Avoyelles Parish All-Parish Football Team selected
This was a football season that almost wasn't. Some will contend it was one that shouldn't have been. Be that as it may, the 2020 high school football season started late and was abbreviated to an 8-game regular season due to COVID.
The nasty virus continued to bug Avoyelles Parish teams from the opening game to the final one in the eight-game season.
Bunkie Magnet had to find a last minute stand-in for its season opener when Mamou had to cancel due to COVID on the team. Avoyelles High had five players test positive and had to sit out two games, but was able to find a last minute opponent to make up one of those.
In both of those cases, South Beauregard High was able to fill the bill.
Marksville had its regular season shortened by a game when Menard had to cancel due to a COVID-positive on its team. The Tigers had to bow out of the playoffs due to exposure to COVID during the last game of the season against Caldwell.
It was a challenging year for the parish's young athletes, but a year with several noteworthy achievements.
As usual, choosing the Avoyelles Parish All-Parish team out of those three squads is always enjoyable but also frustrating because some very good athletes can't make the list.
Unlike the Oscars, we will note the "Best Picture" and "Best Actor" awards first.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Bunkie Magnet Coach Nick Pujol is this year's All-Parish Coach of the Year.
Pujol's Panthers were picked to be mired in the middle of District 3-AA. They finished tied for second with Red River-Coushatta in the seven-team district where six teams realistically play for second place behind perennial powerhouse Many High.
Bunkie and Avoyelles were unable to play Marksville due to the shortened season, but they did play each other. Bunkie decisively defeated Avoyelles in a game that even most Bunkie fans would have written off at the beginning of the season. It had been a decade since the Panthers defeated the Mustangs.
Bunkie and Avoyelles both made it to the second round of the playoffs, where they were bumped out by higher-ranked teams.
So, for doing more with the cards he was dealt, Nick Pujol gets bragging rights as the parish's top football coach this year.
Choosing one player above all others as the "most valuable" among the three teams is always difficult.
For the offensive MVP there is always a difference of opinion among fans as to whether passing, receiving or rushing should be considered "most valuable."
There is a small minority of true blue fans who will argue that the real "Offensive MVP" is the big guy on the line who stops the defenders to allow the quarterback to pass the ball to the speedy receiver or who makes the hole for the running back to make all that yardage.
Since we aren't quite ready to lead that revolution quite yet, we focused on quarterbacks, receivers and running backs.
With 1,017 yards on 163 carries, standing 6-1 and weighing in at 240 pounds, the "sensational sophomore" Carlos Bazert makes his third appearance on the All-Parish team and his first as the season's MVP.
Bazert played for the Mustangs as an 8th grader and did so well he made the list that year. He became the team's primary running back last year.
He sustained an injury in the Many game and was hobbled for almost that entire game and most of the next week's contest. In addition to those two games, he lost a game due to the COVID quarantine.
Coach Andy Boone is not shy about praising Bazert as "something special" and predicting he could -- or should -- have a chance to play college ball when he graduates.
The Mustangs' #1 horse almost got passed by his running mate, senior Carl Barton. Not only the names are similar. Barton racked up 1,011 yards in 138 carries. Many of those yards came when Barton stepped into the void left by Bazert's injury.
Barton had a better rushing average -- 7.3 to Bazert's 6.2 -- but most of his yards were between the 20's. Barton had three touchdowns and three two-point conversions during the season. Bazert carried the mail to the post office 16 times and tacked on eight 2-pointers.
For those wondering about the runner-ups, they were quarterback Graham Rebouche of Bunkie and wide receiver Amyrion Mingo of Marksville.
Rebouche is a senior and the indisputable leader of the Panthers. We won't bore you with a recounting of his exploits this season, but suffice to say the Panthers are a different team when he is on the field than they are when he is not.
Mingo is a freshman -- one of three on the All-Parish team this year -- and seems intent to carry on a family tradition of athletic excellence for the Tigers. If only big brother Qa could have been able to toss the pigskin to his baby brother, there might be a state championship banner hanging somewhere in Marksville High.
