by Cliff Mehrtens

HUNTERSVILLE – Brian Jones was easy to spot on the football field this season. If he wasn’t flying around making hard tackles, he was chirping to a teammate who had.

Jones, a senior linebacker at SouthLake Christian Academy, is the Herald Weekly’s Football Defensive Player of the Year.

“I like to hit and be loud on the field,” Jones said. “Football is supposed to be fun and to me, doing those things is fun.”

Jones had a team-leading 138 tackles, an average of 11.5 per game. He had five sacks and recovered two fumbles. Jones was a model of consistency – he had 10 or more tackles in nine different games.

Jones and his teammates helped SouthLake Christian shut out six opponents and reach the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association’s Division III final. The Eagles were 11-2 and set a school record for victories.

“Brian is a dynamic defensive performer with exceptional skills and instinct,” SouthLake Christian coach Bub O’Donnell said.

“He has the rare combination of brains and brawn that has prompted many to call him a young Luke Kuechly. He has the ability to diagnose plays seemingly before the ball is snapped and then the fortitude to destroy ball carriers.”

Jones played in the Oasis Shrine All-Star Classic, which matched North Carolina’s top private-school seniors against those from South Carolina. The players spent a week in Mooresville attending various events leading up to the game.

“The whole thing was amazing,” he said. “We went to the (Shriners’ Children’s) Hospital to visit kids, and it shows you why you’re playing the game. I made a lot of new friends. The game was amazing because you know you’re playing with and against the best.”

Jones was a standout among the stars that day. He was named the most valuable defensive player.

“Though he played lights-out defense all year for us,” O’Donnell said, “I am most impressed by his Shrine Bowl performance where, against the best players in South Carolina, he tallied 16 tackles and one fumble recovery playing about half the defensive snaps.”

Jones said a personal highlight was helping SouthLake Christian reach the state final for the first time, after two years of being eliminated in the semifinals.

Herald Weekly 2012 FOOTBALL Coach of the Year

Bob McKay set Lake Norman Charter’s football season toward success long before players slipped on helmets and pads. McKay installed a new offense that fit his players’ talents perfectly, resulting in the best season in school history and a deep playoff run.

McKay is the Herald Weekly’s Football Coach of the Year.

The Knights went 10-2, finished second in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference to eventual state champion East Lincoln and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. McKay’s new “Jet” offense directed by quarterback Michael Dorsainvil helped the Knights average 48.7 points and close to 400 yards per game.