County trio earns honors

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Wells, Jennings, Robinson earn top grid awards

By Robert Howey

Two athletes who gained statewide football honors and a coach who led an impressive turnaround are The Lancaster News honorees for the 2009 high school football season.

Lancaster High School’s Darius Robinson and Buford’s two-way ace Andrew “A.T.” Jennings shared the 2009 County Player of the Year Award.

Buford High School coach Mike Wells, who saw his Jackets rally from a 1-3 start to go 7-5, is The Lancaster News’ Coach of the Year.

Robinson, the Bruins’ Defensive MVP and the Scotty Munn Memorial Award winner, highlighted his senior season with a selection to play in the 62nd North-South All-Star game at Myrtle Beach’s Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium on Dec. 12.

Robinson didn’t disappoint, seeing extensive play on the North defensive line in its 21-17 win over the South.

He rotated in along the defensive line and was on the field as the game ended with the North blunting a South drive at its 12.

Robinson, for the season when he reaped all-region honors, compiled 11 unassisted tackles, 19 first hits, 34 assists, four sacks, three tackles for loss, three caused fumbles and 40 pressure passers.

“Darius had an outstanding season which is what we expected from him,” Lancaster High head coach Bennie McMurray said. “He plays with great technique and because he plays so hard, he’s tough to block. He keeps constant pressure on the quarterback and is a sure tackler.”

Jennings, a Class A all-state pick at running, rushed for 1,023 yards in 137 caries and scored 13 touchdowns. He had six catches for 99 yards, a 16.5-yard average, and a  touchdown.

On defense, he was just as strong with 75 hits, 61 assists, eight tackles for loss, four broken up passes, three sacks, two interceptions, two blocked kicks and a fumble recovery.

“Jennings is a throwback player in that he never came off the field,” Indian Land coach Mike Mayer said. “When he’s out there, he’s making plays and making an impact.

“Jennings played every snap and to underscore his value to the team, he was the No. 1 ball carrier and the team’s top tackler.”

Jennings was a major force in the Jackets’ season.

Buford, with the loss of 21 seniors, had some major holes to fill and it took time for the team to get on track.

Buford started with one win in its first four games, but steadily picked up the pace to go 6-2 after the first month of the season.

“In that first month, we faced three rivalry games and a two-time state champion in Chesterfield, so those four tough games helped us prepare for the season,” said Wells, who was in his ninth season as the BHS head football coach.

Buford highlighted its season with a 3-0 road win over McBee, which entered the game unbeaten and ranked No. 5  in Class A. A stout defensive effort and Darren Macy’s clutch 34-yard field goal lifted the Jackets to the key road win.

The victory keyed BHS on a 4-0 run to cap the regular season and gain a Class A Upper State Division I postseason bid. Buford registered a 14-13 home win over Ninety Six, which finished 7-4.

The following week, Buford, the Conference III-A runner-up, fell to Chesterfield which went on to claim the state title. Two of Buford’s losses came to CHS.

“Buford got better as the season went on,” Mayer said. “They developed their players.

“The key was in the line where they made a lot of strides in the trenches,” Mayer said. “We played them twice, and in our second meeting you could really see their progress as a well-coached unit.”

The player and coach of the year awards are voted on by the county coaches and members of The Lancaster News’ sports staff who cover high school football.