On defense the warring camps are on whether tackles, sacks or interceptions make one worthy to wear the crown of MVP.
After looking at several worthy contenders and narrowing the field to three -- again, two on one team -- the nod goes to Marksville linebacker Javon Sampson.
The senior defender had 78 tackles with 19 of those behind the line of scrimmage. He sacked opposing quarterbacks five times. He also separated the ball from the ball carrier three times and recovered three fumbles.
A team's primary linebacker is sometimes called the "defense's quarterback." They are often the player the defense turns to for inspiration and guidance in tough situations on the field.
The position is one of the most flexible on the defensive side of the ball -- stay put and play the run, fall back and protect against the pass, charge forward and wreak holy havoc in the backfield.
Sampson does all three exceptionally well. Some may say 5-5, 190 is too small for the weighty responsibility of the position, but it only takes a very little nitro to make a big hole. Sampson is the Tigers' "nitro."
The runner-ups were Kesmond Armstrong and Hayden Sauseda of Bunkie Magnet.
Armstrong, a junior, leads the Bunkie defense in the trenches. At 6-2, 217 lbs. he is able to hold his own, and often best, the offensive lineman in front of him. Armstrong had 74 tackles, eight for a loss of yardage, and recorded three safeties -- which is equal to a touchdown -- by hauling ball carriers down in their own end zone.
Sauseda is a double-threat junior, seeing a lot of action as a running back and receiver and then staying on the field as a predatory linebacker, doing unto others what they were trying to do unto him.
Sauseda merited consideration with his 105 tackles.
ALL-PARISH TEAM MEMBERS
For the offensive All-Parish team there is one quarterback, three running backs, a tight end, three wide receivers and five offensive linemen.
A special position of "athlete" is created for All-Parish and All-District teams for an exceptional player in a position that just missed the list in his role. The athlete often contributes to the team in more than one way -- either running/receiving, passing/running, offense/defense.
On the defensive team, there are four linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs.
The team also has a position called "flex," which is similar to the "athlete" on offense.
On the special teams there is the placekicker, punter and return specialist.
Readers will note there are a few players whose names appear on both teams.
There is a school of thought that says "don't be greedy" or "give someone else a chance." There is another philosophy that a person who excels in a task should be recognized for that achievement. This list reflects the latter method of selection.
2020 ALL-PARISH FOOTBALL TEAM
COACH OF THE YEAR: Nick Pujol, Bunkie Magnet
QB John Small, Marksville, Senior
RB Carlos Bazert, Avoyelles, Soph.
RB Carl Barton, Avoyelles, Senior
RB Omarion Ford, Marksville, Fresh.
TE Corian Heath, Avoyelles, Junior
WR Amyrion Mingo, Marksville, Fresh.
WR Jyrien Washington, Bunkie, Senior
WR Lataj'Drick Howard, Bunkie, Senior
OL Quinlan Snyder, Marksville, Junior
OL Terry Augustine, Avoyelles, Junior
OL Taylor Parker, Marksville, Soph.
OL Maddox Dufour, Avoyelles, Fresh.
OL Trevor Guillot, Bunkie, Senior
Athlete Graham Rebouche, Bunkie, Senior
Off. MVP Carlos Bazert, Avoyelles
DL Triston Jacobs, Marksville, Senior
DL Kesmond Armstrong, Bunkie, Junior
DL Orlando Simon, Marksville, Senior
DL Jalen Smith, Avoyelles, Junior
LB Javon Sampson, Marksville, Senior
LB Blake Chauffepied, Marksville, Junior
LB Hayden Sauseda, Bunkie, Junior
LB Travon Prater, Avoyelles, Junior
DB Amyrion Mingo, Marksville, Freshman
DB Luke Normand, Marksville, Junior
DB Carl Barton, Avoyelles. Senior
DB Ian Montalvo, Bunkie, Senior
FLEX Jayreon Atkins, Avoyelles, Senior
DEF. MVP Javon Sampson, Marksville
Placekicker John Larimore, Marksville, Soph.
Punter John Michael Eves, Bunkie, Soph.
Returner Triston Dunbar, Marksville, Junior