Cedar Bluff senior quarterback Levi Mintz and senior nose guard Nick Combs left their opposition seeing red.
But for Cherokee County football fans, those colors made their season bright.
Livingston posted Spring Garden’s single-season rushing record, accumulating 1,945 yards and 26 touchdowns to guide the Panthers (9-3) back to the postseason.
Mintz made his impact through the air by completing 122 of 205 pass attempts for 2,390 yards and 33 touchdowns as the Tigers (10-1) posted just their sixth undefeated regular season in school history.
While Mintz was carrying much of the offensive load, Combs carried his share on defense. He led the Tigers with 102 total tackles (20 for lost yardage), six sacks, three caused fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
For their efforts, the Cherokee County football coaches selected Livingston and Mintz as co-Offensive Most Valuable Players. Combs received the Defensive MVP honor.
In his return to Spring Garden, Jason Howard earned the 2012 Cherokee County Coach of the Year.
The player trio and Howard were all humbled with their honors.
“I hope when everybody thinks about it, they realize I couldn’t have done it without the line who was blocking and doing everything for me,” Livingston said. “I’ve always dreamed of a season like that.”
Livingston drew inspiration for his 2012 season from former Spring Garden running back Trey Littlefield.
“Once he set the rushing record, I set my goal,” Livingston said. “I wanted to beat his record, but it wasn’t just me. Every day in the weight room and every day at practice, we pushed each other just a little bit harder so we could achieve our goals.”
Howard said Livingston’s honor “couldn’t have happened to a better kid.”
“He had a great season,” Howard said. “He’s just a good kid in general, and I’m glad to see he’s getting some accolades because he’s put in the effort and the hard work. He deserves this type of award.”
Howard said Livingston and the rest of the Panther players and coaches made his return to Spring Garden easy. Howard left Spring Garden two years ago to take a job with his alma mater at Ohatchee, but decided Spring Garden was where he wanted to be.
“It’s been a real special season,” Howard said. “We’ve got some great coaches in this county, but for me, the credit goes to my assistant coaches and the kids.
“This was a fun group to coach. I was looking forward to coach them and just be around them again. I was tickled for our seniors. Some of them were with me when I left, so getting to coach them their senior year was special. For this group to go out and do what they did, I was tickled for them.”
Like Livingston, Mintz and Combs know their stellar seasons wouldn’t have been possible without the players around them.
“I want to thank my linemen for blocking for me,” Mintz said. “I think I only had one actual sack the whole season that wasn’t a bad snap or something like that. My receivers, when the ball wasn’t always in the greatest place, they helped me out a little bit, so this (honor) is really on behalf of all of them.”
It’s the second time in three seasons Mintz has earned the county’s Offensive MVP honor. He won the award as a sophomore in 2010.
Cedar Bluff coach Jonathan McWhorter said he’s proud of how well Mintz has developed throughout his football career.
“You take a kid like Levi and see them develop as young men and athletes is really something special,” McWhorter said. “He was just a skinny little ninth grader who had to come in when Kyle (Crane) was hurt for a couple of games as a freshman. He helped lead our team to a couple of touchdown drives. From that to where he is today, it’s really neat for me to see his development through the years.”
Combs said he’s also appreciative to his teammates and coaches for developing him into the player he is today.
“This is something great to have,” Combs said. “It’s all about hustling, trying your best and who wants to be a team player. As a team, our coaches teach us discipline and being under control. A part of being under control and part of being a team is hustle, to be where you’re supposed to be. You’ve just got to be ready to play. That’s really what it’s all about.”
McWhorter is also proud of how far Combs has come along throughout his career.
“He’s about 165 pounds playing nose guard, in there with big kids beating on him the whole game,” McWhorter said. “With Nick, it comes down to effort. He’s one of those kids who doesn’t know how to go half-speed. He’s going full-speed every play. He plays the way he practices. He was a big part of the development of our defense this year, and a big part of the great year we had.
“For a kid to play nose guard and have over 100 tackles, that’s almost unheard of, especially for a kid his size.”
The Class 1A, Region 7 champion Tigers had the most selections on the All-County team with 11 players and four honorable mention.
Joining Mintz and Combs are senior lineman Skylar Cagle, senior punter/kicker Curtis Abernathy, senior tight end DeAngelo Hardy, senior receiver Rickey Pendley, senior defensive back Blake Terry, senior linebacker Lee Hughes, senior linebacker CJ Gilreath, junior defensive back Dalton Cosby and sophomore running back D’Shawn Fife.
Tiger honorable mention players are senior receiver Alex Hairston, senior linebacker Shane Hall, senior receiver Terrence Scales and sophomore lineman Jake Mintz.
Eight other Spring Garden players and two honorable mention selections join Livingston on the All-County squad.
Selected from Spring Garden are senior linemen Craig Jones, Caleb Steward and BJ Turner, senior tight end Jake Grogan, senior receiver Will Penton, senior linebacker Dylan Watson, junior quarterback/defensive back Will Ivey and junior running back Tyler Morgan.
Panther honorable mention players are senior receiver Josh Hale and freshman lineman Sam Parris.
The Sand Rock Wildcats (5-6) have six selections and three honorable mention players on the team. They are senior lineman Drake Wilbanks, senior running back Skylar Williams, senior all-purpose player Sean Wylie, senior receiver Stethan Chandler, junior receiver/safety Chandler Mackey and junior quarterback Dylan Mackey.
Wildcat honorable mention players are junior running back/linebacker Dustin Chambers, junior receiver/defensive end Ethan Jimmerson and senior tackle Tyler Clanton.
The Cherokee County Warriors (1-8) have six selections and three honorable mention players. Warriors selected to the team are senior linemen Zach Bedwell and Brandon Henderson, senior linebacker Josh Higgins, senior quarterback Tanner Young, senior receiver Logan Pierce and junior receiver Wade Griffith.
Warrior honorable mention players are junior running back Ty Green, junior offensive lineman Andrew Johnson and sophomore offensive lineman Chase May.
The Gaylesville Trojans (3-7) have four selections and a pair of honorable mention players. Trojans selected to the team are senior running back/linebacker John David Jennings, senior lineman Levi Teague, junior quarterback/safety Cole Murphy and junior tight end/linebacker Gable Lawson.
Trojan honorable mention players are junior running back/linebacker Dylan Mitchell and sophomore lineman Seth Dawson.