Small schools dominated high school football in North Central Florida in 2022.
That may not be breaking news for local high school football fans, but last season was an extraordinary one for small school football.
And those teams with the most success were well represented on the 2022 Bosshardt Realty All Area small school offensive football team.
Leading the way with four selections is Union County (Lake Butler). The 8-3 Tigers advanced to the 1R State Semifinals before losing 21-11 at Northview (Bratt).
And this offense starts with two Tigers in the backfield — senior quarterback AJ Cortese and senior running back Rayvon Durant.
“AJ is a dual-threat that gave us so many options on offense,” Union County coach Andrew Thomas said. “When he played well, we played well as a team. He made us go on offense.”
Cortese threw for 1,277 and 13 touchdowns and added another 647 yards and 10 TDs on the ground.
Durant rushed for 1,554 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“(Rayvon) was the silent leader of our team,” Thomas added. “He is a hard-working kid and was our go-to guy offensively.”
Cortese and Durant were helped by a fantastic offensive line led by junior Tucker Baynard.
“Tucker is a three-year starter at center as a junior.” Thomas said. “He’s a strong, physical kid who just loves football.”
The fourth Tigers player is junior kicker Jonathan Edwards.
Edwards was 4-for-4 on field goals and was nearly perfect on extra points, converting 46-of-47.
“He is dependable and a very consistent kicker,” Thomas said. “He was one of the best in the state in our class.”
Chiefland lands three players on the small school offensive team. The 7-3 Indians advanced to the second round of the 1R playoffs before losing at Pahokee.
Senior wide receiver Clint Thomas is one of the Indians’ representatives. Thomas led the team with 38 catches for 687 yards and 7 touchdowns.
“Thomas is an electric football player who needs the ball in his hands as often possible,” Chiefland coach James Corbin said. “He previously played quarterback in our offense to maximize his touches, but this year we were able to move him to wide receiver. He has phenomenal hands and a knack for finding the end zone. Wherever he lands in college, they will be getting a steal.”
Junior Dakota Fisher was chosen as the athlete on this team. Fisher did a little bit of everything for Chiefland, rushing for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Fisher also caught seven passes for 106 yards and three more scores and added 19 tackles and two interceptions, including one for a score on the defensive side of the ball. He also returned kicks and punts for the Indians.
“Fisher is an unbelievable talent and continues to raise his ceiling each season,” Corbin said. “I didn’t use him much as a freshman, but I started calling more plays for him his sophomore season and he ran for 1,197 yards as a sophomore before going over 1,400 yards this past season.
“With 4,393 all-purpose yards during his time at Chiefland so far, it’s clear this kid is special and I’m eager to see what he will do on the field as a senior.”
The third Chiefland representative is senior offensive lineman Vince Cloutier.
“Cloutier is an undersized lineman and would probably serve best as a blocking H-back at the next level,” Corbin said. “He played offensive guard for us and did an outstanding job. Despite being undersized, Cloutier makes an impact each game because of the drive he has and proven desire to win.”
It was quite a 2022 season for the Williston Red Devils. After finishing the 2021 season at 1-8, Williston brought legendary coach Robby Pruitt in from Georgia.
Pruitt, who previously won a state title at University Christian (Jacksonville) and Union County, paid immediate dividends, leading the 10-1 Red Devils to an undefeated regular season before a 46-35 loss to Wildwood in the 1R quarterfinals.
Lead Williston was senior running back Kyree Edwards who transferred from Gainesville and rushed for an area-high 1,718 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“Kyree Edwards is a great player,” Pruitt said. “He is an all-around versatile running back who runs violently and has great balance. He is quick but what sets him apart is his ability to block and catch. He is very unselfish, was our team leader and is just a great kid.”
Edwards is joined by Red Devils’ offensive lineman junior Wyatt Woodford.
“Wyatt Woodford was our center,” Pruitt said. “He is a smart player as well as possessing great get-off from the line of scrimmage. He was versatile enough to play at center and also as a pulling guard. He has great work ethic and is a very gritty offensive lineman.”
Class 1R state champion Hawthorne also has two representatives. The 12-0 Hornets advanced to the state championship game for the third year in a row, but this time took care of business by beating Northview, 13-2, to win their first football title.
Not surprisingly for a run-heavy team, the Hornets needed good offensive linemen.
