December 6, 2021

Braves honored with Region 5-AA football awards

(Franklin, GA) — The names of the 2018 All Region 5-AA football teams were released this week and not surprisingly the Heard County Braves amassed a plethora of awards including three of the biggest that were announced.

Senior safety/running back Aaron Beasley, senior defensive lineman Zaylin Wood, and head coach Tim Barron led the way for the Class AA State Champion Braves.

Region 5-AA Overall Player of the Year Aaron Beasley (L) and Region 5-AA Defensive Player of the Year Zaylin Wood (Photo: Tony Wright )

The Region 5-AA Overall Player of the Year Award went to Beasley.

Beasley was force all year-long with very impressive stats on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, Beasley carried the ball 291 times for 1,961 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Defensively, Beasley was again a force in the Brave secondary displaying SEC talent every week.

The University of Tennessee commit tallied 54 tackles and four interceptions including the memorable overtime pick that ended the 38-30 semifinal win over Fitzgerald that sent the Braves to the Benz.

The Defensive Player of the Year Award went to Brave senior defensive lineman Zaylin Wood.

Wood dominated offensive lines throughout the state all season long and seemed to only get better as the games got bigger. He recorded 46 tackles including 16 for a loss during the playoffs alone.

For the season, Wood finished with 112 total tackles and blew away the school record with 42 tackles for a loss. He also gave opposing quarterbacks fits with four sacks, 16 QB hurries, and four pass break-ups. Wood also had a big safety in the Bremen game.

Braves head coach Tim Barron was the obvious choice as the Region 5-AA Coach of the Year after his squad battled back after two huge losses to Class AA squads and went on to win 12 straight games including the all important state title game at the Benz.

Since arriving in Franklin in 2002, Barron is unquestionably the most successful coach in school history with an overall record of 142-59 and state playoff appearances in 16 of 17 seasons.

Four other Braves garnered All-Region First Team defensive honors including the linebacker tandem of senior Andrew Leak and junior Jai Wright along with the DL duo of Sam Brown and Tray Owens.

Region 5-AA Coach of the Year Tim Barron with his wife Laura

Owens was a stalwart up front for the Braves finishing the season with 96 tackles including 30 for a loss (second in school history behind Wood) along with two sacks and an interception.

Both Owens and Wood battled through injuries during the championship game but only missed a few plays each.

One of the true unsung heroes for Coach Shane Lassetter on the defensive front was senior DL Sam Brown. Brown had 31 tackles on the year including 16 during the playoffs.

Brown had seven tackles for losses including a safety and was another player that shined throughout the postseason.

Drew Leak was an absolute monster in the middle for the Braves this season with 90 tackles with exactly half coming in the playoffs.

Leak recovered a fumble during the regular season but was magic in the postseason hauling in three interceptions. The most important of the three picks came in the quarterfinal road win at Dublin.

Leak also had solid stats on the offensive side of the ball and has been offered by Eastern Michigan among others.

Junior newcomer Jai Wright will be an anchor for the Braves defense next season following an outstanding season at LB for the state title winners. Wright had 85 tackles in 2018 including 14 for a loss. He also disrupted opposing QB’s often leading the Braves with 5.5 sacks with nine QB hurries.

Offensively named to the first team all-region team at the skill positions were senior quarterback Alijah Huzzie and senior wide receiver LeQuincy Shepherd.

Despite entering the season with practically no game experience under center, Huzzie put together some outstanding stats including a school record for TD passes with 18 and only three interceptions. Overall, Huzzie completed 76 of 145 passes for 1523 yards. He rushed for 705 yards on 108 attempts with six TD’s.

Huzzie’s favorite target all season long was Shepherd. Shepherd finished the season with 26 catches for 651 yards and 11 touchdowns — also a new Heard County school record.

Shepherd was also outstanding defensively as hauled in seven interceptions including two in the championship win over Rockmart. His seventh interception as time expired at Mercedes-Benz tied the school record for picks in a season.

Representing the Braves offensive line on the first team were seniors Jaidan Cameron and David Urquilla. Both players had outstanding years protecting Huzzie and paving the way for the big numbers for Beasley and both will be sorely missed by offensive line coach Kyle Yates next season.

Braves being named to the second team all-region defense were the junior defensive trio of Kesean Johnson (LB), Micaiah Austin (DB), senior LB P.J. Cofield, sophomore LB Leroy Marsh and junior DL Qua Thornton.

Region 5-AA second team offensive nods went to senior OL Michael Cheney, TE Austin, and sophomore WR Ayden Cannon.

Brave earning honorable mentions in Region 5-AA included senior OL Brenden Thompson, sophomore OL Anthony Graley, and senior WR Tray Dunson. Dunson will be moving up to the next level to play for Jacksonville State.

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