District 1-6A was arguably the most competitive Class 6A district in the state, and the talent was recognized Wednesday morning when the Associated Press state teams were released.
Five PNJ-area players were named to the 6A All-State first team, with a total of 17 area players making the list.
Escambia had two senior Gators earn first-team honors, with Jabir Frye as an all-state running back and Emilio Maldonado as all-state kicker.
It made things a bit sweeter for the Gators, who captured a district championship in 2014 but failed to make the playoffs this season.
“I guess you could say it made things a little bit better, making the first team after our season,” Frye said. “But I’m the type of player that wishes everyone on my team could have felt the feeling of making a run in the playoffs. But it does make things better for me to cap off my career with this award.”
Frye said he’s been busy in the weight room, and has narrowed down his offers to three finalists (Troy, Kennesaw State, and Praire View A&M) with signing day approaching quickly.
Defensively, Tate’s Dallas Ditto made first-team linebacker, joined by Navarre’s Michael Sandle (first-team defensive back).
Unlike Frye, Ditto’s first-team award came paired with a thrilling postseason run for the Aggies.
“I was sitting in my car before school and someone tweeted me a link of the all-state team and said congrats,” said Ditto, who stated that he was first confused by the tweet. “When I opened the link and it said 6A first-team all state, and then saw my name, I jumped out of my car screaming with excitement.”
Ditto recalled Tate’s journey as a program since his time as a freshman, when the Aggies varsity team finished 1-9.
He said that in his senior season, he felt like he was living out his favorite movie — “Friday Night Lights.”
“Riding that bus to Tampa to face Armwood in the state semifinals … I still get chills thinking about it,” Ditto said. “Yeah, I’m (upset) we lost, but the whole community gave us so much support and respect for our season. I had high expectations for our team this season, but I never thought I would make first-team all state.
“I gotta give a shout out to my parents, brother, sister and all of my coaches. My defensive line working in front of me, they made my job easier all year. Our defensive backs too, shout out to Trace (Penton) and Josh (Kea). Our offense was doing work all year too. My teammates are the backbone to what I do on the field.”
Washington’s Alex Leatherwood (Alabama commit) bolstered the area’s first-team representation, making the team as an offensive lineman.
All five of the first-team All-State players were also first-team Pensacola News Journal All-Area selections.
Lining up the second team offense, Anthony Johnson Jr. (Pace, RB), Corey Capenia (Navarre, OL), Nick Brahms (Navarre, OL), and Xavier Saulsberry (Pine Forest, UT) joined T.J. Brubaker (Gulf Breeze, K) to help compile a skilled unit as Tate’s Jake Henry made second-team defense (UT).
Tate’s Sawyer Smith grabbed third-team QB.
Several honorable mentions were recognized, with Alondo Thompkins (Tate, RB), Khryi Loveless (Escambia, LB), Kobi Floyd (Milton, WR), Chris Tubbs (Pine Forest, OL) and Anthony Miller (Navarre, DL) all named to that list.
Jaguars hold down 5A all-state team
Week in and week out, it was the West Florida Jaguars defense that often shouldered the load in the Jags’ wins this past season.
Holding down the secondary was Tino Espinoza, who was named second-team all state DB.
Also, the Jags’ leading tackler Kalia Davis received third-team honors at LB.