“We feel like we could have something special on defense,” Smith said back in August.
Turns out he was right.
The Dogs’ ‘D’ yielded an average of 163 total yards (84.1 rushing, 78.9 passing) and just 9.5 points per game.
The Alabama Sportswriters Association rewarded the Bulldogs’ defensive accolades. Piedmont (11-1) had two first-team selections and four honorable mention players selected to the 2012 Class 3A All-State Football Team, which was released Christmas night.
Piedmont’s six total selections lead 17 overall area football selections to the All-State team. Eight of the area players selected earned first-team recognition.
Piedmont’s two first-team selections were defensive guys in senior linebacker Jamie Major and junior nose tackle Exavyer Jackson. Two other defenders in senior defensive lineman Marquez Gamble and senior defensive back Laphonso Burroughs were selected as honorable mention players at their respective positions.
Major made the Class 3A All-State first team for the third straight season. This year, he had 135 total tackles (9 for loss) with five sacks, two fumble recoveries, caused a fumble and had six pass breakups. He posted a season-high19 tackles in the Bulldogs’ second-round playoff loss at Deshler.
Jackson posted 81 total tackles (26 for loss) with 11 sacks. He also caused a fumble, recovered another and blocked a kick.
Gamble tallied 66 total tackles (9 for loss) with four sacks. He also recovered a fumble and recovered two more.
Burroughs allowed only eight completions for 92 yards to opponents last season. He finished the year with 49 tackles, two interceptions and a team-high 11 pass breakups.
The Bulldogs also had a pair of honorable mention players on offense in sophomore receiver C.J. Savage and senior kicker Dillon Terry.
Savage caught 33 passes for 721 yards and eight touchdowns. As a punt returner, he accumulated 345 yards and scored a touchdown on 15 returns.
Terry made 55 of 60 extra points and booted two field goals with a long of 37 yards. A third of his kickoffs went for touchbacks, with opponents’ average starting field position at the 19-yard line.
The Class 1A, Region 7 champion Cedar Bluff Tigers (10-1) had five players receive recognition on the All-State Team, led by first-team selections DeAngelo Hardy (tight end) and Nick Combs (defensive line).
Hardy, a senior, caught 26 passes for 829 yards and 13 touchdowns. For his career, he hauled in 116 receptions for 2,601 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Combs, a senior nose guard, posted 102 tackles (20 for loss) with six sacks, three fumble recoveries and one caused fumble. He finished with 212 tackles (39 for loss) with 15 sacks, four fumble recoveries and three caused fumbles for his career.
The Tigers had three other players receive honorable mention status in senior quarterback Levi Mintz, senior offensive lineman Skylar Cagle and senior punter Curtis Abernathy.
Mintz completed 122 of 205 pass attempts for 2,390 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 109 yards on 38 carries with three scores. For his career, Mintz finished with 6,600 yards and 90 touchdowns passing. He also rushed for 12 touchdowns in his career with the Tigers.
Cagle graded out at 96 percent and finished with 53 pancake blocks last season. He started 34 career games at guard, grading out at 88 percent and finished with over 100 pancake blocks.
Abernathy had 20 punts for an average of 34 yards per kick. Seven of those punts were downed inside the 20-yard line (1 inside the 10). For his career, Abernathy had 108 punts for a 33.3-yard average.
Region 7 runner-up Collinsville (9-2) had a pair of first-team selections in senior receiver Edgar Padilla and kicker David Hernandez.
Padilla caught 42 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns, while Hernandez connected on 4-of-5 field goal attempts with a long of 38 yards. Hernandez, who earned the Class 1A kicker spot in 2011, also booted 41 of 42 extra point attempts last season.
The Spring Garden Panthers (9-3) also had a pair of players receive recognition in senior offensive lineman Craig Jones and senior running back Forrest Livingston.
Jones, who earned one of the first-team spots on the Class 1A offensive line, was the lead blocker for Livingston, an honorable mention at running back.
Jones also doubled as a defensive lineman, where he posted 74 total tackles (13 for loss), nine sacks and two pass breakups.
Livingston set Spring Garden’s single-season rushing record with 1,945 yards and 26 touchdowns on 293 carries. He also caught 10 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. Livingston finished with over 4,600 yards and 57 rushing touchdowns for his career.
The Gaylesville Trojans (3-7) and Cherokee County Warriors (1-8) both had a player receive All-State recognition.
Gaylesville senior running back/linebacker John David Jennings earned an honorable mention at the Class 1A Defensive Athlete position.
Jennings rushed for 1,374 yards on 208 carries with 13 touchdowns. He also caught seven passes for 87 yards and two scores. On defense, Jennings posted 75 total tackles, including 55 solo efforts. For his career, Jennings tallied 3,072 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns.
Warrior senior Zach Bedwell earned one of the Class 4A Defensive Linemen spots. Bedwell posted 65 total tackles (20 for loss) with 10 sacks last season.
The All-State team was chosen by a panel of the state’s high school writers earlier this month. The group also selected its finalists for Back and Linemen of the Year in each class, to be released on Saturday (Dec. 29).
The winners of those 14 awards, as well as the selection of Mr. Football, will be announced at the ASWA’s annual Player of the Year luncheon, to be held in Montgomery on Jan. 16 and sponsored by the Alabama High School Athletic Directors and Coaches Association.
The complete 2012 ASWA All-State Football Team listings can be found on The Herald’s website (www.cherokeeherald.com).