By Jonathan Deal
Following their team’s best season since 2006, a pair of Athens seniors have received All-State honors.
According to the Alabama Sports Writers Association, seniors Johnnie Anderson and Bram McGrady were named to the 5A First Team. Both played pivotal roles in the Golden Eagles’ run to the third round of the 5A playoffs
Anderson, a 5’11”, 200-pound safety, is described by his coaches as a “quarterback” on the defensive side of the ball. He is a four-year starter who has played safety or linebacker in three different defensive schemes over his career. After leading the defense in a ‘4-3’ system for two years, Anderson played a pivotal role in allowing coaches to switch to a ‘4-2-5’ system.
As a senior, Anderson recorded 75 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, three interceptions, six fumble recoveries and a remarkable eight forced fumbles. Add all that up and it’s easy to see why Anderson is one of the best safeties in Alabama high school football.
Athens' other All-State First Team selection may not have seen the field as often as Anderson, but was equally important in the Golden Eagles’ playoff run. Senior kicker Bram McGrady made 33 of 36 extra points and eight of 12 field goal attempts this season.
McGrady was especially important in two close wins. In a Sept. 27 game against Austin, he was 4 for 4 on field goal attempts to secure a 26-24 victory over their 6A rivals.
Against Center Point in freezing conditions, McGrady came off the bench to hit a 46-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to give Athens a 24-22 win and advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Honorable mention selections from Limestone County were Ardmore’s Hayden Durrett and East Limestone’s Jordon Gandy. Durrett, a senior tight end, had 28 receptions for 528 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Durrett was among the top tight ends in Class 4A and was selected to the All-State team as a receiver. The ASWA considers tight ends in the receiver category.
Jordon Gandy was an honorable mention selection in Class 5A. In his first year of football since his freshman season, the senior caught 49 passes for 857 yards and eight touchdowns.
Gandy scored nearly every way possible — 86-yard run, 96-yard interception return, and kickoff return. He also kicked extra points.