The News & Observer’s 2012 All-Metro high school football all-star team fits the moniker of The Old Reliables.
The players were selected not only for their outstanding accomplishments on the field, but for their love of the game.
Some of the players, like Wakefield senior quarterback Connor Mitch, are specialists. But several, like Leesville Road junior standout Braxton Berrios, proved they were standouts at several positions.
The team was selected with the idea players were able to play on offense or defense.
Austin Jacobs of Cleveland and Nick Carroll of Cardinal Gibbons, for example, were outstanding on defense, but likely could have been just as outstanding on offense.
The Old Reliables would be explosive on offense with Mitch at quarterback, Durham Hillside’s Khris Francis and Carrboro’s Trai Sharp in the backfield and Wakefield’s Jordan Fieulleteau and Berrios at receiver.
Garner tight end Terry Gillman, who also started on defense for the Trojans, would be joined on the offensive front by the two tackles, linebackers Jeremie Bolobiongo of Garner and offensive tackle Selo Kuvunna at guard and linebacker Blake Williams of Wake Forest-Rolesville at center.
On defense, Berrios and Fieulleteau take the corners; Bolobiongo, Sharp and Williams are the linebackers, and the front has Jacobs, Carroll, Gillman and Kuvunna. Mitch and Middle Creek quarterback David Salmon are good enough athletes to fill in on defense, too, along with Francis.
The Old Reliables are filled with leaders and players who are willing to put team goals ahead of their own achievements.
The 12 players represent six conference championship teams and the players were on teams that posted a combined 114-17 record before the weekend’s N.C. High School Athletic Association state championship games.
QB – Connor Mitch, Wakefield, Sr., 6-3, 210
The South Carolina recruit led the Wolverines to an 11-2 record by passing for 4,701 yards and 63 touchdowns. He holds the state record with 667 passing yards and nine touchdowns in a 70-42 victory over Broughton. He has the three highest single-game passing totals ever in the NCHSAA.
“He is a great pro-type drop back passer who makes great decisions with the ball,” said Wakefield coach Rod Sink. “He is a great passer, of course, but he is a better athlete than you might think. He was sacked only about 10 times this season and it helped that he could move in the pocket. He had the combination of being able to throw where he wanted and knowing where he wanted to throw.”
QB – David Salmon, Middle Creek, Sr., 6-1, 180
Salmon passed for 3,300 yards and 36 touchdowns while leading Middle Creek to an 11-2 finish. Salmon passed for 6,074 yards in his two years as a starter. The Mustangs’ only losses this season were to Greater Neuse champ Garner and Cap Eight winner Leesville Road.
“David is a tremendous leader who led his team regardless of the circumstances,” said Middle Creek coach Mike Castellanos. “He is a leader by example, contributes to the community and has a 4.2 overall grade point average. And he is a great football player and a great athlete. He started on our state championship baseball team.”
B – Trai Sharp, Carrboro, So., 5-9, 180
Scored 35 touchdowns and rushed for 2,159 yards in helping Carrboro to the state 2A championship game.
“Trai has been the ideal player to coach,” said Carrboro coach Jason Tudryn. “Humble, hard working, and very talented on and off the field. His competitive fire is bright, and he has made some huge plays in crucial situations for our team this year.”
B – Braxton Berrios, Leesville Road, Jr., 5-10, 175
The exciting Berrios is the epitome of a great high school player. He was the hardest hitter on the 12-1 Leesville defense, a 1,000-yard rusher and had 766 yards in receptions. He was an electrifying punt and kickoff returner. And a year ago, he filled in at quarterback as the Pride made a four-game playoff run.
“Braxton is a very dynamic player,” said Leesville coach Chad Smothers. “He is a player that can change a game on both sides of the ball. He has all the qualities of a great player. strength, quickness, great work ethic, tremendous student and high character.”
B – Khris Francis, Durham Hillside, Sr., 5-9, 185
University of North Carolina recruit rushed for 1,444 yards and earned a berth in the Shrine Bowl Game of the Carolinas for Hillside (8-3).
“Khris was an outstanding worker and leader for this year’s football team,” said Hillside coach Antonio King. “He leads by example and others follow.
“In four years of varsity football Khris has never missed anything associated with Hillside football.”
B – Jordan Fieulleteau, Wakefield, Sr., 6-3, 200
University of North Carolina recruit caught 108 passes for 1,649 yards and 24 touchdowns while helping the Wolverines to an 11-2 record. Fieulleteau had the ability to catch a short pass and turn it into a big gain.
“Jordan is the prototypical college receiver,” said Wakefield coach Rod Sink. “He has the body, the speed and the understanding. He runs great routes, catches the ball and can run.”
L – Jeremie Bolobiongo, Garner, Sr. 6-0, 230
Bolobiongo finished the Trojans’ 14-1 season as its top tackler and as its defensive leader from a linebacker position. He had the power to play inside and the speed to run down opposing backs and receivers.
“Jeremie played with tremendous heart,” said Garner coach Nelson Smith. “He never quit on a play. He never had much to say, but he was a great leader because he gave you everything he had on every snap. He just played so hard. He was a total team player. He’d do anything to help his teammates.”
L – Terry Gillman, Garner, Sr., 6-3, 227
Gillman is a natural pick for a versatile all-star team. He played offense and defense for the 14-1 Trojans and played multiple positions on each. He was a reliable receiver and a strong blocker at tight end and even played some in the interior line. On defense, he lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker.
“If you’re looking for a football player, Terry fits,” said Garner coach Nelson Smith. “You just put him on the field and let him play. He really didn’t care what position he played, he just wanted to help his team. And he was good at every position we played him. He just loved to play football.”
L – Blake Williams, Wake Forest-Rolesville, Sr., 5-11, 195
Williams led the Cougars in tackles and was the defensive player of the year in the Cap Eight 4A Conference while helping WF-R to a 9-3 campaign.
“Blake is an outstanding student-athlete that led the team in tackles and sacks,” said Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas. “He is close to a 4.0 GPA, and is well respected around school. He played middle linebacker and was one of the more aggressive but smarter players that I have coached.”
L – Austin Jacobs, Cleveland, Sr., 6-4, 250
Defensive lineman for the 12-2 Rams and a thorn in the side of every opponent.
“One of the biggest compliments you can pay a defensive lineman is to say that the offense had to scheme around him. That’s what people did against Austin all year,” said Cleveland coach Marc Morris.
“On most pass plays, he would have a guard, a tackle and sometimes a tight end blocking him. He is a player who is a workaholic and cares more for his teammates than he does for himself. I don’t know how you could give a kid a greater compliment.”
L – Nick Carroll, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr., 6-5, 245
Carroll was a stalwart in the Crusaders’ defensive line. He wrecked opposing offenses during an 11-1 season.
“He’s an outstanding athlete,” said Gibbons coach Steven Wright. “He had the ability to anchor one side of the line and force other teams to always account for him. He and offensive tackle Thomas Bernhardt (6-4, 265, Sr.) were just phenomenal for us.
“Every one we played had to account for them. They were a big part of our success.”
L – Selo Kuvunna, Leesville Road, Sr., 6-0, 195
Kuvunna began the season as a tight end, but moved to offensive tackle and helped an offense that averaged 39.9 points and 310.4 rushing yards during a 12-1 season.
“He was a major reason that we were successful,” said Leesville coach Chad Smothers. “He would have been a tight end/ linebacker for most teams, but we needed help at defensive end and offensive tackle. We asked him to switch and our team never looked back. Our team got better that day because Selo is a total team player.”