The 2016 All Region team for Region 7-AAA was released on Dec. 15 and Dawson County High School had seven players recognized on the first team including senior Luke Martin who was honored as the defensive player of the year.
On the offensive side, junior quarterback Coey Watson, senior wide receiver Austin Young, offensive lineman Jordan Waddell and offensive lineman Wyatt McMahon were all recognized.
Also earning first team honors were senior Kolton Brumbelow for special teams and senior Clint Garrett at linebacker.
See below for the complete Region 7-AAAall league awards:
Player of the Year: Davis Mills, Greater Atlanta Christian
Most Valuable Player Offense: Cole Wright, Union County
Most Valuable Player Defense: Luke Martin, Dawson County
Special Teams Player of the Year: Brooks Buce, Greater Atlanta Christian
Athlete of the Year: Markese Jackson, East Hall
Lineman of the Year: Zach Johns, Lumpkin County
Academic Player of the Year: Josh Parrish, North Hall
Quarterback: Coey Watson, Dawson County
Running back: Zack Matthews, Lumpkin County
Running back: Kyle Bacus, North Hall
Running back: Deon Ellison, East Hall
Fullback: Maddox Turner, North Hall
Wide Receiver: Cooper Earls, Fannin County
Wide Receiver: Austin Young, Dawson County
Wide Receiver: Harrison Sloan, Greater Atlanta Christian
Wide Receiver: Sedrion Morse, East Hall
Tight End: Jacob Reece, Fannin County
Offensive Line: Dawson Groves, Union County
Offensive Line: Jordan Waddell, Dawson County
Offensive Line: Blane Brown, Union County
Offensive Line: Cameron Jeffrey, North Hall
Offensive Line: Ford Roberts, Greater Atlanta Christian
Offensive Line: River Dixon, Fannin County
Offensive Line: Wyatt McMahon, Dawson County
Athlete: Kyler McMichael, Greater Atlanta Christian
Kicker: Wesley Walls, Lumpkin County
Kicker: Brandon Carranza, Fannin County
Specialist: Kolton Brumbelow, Dawson County
Defensive Line: Chris Hinton, Greater Atlanta Christian
Defensive Line: Tyler McConnell, Union County
Defensive Line: Mac Bennett, North Hall
Defensive Line: Josh Chastain, Lumpkin County
Linebacker: Luke Winkler, Union County
Linebacker: Devin Thomas, Greater Atlanta Christian
Linebacker: Jonathan Rose, Greater Atlanta Christian
Linebacker: Andrew Pavao, Fannin County
Linebacker: Clint Garrett, Dawson County
Defensive Back: David Markham, Greater Atlanta Christian
Defensive Back: Noah Dyer, East Hall
Defensive Back: Trey Morrison, Greater Atlanta Christian
Defensive Back: Trent Fowler, Greater Atlanta Christian
Defensive Back: Micah Gilbert, Union County
When Dawson County High School senior Luke Martin talks about football, his passion is absolutely undeniable. For anyone who has seen him play the game, the same holds true.
Martin is the kind of player that coaches hope to have, but rarely do.
"The energy he brought to the football team through his passion for the game is unmatched," said Head Coach Sid Maxwell about his standout linebacker who was just named Region 7-AAA defensive player of the year.
He was also named to the first team all-state at linebacker and team MVP.
"Luke has worked very hard to be the best player he can be. Luke is also a natural leader through his work ethic and passion," Maxwell said.
"I just do whatever they ask me to do. I love the game," Martin said. "Some people love just to play and they don't love the game. They love to play with their friends but they don't love the game. I love, truly love, the game of football and what it stands for."
Martin has played the game since he was a child with a lot of the same guys and early on they knew they belonged together on the football field.
That's why this was a bittersweet year for the 6' 2" 225-pound senior who has already received four offers to play at the collegiate level.
"It was bittersweet because I am probably not going to play with any of these guys again," Martin said. "Those guys will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life. I mean, I get emotional talking about it sometimes because those are my boys. It's just bittersweet, but it was an honor to be able to play with these guys."
His "boys" include his cousin and quarterback Coey Watson and players like Austin Young, Colin Glover, Brise Henson and Jeremy Whalen-all of whom he has played with for the last 10 years.
