By Alex Byington
Harker Heights Herald
This season, Darius James was an all-state offensive lineman at Harker Heights. But through an executive decision by the sports staff of the Daily Herald, it was determined he'd be better suited on defense, where he was an all-state honorable mention.
At least that was the thought when breaking down the area's best high school football players this year.
James, on defense, headlines three Knights named on the exclusive first team of the 2011 All-Area Football Team - also known as the Super Centex League: Ultimates.
Joining the 6-foot-5 junior nose guard/offensive lineman, expected to be among the state's more highly-recruited prospects this summer, was a pair of larger-than-life brothers - 6-7 senior left tackle Camrhon Hughes, who will enroll at the University of Texas in January, and 6-4 junior safety Naashon Hughes.
In his first year playing on offense since his days as a 250-pound running back in middle school, James graded out at 94 percent with 70 pancake blocks while also seeing limited time on defense, accounting for 71 tackles (6 for loss) and seven hurry-ups causing havoc for the area's second-ranked defense (allowing 279 yards per game).
Playing alongside James, sometimes literally beside him, was Camrhon Hughes, a four-star recruit committed to the Longhorns, who was a 12-5A unanimous first-team selection this season after grading out at 88 percent with 56 pancakes and 47 knockdowns. His younger brother, Naashon Hughes, also earned 12-5A first-team honors anchoring the district's best defense with 81 tackles, six pass break ups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Also representing eastern Bell County on the Daily Herald's All-Area first team were a trio of 12-5A first-teamers that helped Belton's rebuilt offensive and defensive units back to the playoffs. Chief among those was senior running back Donavan Williams, a unanimous 12-5A first-team selection after running for 1,305 yards and 14 touchdowns, who posted eight 100-yard games (including four in a row to end the year). Joining him were a pair of juniors standouts in receiver Derick Bates, who led the area in catches (43) and receiving yards (781), and linebacker Ryan Stinson, who had 114 total tackles to go with two sacks.
Rebounding from a one-win season a year ago, Salado was led by a large contingent of seniors, key among them were a pair of 25-3A first-team selections. Receiver/defensive back Peyton Best anchored the area's best offense with 603 yards receiving (20.1 yards per catch) and an area-leading nine touchdowns, and linebacker Jim Wentrcek, who had 116 total tackles (eight for loss) in helping an improved Eagles defense that allowed nearly 900 less rushing yards this season.
Brandon Hamilton, Copperas Cove, Sr.
He had to wait his turn to be Cove's feature back. But it was worth the wait. For his outstanding 2011 season, Brandon Hamilton was named the Daily Herald's Offensive Most Valuable Player.
The District 12-5A unanimous first-team pick rattling off seven 100-yards games that could have been if not for his resting on the sidelines while Cove held comfortable leads. Hamilton finished as the area's leading rusher, gaining 1,505 yards and averaging 7.2 yards per carry. More impressive was his ability to find the endzone - Hamilton had 26 touchdowns this season, scoring three touchdowns three times and four twice in games.
Derriel Collins, Killeen, Sr.
While most people were focussing on Killeen's more glamorous positions, Derriel Collins and the Roos' defense were doing the dirty work to make opposing offenses look bad. For Collins, the work began long before the season. Rotating in and out as a junior, he got a taste of how he could help the Roos' defense do, what the Roos defense ultimately did this year. Collins, a second-team 4A all-state selection, had 14 sacks and was the second-leading tackler on the area's best defense. With sacks of 8-of-13 games, including two three-sack nights, and 107 total tackles (48 solo), Collins was routinely in the middle of most plays, helping Killeen hold opponents to less than 256 yards and less than 20 points per game.
Newcomer of the Year
Garrett Gaskamp, Killeen, So.
The 8-4A offensive newcomer of the year, completed 116 of 212 passes for 1,803 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore replacing dual-threat standout Michael Cummings. He threw just eight interceptions, showing his maturity, and proved he was mobile as well, running for 336 yards and nine touchdowns on 61 carries.
Coach of the Year
Sam Jones, Killeen
Jones' eighth year was very much like his fifth. Starting a sophomore at quarterback and relying on a talented defense and offensive line, Killeen went 8-5 and made an eye-opening run to the Division I-4A regional round. It was the Roos' deepest run since the 2008 team that made the state quarterfinals.
QB - Orlando Thomas, Copperas Cove, Sr.
RB - Donavan Williams, Belton, Sr.
RB - Secody Howard, Lampasas, Sr.
Util - Brandon Scott, Lampasas, Sr.
WR - Derick Bates, Belton, Jr.
WR - Peyton Best, Salado, Sr.
OL - Camrhon Hughes, Harker Heights, Sr.
OL - Isreal Hamm, Copperas Cove, Jr.
OL - Dante Patrick, Killeen, Sr.
OL - Reggie Harris, Killeen, Sr.
OL - Josh Kuehne, Lampasas, Sr.
K - Sebastian Corrales, Gatesville, Jr.
DL - Ray Galbraith, Lampasas, Jr.
DL - Darius James, Harker Heights, Jr.
DL - Artrez Price, Killeen, Sr.
LB - Darius McClinton, Copperas Cove, Jr.
LB - Ryan Stinson, Belton, Jr.
LB - Justin Acker, Killeen, Sr.
LB - Jim Wentrcek, Salado, Sr.
DB - Naashon Hughes, Harker Heights, Jr.
DB - Sean McBryde, Ellison, Sr.
DB - Otis Hudson, Shoemaker, Sr.
DB - Dino Cannon, Killeen, Sr.
P - Eli Kuhns, Copperas Cove, Sr.
QB - Mike Richardson, Salado, Jr.
RB - Marcus Kehoe, Lampasas, Sr.
RB - Johnny Jefferson, Shoemaker, Jr.
WR - Levi Jordan, Belton, Sr.
WR - Ben Futrell, Florence, Sr.
Util - Ryan Simmons, Salado, So.
OL - Foster Brown, Copperas Cove, Jr.
OL - Jermey Wilson, Lampasas, Sr.
OL - Chase Anderson, Killeen, Sr.
OL - Darius James, Harker Heights, Jr.
OL - Michael Gall, Belton, Sr.
K - Marvin Henderson, Killeen, Sr.
DL - Josh Lyons, Copperas Cove, Sr.
DL - Wesley Washington, Ellison, Sr.
DL - Joe Guthrie, Belton, Jr.
LB - Austin Silva, Salado, Sr.
LB - Tyler Santellana, Belton, Jr.
LB - Malik Clemons, Shoemaker, So.
LB - Bradey Santulan, Gatesville, Sr.
DB - Cort Dixon, Gatesville, Sr.
DB - Ameer Lee, Killeen, Sr.
DB - Chris Rhodes, Copperas Cove Sr.
DB - Tyrel Stokes, Harker Heights, Jr.
P - Levi Jordan, Belton, Sr.