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Football: Preseason favorites to win FCN offensive, defensive top honors
Ty Watkins 08-15-22
South Forsyth senior quarterback Ty Watkins, seen here talking to coaches during a 2021 game, is among the favorites to take home Forsyth County News offensive player of the year at the end of the season. (FCN file photo)

The regular season starts this week for Georgia high school football. Eight of the 10 Forsyth County programs will be in action, with only East Forsyth and Fideles Christian taking the opening week off.

As kickoff inches closer for local teams, here is is a look at five super early front-runners for the annual Forsyth County News offensive and defensive player of the year honors.

The first four players in each category are listed in alphabetical order — followed by a dark-horse candidate for each award.

Offensive player of the year favorites

Peyton Streko, RB, West Forsyth

If Streko stays healthy, he would seem to be the prohibitive favorite for this award. Despite playing in just five games last year, the Air Force Academy commit racked up 659 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. The now-senior added 134 yards and two scores through the air — on just nine receptions. Streko scored twice in the Wolverines’ scrimmage, giving him a boost entering the season.

James Tyre, QB, Lambert

Being a dual-threat quarterback has become almost a prerequisite for winning the Heisman Trophy in recent seasons. It stands to reason that being able to rack up yardage and touchdowns through the air in addition to doing so on the ground would similarly help a high school QB earn plaudits. Tyre possesses that ability, as evidenced by his 2021 production that included 1,844 total yards and 20 combined touchdowns.

Ty Watkins, QB, South Forsyth

While Tyre undoubtedly considers himself a dual-threat, Watkins calls himself a pocket passer. Even still, the War Eagles QB matched his Longhorns counterpart with six touchdown runs last season. Watkins also posted 1,951 yards through the air, while posting an 18:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If he is able to successfully guide South Forsyth to a Region 6-7A championship, the stats will likely support the narrative.

Amon Williams, RB, Denmark

Coming off a junior season in which he led the county in rushing, Williams looked extremely explosive in Denmark’s scrimmage against Sequoyah. Then again, so did his backup. That’s a sign that the offensive line, which includes Tennessee commit Shamurad Umarov, is on the same page. Williams could also see increased production catching passes out of the backfield after hauling in 21 passes but for only 125 yards in 2021.

OPOY dark-horse candidate

Lake Thoman, WR, Denmark

Thoman put together a strong 2021 season (40 catches, 703 yards, 5 TDs), but this is based more on projection of Denmark’s passing game taking a step forward. Danes quarterback Jacob Nelson spreads the ball around to talented weapons. Thoman, though, appears to be his favorite target. While South Forsyth’s dynamic duo of Chris and Josh Nelson could be the county’s best WRs, the brothers cap each other’s upside.

Defensive player of the year favorites

Dee Crayton, LB, Denmark

Given that Crayton took home this honor last year, he’s the overall favorite until someone takes the crown away from him. The Clemson commit won’t give up the title without a fight. Crayton’s coming off a junior season that saw him post 91 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. It also helps Crayton’s case that Denmark again projects to be one of the toughest defenses to score on in the state let alone in Class 7A.

Nathan Efobi, DL, South Forsyth

Efobi made the GHSF Daily Georgia Power 100 as an “athlete,” showcasing his versatility. One of the top two-way linemen in the state, the senior says he doesn’t have a favorite side of the ball. The four-star prospect recorded 27 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 10 QB hurries and three sacks last year, while grading out at 90 percent and adding 42 pancakes. Efobi holds 14 offers, including 10 Power Conference ones, per 247Sports.

Raleigh Herbert, LB, West Forsyth

As a junior, Herbert topped the 100-tackle mark for the second consecutive season. Following a sophomore campaign with 106 stops, the Furman commit bettered the total in 2021, recording 110 tackles. Herbert’s per season average of 108 tackles puts him exactly on pace to match Eli Orr’s school record of 324. But assuming that Herbert continues to improve his numbers year over year, he will graduate as the all-time leader.

Collin Miller, LB, North Forsyth

Speaking of players finishing with at least 100 tackles, Miller landed directly on the century mark last season. While that type of number can only be achieved through impeccable consistency, Miller’s knack for the big play could set him apart from his linebacking contemporaries. Last fall, he produced 17 tackles for loss, seven sacks, 10 QB hurries, five blocked kicks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

DPOY dark-horse candidate

Brock Barbee, LB, Pinecrest

You might have to squint to see it, but there’s a realistic scenario in which Pinecrest wins a GAPPS championship and Barbee receives a lion’s share of the credit. He paced the county in tackles last year with 136, so his defensive prowess is well established. However, his offensive ceiling is much higher this year — and let’s be honest, two-way ability does matter — due to the graduation of three Paladins who landed all-county honors.