"When I first came in and first started playing with those guys, it was like everything clicked right there from the first year. We became best friends," Martin said.
Martin says that aside from becoming fast friends and teammates, they all hated losing.
They hated losing because they went 51-1 through park and rec under the coaching of Josh Watson who is the inside linebacker coach at the high school. The team won four straight championships in the North Georgia Youth Football League.
"We hated it. Everybody could tell. You could tell on Friday nights we hated losing because we weren't used to it," Martin said.
Martin and his teammates take the game seriously and his own stats reveal that.
His senior year Martin accumulated 185 tackles in 10 games with 20 tackles for a loss.
On the offensive side, Martin had five receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown, plus two interceptions that included a pick six.
What's really tough to show in the numbers, however, is how much he affected the game and on how many plays.
When a Dawson County running back needed a blocker, many times that was Martin.
He was on the field, on both sides of the ball, as much as the coaches would let him be.
"I don't care where they want me to play. I will play wherever. I just love the game. I don't care about stats. That stuff will come. Those don't really have any effect on me," Martin said.
Martin is convincing and it's easy to see why his teammates and coaches consider him a leader.
"I like to lead on the field. I like to lead and talk to and get on guys when they are not doing what they need to be doing. I really think my actions show how I lead. I am very emotional on the field, if people can't tell. I love to celebrate with my teammates. I love to get fired up," he said.
Martin knows that leadership also means doing the hard things, like keeping teammates in line.
"To me, sometimes, I've got to be the bad guy. I have to get on guys to make sure we are doing right. That carries them to success," he said.
Martin says his senior year was great, but he thinks they could have done better.
"We could have exceeded our goals. Our goals were not met. It was a good year," Martin said.
The team became Region 7-AAA champs during his junior year and went 9-4 to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, a feat never before accomplished in Dawson County.
His senior season saw the team become region runners-up with a 7-3 record.
Though he hates losing and his expectations are always high, he is also adamant that the most important part is the relationships he has formed and the impact he's made not only on his team, but on the kids that will come behind him.
He loves to think about the impact he can have on the next generation of Dawson County football players as well as the impact the program has had on the community as a whole.
"I want to leave an impact on this place when I leave. I feel like I have done that...play for something that is bigger than me. When I look up and see all those kids cheer my name, wanting to be me on Friday, that's the biggest blessing to me that I have ever seen," Martin said. "It's something special. When new kids come in here, guys come in from different schools and they saw something they haven't seen any other place. They see one big family. That's what we are. I think it's just a blessing because not many places have that."
Martin says that he looks to God for guidance when it comes to bringing others along while assuming his leadership role.
"A lot of it I just put on God. I ask him to help me because I feel like he called me to this leadership role this year, for this team. I feel like he has done that for the last two years. He has helped me so much grow as a person. Just get to know people and what they are going through and be able to help people and what they are going through outside of football," he said.
Martin attributes his leadership skills to Maxwell and coaches like Russell Davis, Andy LeBlanc and Brent Cox.
"They are always there for me. They are there to pray with me when I need. They give me guidance," Martin said. "Those guys, they are some of the best mentors and coaches I have ever been around. They know football. They know life. They have experienced different parts of life. They have so much guidance. I love those guys. I wouldn't trade them for the world."
Ask Martin about being the defensive player of the year in the region and he graciously says he is honored, but very quickly credits his teammates on defense.
"It was an honor to me, but I can't do it without my teammates. My defensive line they helped me a lot this year, especially Jordan Hannah, Taylor Swafford, Hunter LeBaron and Corey Hammond...all those guys up front," he said.
As for the future, Martin has not yet made a decision on where to play.
He hopes to have more offers before the time to commit has come.
He is also not yet sure about what he wants to study in school, but he does know he'd like to be close to home and be a freshman who starts for whatever team he is on.
"I am just going to keep working hard so that way when I get ready and I go to that next level, I am prepared. When I go in there, I don't want to just be a player on the roster, I want to be starting as a freshman," he said.
Wherever he goes it is obvious that Martin's football legacy will remain in Dawson County.
"The Dawson County football program will greatly miss Luke, but we are so grateful for the impact Luke has made on the football team and community," Maxwell said. "This impact will last long after he is gone he will be considered one of the great players and person to ever put on a Dawson County football jersey."