GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Once again, Point Pleasant produced a dominant 2016 football campaign.
And once again, the Big Blacks secured a lot of honors for their brilliance on the gridiron.
Point Pleasant led the tri-county area after having nine players and a total of 10 people chosen to the Ohio Valley Publishing Super 25 Football Team for the 2016 football season.
Only players on programs within Gallia, Mason and Meigs counties were eligible for consideration, and the selections were made by the three full-time sports writers at our trio of local daily publications — The Daily Sentinel, Gallipolis Daily Tribune and Point Pleasant Register.
The selection process was based on overall contributions to each individual’s team — whether it be on offense, defense or special teams — and how those efforts impacted outcomes on Friday night. This area “all-star” squad was also assembled to reward and acknowledge some of our finest local athletes for another memorable season of high school football.
There were 11 offensive players and 11 defensive players chosen, as well as a kicker and two all-purpose choices for players that just did a little bit of everything well. A player of the year was chosen on each of side of the ball and a coach of the year was also honored by OVP.
In all, the overall goal for the selection committee was to come away with the tri-county’s 25 best football players. There were also several very good football players who did not make this list, though all were given consideration.
We’ll start this list, however, by announcing that 10th-year Point Pleasant coach Dave Darst was named as the OVP Super 25 Coach of the Year. Darst shared the same honors with RVHS coach Jerrod Sparling last year.
Only PPHS (11-1) and Southern (8-3) enjoyed playoff berths this past fall, while River Valley was the only other OVP area squad to produce a winning campaign at 6-4.
Meigs and Eastern both finished the year 4-6, while Hannan went 2-7 and Wahama ended the year 2-8. Gallia Academy also finished 1-9 overall.
All nine programs had at least one player selected to the OVP Super 25 squad, but the Big Blacks led the charge with their nine selections — which included three of the five repeaters from last fall.
The Tornadoes were next in line with five choices, followed by the Raiders with three picks and both the Marauders and Eagles with two selections apiece.
The Rebels, Wildcats, White Falcons and Blue Devils all had one player named to the OVP Super 25 Team as well.
Senior linebacker Grant Safford — who was selected as a running back on the 2015 OVP Super 25 Team — was named the 2016 defensive player of the year after pacing a unit that allowed just a shade over 16 points per game and finished the year plus-17 in turnover differential.
No individual defensive statistics were available for Safford as of press time. Safford also rushed for over 1,700 yards in his final year with the program.
Sophomore quarterback Cason Payne earned the 2016 offensive player of the year honors after becoming the first PPHS player to amass both 1,000 yards passing and rushing in the same regular season.
Payne finished his historic year with 1,237 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 146 carries while also completing 93-of-167 passes for 1,586 yards, 16 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Payne, however, was named to the team as an all-purpose player for his defensive contributions.
The OVP Super 25 offensive unit started up front with Point Pleasant seniors Seth Stewart and Joe Clark, with RVHS senior Robert Drummond, SHS senior Trey Pickens and EHS junior Wyatt Bissell rounding out the line.
SHS senior Blake Johnson was the quarterback selection, while SGHS senior Johnny Sheets and SHS junior Riley Roush were the running back choices.
The receiving corps consisted of RVHS senior Tre Craycraft, PPHS senior Keshawn Stover and MHS sophomore Zach Bartrum.
EHS senior Jett Facemyer joined Payne as an all-purpose selection, while PPHS senior Jason Schultz was chosen as the team’s kicker.
Defensively, the OVP Super 25 Team was spearheaded up front by PPHS seniors Zach Wamsley and Gage Gibson — as well as SHS senior Crenson Rogers.
Joining Safford in the linebacking corps were RVHS sophomore Jacob Campbell, HHS junior Michael Lowe, SHS senior Ike Akers and MHS senior Cody Bartrum.
PPHS junior Alec Smith, WHS junior Colton Arrington and GAHS sophomore Cody Call were chosen as the defensive backs for the squad.
Besides Darst and Safford, the remaining repeat selections to the OVP Super 25 Team were Sheets, Stewart and Cody Bartrum. Sheets was a defensive line selection in 2015, while Stewart — who has given a verbal commitment to Louisiana State — was the only player named to the same positional spot from a year ago.
The eldest Bartrum was the quarterback on last year’s Super 25 squad as well.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.
2016 OVP Super 25 Football Team
QB: Blake Johnson (SHS)
RB: Johnny Sheets* (SG), Riley Roush (SG)
WR: Tre Craycraft (RV), Keshawn Stover (PP), Zach Bartrum (MHS)
OL: Seth Stewart* (PP), Joe Clark (PP), Robert Drummond (RV), Trey Pickens (SHS), Wyatt Bissell (EHS)
K: Jason Schultz (PP)
DL: Zach Wamsley (PP), Gage Gibson (PP), Crenson Rogers (SHS)
LB: Grant Safford* (PP), Jacob Campbell (RV), Michael Lowe (HHS), Ike Akers (SHS), Cody Bartrum (MHS)
DB: Cory Call (GA), Colton Arrington (WHS), Alec Smith (PP)
Cason Payne (PP), Jett Facemyer (EHS)
Offensive Player of the Year
Cason Payne (PP)
Defensive Player of the Year
Grant Safford (PP)
Coach of the Year
Dave Darst* (PP)
* — indicates repeat selection.