Wilson Named Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year; McKinley Kicker of the Year

Updated: November 25, 2017

To conclude a whirlwind week that included a lavish trip to Notre Dame, decommitting from UNC and the subsequent predictable social media backlash from countless people living in their parents’ basements, Payton Wilson added another superlative to his storied Orange high career.

Wilson was named the Big 8 Conference Defensive Player of the Year on Friday for the second consecutive season. Wilson was the ultimate utility player for the Panthers in his senior season. In addition to starting nine games at linebacker, Wilson started four games as quarterback, served as punt returner and finished the season tied for the team lead with 15 receptions.

Despite missing essentially the final three games of the season (he suffered a torn ACL during the opening kickoff against Cedar Ridge, the penultimate game of the regular season), Wilson still led the team with 103 tackles and 21 tackles for loss. He had ten sacks, an interception (returned for a touchdown against Rolesville) and a fumble recovery.

Wilson was one of eleven Orange players to make the All-Big 8 squad. Also making the team for Orange:

Marvante Beasley: The senior running back had 977 yards and eight touchdowns. In all seven games he played, Beasley rushed for over 100 yards. His season, and possibly career, ended when he knocked out of the Hillside game on October 13 when he was carried off the field on a stretcher. An MRI later revealed his had a bruise on his spinal cord, jeopardizing his hopes of playing in college. Beasley, who was walking around without pain during last week’s Orange Thanksgiving Duals wrestling meet, is currently seeking a second medical opinion.

Ryan Sellers: A defensive end for the past three years, Sellers will be remembered as an anchor for some of the most accomplished Orange defenses in school history. In 2017, he led Orange with 24 tackles for loss and eleven sacks. Earlier this month, Sellers took a recruiting trip to East Tennessee State, which resurrected its program in 2015 under former UNC head coach Carl Torbush.  Sellers is currently gearing up for basketball season, which starts Monday.

Noah Rogers: Orange’s most accomplished two-way player, Rogers started as a nose guard on defense and a left guard on offense. He finished with 44 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Rogers will best be remembered for his junior season, when he teamed with Sellers and current Vanderbilt Commodore Stone Edwards to form a defensive line that yielded just six points in the second half during the entire regular season.

Jeremiah Bailey: Possibly the biggest revelation of the season, Bailey was a reserve defensive end. He became a regular starter at right guard and frequently played both ways during the Big 8 portion of the schedule. One of six Orange juniors to make All-Big 8.

Milton Purcell: A junior linebacker/wide receiver, Purcell finished with 39 tackles, five tackles for loss and four interceptions. Perhaps the emotional leader of the team, Purcell’s interception return for a touchdown against Hillside sewed up a win that ultimately led Orange to its third consecutive Big 8 Championship and handed Hillside its first loss in conference play since 2010. Purcell also scored perhaps the most adventurous touchdown of the season in the waning moments of the first half at Rolesville. With the clock ticking, Purcell returned the ball to the referee while struggling to get his shoe on, got the play from quarterback Rodney Brooks, then caught a touchdown.

Eryk Mercado: Tied for the team lead with four interceptions and led the team with five pass break-ups. Told teammates the night before the Northern Durham game he would make an interception against the Knights, then did just that the following night.

Jett Satterfield: The son of former Orange fullback Trent Satterfield and nephew of Appalachian State football coach Scott Satterfield, Jett transitioned from a wingback in Pat Moser’s single-wing offense to a linebacker who became the second-leading tackler on the team with 74. He also had 11 tackles for loss. Figures to be instrumental in his senior year.

Colin Guentensberger: A junior who started as a linebacker in Orange’s 3-5-3 defense. Guentensberger was fourth on the team with 61 tackles, eleven for a loss. Become more of a presence as a skill player late in the season after Wilson’s injury. Scored a receiving touchdown vs. Chapel Hill.

Hunter Pettiford: Another two-way player who was third on the team with 64 tackles. Became part of a two-way backfield after Beasley’s injury. Rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns in his first full season at the varsity level.

Francisco McKinley: Named the Big 8 Kicker of the Year. While it may have been overlooked, McKinley may have provided the most dramatic moment of the season when he kicked a 26-yard field goal with 1:29 remaining, which was the game-winner against Southern Durham, a 16-15 Orange win in the Big 8 opener. Just minutes earlier, McKinley injured his right knee when Southern blocked a punt deep in Orange territory.

Three Cedar Ridge Red Wolves make the All-Big 8 team.

Jacob Gravitte: The senior linebacker piled up 106 tackles for the Red Wolves, leading the team. Gravitte was a three-year varsity starter who was also All-Conference during his junior season, when Cedar Ridge went 6-5, its first winning season in six years.

Freddy Francis: Originally a wide receiver, Francis had a baptism by fire as a first-year quarterback after an injury to starter Phillip Berger. Francis started the final eight games of the season behind center, throwing for 477 yards and four touchdowns.

Thomas Upchurch: The junior linebacker had 62 tackles, second on the team. Also on offensive lineman.

Making honorable mention All Conference: Taison Farrington and Eli Haithcock for Orange. Kevin Wright and Aidan Poole for Cedar Ridge.


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