linebackers Otis Walton-Thach of Asheville and Asher Cunningham and Micah Hembree of Reynolds; and defensive backs Heff Finley and DeShaun Whitmire of Asheville, Demetrase Graves of Erwin and DaShawn Stone of Reynolds. The first team athlete was Roberson quarterback Kamryn White and Reynolds kick returner Max Guest.

The second-team offense consisted of Marsh and Barrier, along with linemen Joseph Gates of Asheville, Rhyne Norton of North Buncombe, Jake Stanley of Roberson and Nash Rogers of Reynolds; running back Reno Jeter of Roberson; wide receivers T.J. Williams of Asheville, Machi Ikeme of Reynolds and Chase Boswell of Enka; and tight end (flex) Ben Wyatt of North Buncombe.

Joining Jake Marsh and Summey on the second-team defense were linemen Tay Davis of Asheville, Thomas Gibson of Reynolds and Sawyer Parker of Erwin; linebackers Noah Shaw of Asheville, Brandon Guest of Reynolds and Xander Godfrey of Enka; and defensive backs Aeon Benjamin of Asheville, Matthew Rogers of Enka and Cairo Skanes of Reynolds. The second-team athlete was Tre McGahee of Asheville and the specialist was Asheville kicker Xander White.

NOTE: McDowell’s only other athlete to earn all-conference honors in the fall sports was Lady Titans golfer Ashton Kirkland. The senior placed sixth in the conference championship tournament and earned her third trip to the West 4A Regionals. The boys' soccer team has not been released.

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