Draughn sophomore running back Nigel Dula is The News Herald’s Burke County high school football player of the year for the fall 2021 season.
Dula’s honor is the second in three seasons for the Wildcats after then-senior quarterback Braxton Cox shared the award in 2019, and also the program’s second all-time as Cox was first.
In a successful transition year to the NCHSAA’s 1A level after Draughn spent the first 13 seasons of its existence at the 2A level — the Wildcats finished third in their first turn in the Western Highlands 1A/2A Conference and won a state playoff game for the first time in a decade — Dula tallied county-highs in rushing with 1,890 yards and 19 touchdowns on a county-second-highest 211 attempts.
The yardage and touchdowns are DHS single-season program records, and he now also ranks first in Draughn career rushing yardage and is second on the Wildcats’ career rushing TD list.
Dula’s finest performance of the season came in a 56-9 first-round playoff win at home over Elkin when he turned 23 carries into a county-record 478 yards — good enough for No. 6 in the state record books — and tied the all-time county mark with six touchdowns.
He is joined as first-team All-Burke County by Draughn teammates junior linebacker/fullback Thomas Lambert, junior defensive back/kick returner Will Price, senior wide receiver/defensive lineman Daylin Pritchard, junior two-way lineman Luke Rector and junior linebacker/running back Donnell Wilkins; East Burke senior running back Blane Fulbright; Freedom junior running back/defensive lineman B.G. Hampton, junior linebacker/running back Demarcus Lowrance and junior running back/defensive lineman Curt Young; and Patton wide receiver/defensive back Waylon Rutherford.
Dula, Rector, Wilkins, Fulbright, Lowrance and Rutherford earned consecutive first-team nods while Lambert, Price and Hampton also are repeat all-county selections.
Lambert tied for the county lead in sacks with six. He tied for second both in the county and for the Wildcats in tackles for loss with 11. Lambert also ranked fourth in the county and second for Draughn in total tackles with 89. He also was third-best for Draughn with 13 quarterback hurries and blocked one kick on special teams.
Price led the county in interceptions with five, three of which he returned for touchdowns, including two in one game in a win over Rosman. He also returned a kickoff 87 yards for a TD against Elkin. Price made 52 total tackles, broke up eight passes and forced two fumbles. Offensively, he threw one touchdown pass.
Pritchard led the county in receiving yards with 635 and receiving touchdowns with 12 and was second in receptions with 36. On defense, he tied for the county lead in sacks with six. He was tied for second in the county and on the team in tackles for loss with 11. Pritchard was ninth in the county and third for Draughn in total tackles with 58.
Rector again anchored a Draughn offensive line that paved the way for the county’s best rushing attack, accumulating 44 pancake blocks. On the defensive side of the ball, Rector tied for fifth in the county and third for Draughn in sacks with three. He tied for 10th in the county in tackles for loss with sixth and was 14th in total tackles with 50.
Wilkins led the county in total tackles with 127, 26 clear of the next closest player. Wilkins also led the county in tackles for loss with 12. He added two sacks, two pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry to his totals. Wilkins also mixed in sparingly in the backfield on the offensive side for the Wildcats.
Fulbright, the county’s spring 2021 player of the year, followed that up with county second-best rushing totals of 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns — that mark tops in the regular season — on a county-high 212 attempts. He also was EB’s second leading receiver with 57 yards on 10 grabs, including an additional touchdown.
Hampton was third in the county in each major rushing category including yards with 1,052, touchdowns with 12 and attempts with 135, averaging a whopping 7.79 yards per attempt. He also was a key cog on the defensive side of the ball for Freedom with 29 total tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
Lowrance was seventh in the county and second for Freedom in total tackles with 61. He tied for 10th in the county and was third for the Patriots in tackles for loss with six. He also was Freedom’s fourth-leading rusher, tallying 204 yards on 37 attempts. He tied for fifth in the county and third for FHS with four rushing touchdowns.
Young tied for third in the county and led Freedom in sacks with four. He tied for seventh in the county and first for Freedom in tackles for loss with eight. Young was sixth in the county and second on the team with 300 rushing yards on 52 attempts. He was fourth in the county and second for the Patriots in rushing TDs with five.
Rutherford was second in the county and first for Patton in receiving yards with 486 and receiving touchdowns with eight and led the county in receptions with 38. On the defensive side of the ball, Rutherford tallied 17 total tackles and an interception. Rutherford also punted and returned kicks for the Panthers.
Eli Tillery, Draughn, So., QB/DB — County-best passing totals of 1,379 yards and 16 touchdowns on 113 of 204 passing with 12 interceptions; repeat all-county selection.
Brady Bostain, East Burke, So., OL/DL — Third in county and first on team with four sacks, county sixth-best and team second-best nine tackles for loss, county-15th-best 48 total tackles.
Carter Crump, East Burke, Sr., QB/DB — Team-best 194 passing yards with one touchdown on 22 of 50 passing with three interceptions, fourth in county and second on team with 394 rushing yards on 87 attempts, tied for fifth in county and was second on team with four rushing TDs; 29 total tackles and two interceptions on defense; repeat all-county selection.
Spencer Goins, East Burke, Sr., DB/RB — Tied for 10th in county and fourth on team with 57 total tackles, five tackles for loss, interception; 72 rushing yards; repeat all-county selection.
Logan Johnson, East Burke, Sr., DB/RB — Second in county and first on team with 101 total tackles, eight pass breakups, interception, one tackle for loss.
Luke Wilson, East Burke, Jr., LB/FB — Third in county and second on team with 94 total tackles, fifth in county and first on team with 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, sack, interception.
Jaylen Barnett, Freedom, So., QB/DB — Third in county and first on team with 530 passing yards and three passing touchdowns on 59 of 98 passing with four interceptions, eighth in county and second on team with 270 rushing yards; tied for fifth in county and third on team with four rushing touchdowns.
Chris Hensley, Freedom, Jr., DL/TE — Tied for seventh in county and first on team with eight tackles for loss, fourth on team with 42 total tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, one blocked kick.
Avery Pollard, Freedom, Jr., LB/TE — Fifth in county and first on team with 87 total tackles, three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, interception; 13th in county and fourth on team with 86 receiving yards; one receiving touchdown; repeat all-county selection.
Randan Clarke, Patton, Jr., QB/DB — Second in county and first on team with 585 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns on 47 of 92 passing with four interceptions, 11th in county and third on team with 190 rushing yards, team-high three rushing touchdowns; tied for second in county and first on team with two interceptions, 39 total tackles, fumble recovery; repeat all-county selection.
Trevor Smith, Patton, Jr., LB/RB — Ninth in county and second on team with 257 rushing yards on 40 attempts, one rushing touchdown, 12th in county and third on team with 89 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown; 13th in county and second on team with 53 total tackles; repeat all-county selection.
Draughn — Justice Cunningham, Holden Curry, Josh Elkins, Tywan Nemorin, Connor Pinkerton, Zaydin Pritchard, Tristan Hines; East Burke — Jacob Dellinger, Dawson Langley, Michael Magni; Freedom — Sacred Baylor, Mikey Cowling, Joe Cunningham, Tavion Dula, Trenton Coffey, Caleb Morrissey, Eli Thomas; Patton — DeShawn Cantrell-Vazquez, Colten Dale, Daniel Powell, Quentin Rice.
Justin Epley can be reached at email@example.com or 828-432-8943.