Seven Pioneers were named all-region recently as the state released its football award winners. Pioneer coach Tom Moore recognized his all-region standouts, along with several others, at a banquet held recently.
Eric Haywood, Devin Jordan, Jorge Sifuentes, Austin Jakes and Noah Martin were each named all-region, while CJ Taylor and Dillon Haley earned honorable mention recognition.
Along with being named all-region, Haywood was named the team’s most valuable player at the banquet. It seemed like an obvious choice for the Pioneer running back who sparked the team’s offense all season.
“Eric really never came off the field. He played running back, receiver, free safety and returned kicks,” said Moore. “He rushed for nearly 900 yards against some of the best competition in the state.”
Haywood finished his senior year with 886 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, often showing off his blazing speed in the open field. Haywood put teams on notice from the opening game, when he found paydirt on an 85-yard run against DeKalb County.
Haywood’s best game against one of the top regions in the state came against Coffee County. The senior back finished with 163 yards and two touchdowns in a home loss to the Red Raiders.
Jordan, Jakes, Martin and Haley were the ones usually opening holes for Haywood. The group, along with Kaden Jordan, helped pave the way for the Pioneers to finish the season with over 1,800 yards on the ground.
Jordan was a standout in the trenches on both sides, while Jakes, Martin and Haley showed their defensive versatility by bouncing from the line to linebacker.
At the banquet, Martin received the Brad Sparkman memorial defensive player of the year award. The junior linebacker was one of the team’s leaders in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss.
Sifuentes did the majority of his damage at safety. The senior tied for the team lead in interceptions, including taking away two passes in a 33-7 win over Fayetteville on senior night.
All that held Taylor back from being an all-region performer was injuries. Taylor was one of the team’s top options through the first month, starring on both sides of the ball. Ankle and shoulder injuries slowed down the sophomore, whose breakout game came against White County in Week 2. Taylor helped the Pioneers topple the Warriors 20-13 with 163 total yards, including a 68-yard punt return TD.
He was part of a strong nucleus coach Moore is happy to have coming back, though he hopes he can add to it before next fall.
“We finished the season with 24 sophomores – many who were starting during the season,” said Moore. “We must get stronger. Getting stronger comes from consistency and hard work. It’s not rocket science.
“Getting some of our better athletes to come out will really help us moving forward. We are looking to gain some momentum in the offseason.”
Other award winners a at the banquet included punter/receiver Aaron Myers and quarterback/defensive end Bryson Elrod (coach’s award) and Edge Carroll and Austin McBride (most improved).
“I am proud of all of our boys,” said Moore. “I’m especially proud of our seniors who have been with us for four years.”