Senior Mozell Williams, a Rutgers commit, was selected along with senior Darian Owens. Williams checks in at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds with Owens at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds.
The final two members from the small school All-Area offense come from the Newberry Panthers. Newberry went 6-4 in 2022 and fell in the opening round of the 1R playoffs against Chiefland.
Senior Michael Moore gets a lot of publicity as a wide receiver, and it’s well earned.
Moore caught 57 passes for an area-high 1,054 yards with 10 touchdowns. He added another score on a kick return.
“Mike had a phenomenal year for us, he bought in, put the work in, and performed every single Friday night for us,” said Newberry coach Ed Johnson. “He made big play after big play and it was great seeing him have that success.”
The final player to be honored is Newberry sophomore punter Zach Spires. Spires averaged 32.5 yards on 22 punts and dropped seven punts inside the 20-yard.
“This was Zane’s first year ever playing football, and he did not disappoint,” Johnson said. “He has a big-time leg, is a hard worker and I am very excited to see him progress in the future.”
Small school All Area offense
QB – A.J. Cortese (SR), Union County (Lake Butler)
RB – Rayvon Durant (SR), Union County (Lake Butler)
RB – Kyree Edwards (SR), Williston
WR – Michael Moore (SR), Newberry
WR – Clint Thomas (SR), Chiefland
ATH – Dakota Fisher (JR), Chiefland
OL – Mozell Williams (SR), Hawthorne
OL – Darian Owens (SR), Hawthorne
OL – Tucker Baynard (JR), Union County (Lake Butler)
OL – Vince Cloutier (SR), Chiefland
OL – Wyatt Woodford (JR), Williston
P – Zane Spires (SO), Newberry
K – Jonathan Edwards (JR), Union County (Lake Butler)
Bell – Zach Powell (QB, Sr.), Owen Yates (C, Sr.), Jacob Sheffield (G, Sr.), Connor Hastings (RB, Sr.), Patterson Wiles (WR, Sr.)
Branford – Caden Coker (RB, Sr.), Brice Criggall (ATH, Sr.), John Coker (T, Sr.), Tate Dampier (G, Jr.), Conner Harris (OL, Sr.)
Bronson – Ashton Wilkerson (RB, Sr.)
Chiefland – Michael Tovine (QB, Sr.), Kade Meek (OL, Sr.) Zachary Dumas (OL, Jr.), Kyler Whistler (OL, Sr.)
Dixie County (Cross City) – Brett Nettles (ATH, Sr.), Gabe Mitchell (OL, Jr.), Lynard Simpson (OL, So.)
Fort White – Clayton Philpot (QB, Sr.), Najeeb Smith (RB, Jr.), Kamarion Griffin (ATH, Sr.), Avery Giddens (OL, Sr.), Robert McIntyre (T, Jr.), Jalen Brown (G, Sr.)
Hawthorne – Kennon Johnson (RB, So.), Isaiah Donaldson (RB, Sr.), Darien Smith-Williams (WR, Sr.), Jaheim Darby (OL, So.), Torance Myers (OL, Jr.), Josues Knapp (OL, Fr.)
Newberry – Kiel McGriff (QB, Fr.), Kaleb Woods, (RB, Fr.), David Schmidt (WR, Jr.), Ben Beck (OL, Jr.), Payton Hogsed (OL, Jr.).
Oak Hall – Dakota Brower (QB, So.), Briggs Copeland (RB, So.), Dylan Provencher (TE, Sr.), Christopher Davis (OL, Jr.), Aidan Jerkins (OL, So.), Mike Peterson Jr. (WR, Jr.).
P.K. Yonge – Adrian Curtis (QB, So.), Devin Pedro (RB, Sr.), Deldrick Goston (WR, Sr.), Thomas Young III (WR, Jr.), Hayden Moore (WR, Fr.), Kain McDonald (OL, So.)
Union County (Lake Butler) – Daylyn Diston (WR, Sr.), Gavin Jenkins (WR, So.), Mikah Wilson (OL, Sr.), Carson Rogers (OL, Sr.)
Williston – Shooby Coleman (QB, Jr.), Edariyon Wesley (RB, Sr.), Jharez Williams (RB, Jr.), Eddie De LaCruz (K, Jr.), Matthew Merjave (OL, Jr.), Jackson Islam (TE, So.), Gunnar Maguire (C, Sr.)