Region 5-AAAA names eight Jackets to all-region team

The high school football season ended on Friday for all Aiken-area teams, with Silver Bluff and Strom Thurmondn both losing in their respective semifinal games, but the honors are just starting to be handed out. On Monday, Region 5-AAAA announced its honor roll for the 2012 campaign and North Augusta had the lion's share of honorees.

Eight North Augusta players were singled out as members of the All-Region 5-AAAA team. Trey Morgan, the player who did a little of everything for the Yellow Jackets, was recognized for his tremendous performance on defense and was named the region's Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to being a top-flight wide receiver, Wildcat quarterback and dangerous kick returner, Morgan is an outstanding safety who anchored the back line of North Augusta's defense. For the season, he had 119 tackles and three interceptions - totals that put him among the area's best in both categories.

"Trey getting Defensive Player of the Year is a big, big honor for him and the program and says a lot about the direction we're going in," said North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin, who was named the Region Coach of the Year. "It's nice to be recognized by your peers, but it's a bigger deal getting those kids on the All-Region team."

Morgan's teammates and fellow defensive backs Devin Grimes and Robert Morgan were also named to the All-Region defense, as was linebacker Kris Howard who led all local players with 182 tackles this season.

While the Jackets' talented secondary was recognized for its strong efforts, so too was the offensive line, which had three players named to the All-Region offense. Center Alex Picciano was cited for his fine play along with bookend tackles Parker Collins and Jackson Whitley. The big athletic linemen did a fine job protecting their quarterbacks and opening holes for ball carriers. DeVonte Pressley was one running back who had an especially good season running behind the decorated offensive line. He ran for 1,940 yards and 18 touchdowns on 258 carries, an average of better than 7.5 yards every time he ran with the ball, and was also recognized as a member of the All-Region offense. Those totals are a massive jump for a player who saw limited action a year ago and didn't even run for 100 yards.

"It says a lot about kids who didn't even start last year, that's real good," said Pippin, who was honored for helping produce such strong performances from so many players and guide North Augusta to a 9-4 record, including a 4-1 mark in region play that was good enough to secure second place.

Pippin's Jackets accomplished that despite returning few experienced players and further established North Augusta as one of the premier programs in South Carolina, with 51 wins in the past five seasons. Overall, the Jackets only had six starters back from last season and four of them were honored Monday.

"It's the next-man-up philosophy, and it's helped us be successful because the kids have bought in," Pippin said of replacing seniors with seniors. "It's a testament to these kids and the coaches. It's a big honor."