After the Orange Panthers had its first undefeated regular season in 38 years, a dozen players were honored on the All-Big 8 Conference team on Tuesday.
Cedar Ridge, which finished its first winning season since 2010, had six players make all confernece. That included kicker Trent Gill, who was the only player in Hillsborough to make all conference in two different fall sports. Gill was also honored in soccer.
Orange Linebacker Payton Wilson was named Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year. Wilson also led Orange with 16 touchdowns (five punt returns, six rushing, four receiving and an interception return). On the same day Wilson received honors from the Big 8 Conference, he received scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.
Orange junior running back Marvante Beasley earned all confernece honors. He rushed for 1,040 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Beasley’s breakthrough performance came against Southern Durham, where he rushed for a career-high 193 yards and two touchdowns.
To no one’s surprise, Orange’s entire starting linebacker corps made all conference. The Panthers defense gave up only 59 points in 13 games this season, holding 10 of its 13 opponents to under 100 yards.
Jordan Farrington, a two year starter, made 74 tackles and 13 sacks. It was his 2nd straight all-conference appearance. Farrington made eleven tackles, two for losses, against Southern Durham.
Devondrez Moore, who started playing basketball this week for Orange, made 18 tackles for loss. Moore, who transferred to Orange for his senior season from Northern Durham, had a fumble return for a touchdown against Chapel Hill.
The Big 8 All Conference team wouldn’t have been complete if all three of Orange’s defensive linemen weren’t on it. Sure enough, Stone Edwards, Ryan Sellers and Noah Rogers all made the squad.
The trio had a season-long competition to see who would end the year with the most sacks. In the end, Sellers captured the crown with 15, while Edwards had 13 and Rogers tallied 11.
In Orange’s final four games, Rogers also played left tackle on an offensive line that was in a constant state of flux from the initial scrimmage against South Granville in mid-August.
Antother stallwart on the Orange defense was safety Keshawn Thompson, who was honored with the WRAL Extra Effort Award in October. Thompson, who has a 4.2 GPA, ended the year with seven pass deflections.
Thompson’s classmate Alex Long made the team, leading the team with 17 pass deflections. Long’s interception return for a touchdown was the game-winning score in the Panthers 14-0 victory over Riverside on September 5th.
Also making all-conference from the Panthers’ offensive line was right tackle Shea Hoffman. The 6-2 senior had several position changes during the course of the year before settling in at tackle and paving the way for the Panthers to rush for 3,037 yards under head coach Pat Moser’s double-wing offense.
There were several players making their debut on the All-Conference teams. Running back Ryan Puckett, who also played linebacker, was named to the squad. Puckett scored two touchdowns against Northern Durham in a 21-13 Orange victory on August 26th. It was Orange’s closest win of the season.
Wide receiver Cody Evans also made all-conference. Evans led Orange with 364 receiving yards on 15 catches. He had a 51-yard touchdown reception in a playoff victory over Wilson Fike.
In addition to Gill for Cedar Ridge, senior running back London Saunders was named to the squad. Saunders led the Red Wolves with 635 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Among other Red Wolves who made the team:
* Linebacker Montae Kee, who led Cedar Ridge in tackles with 88.
* Offensive lineman Austin Holmes.
* Offensive lineman Zach Berry, who was also named to the all-conference team last spring as a goalkeeper in lacrosse.
* Interior lineman Nate Lewis.
Orange quarterback Jackson Schmid and safety Rodney Brooks were named honorable mention. Cedar Ridge cornerback Kevin Wright and linebacker Seth Baldwin were also honorable mention.