The high school football season officially came to an end Tuesday night with The Augusta Chronicle's third annual All-Area Football Banquet at the Sheraton Hotel.
Fifty-two players from Georgia and South Carolina received plaques for being named to The Chronicle's all-area team. In addition, players and coaches of the year were recognized in both states, in the metro-Augusta area and for independent schools.
Former North Augusta and current Seattle Seahawks player Fred Vinson was unable to speak at the banquet, but a previously recorded interview with Vinson was aired, and a 10-minute highlight video prepared by the sports staff of WJBF-Newschannel 6 was shown.
"This was a lot of fun," said South Carolina player of the year Marcus Lawrence of Silver Bluff, who helped lead the Bulldogs to the Class AA state championship.
"It was nice to be able to be in the same room with all of these great athletes."
Washington-Wilkes running back Daccus Turman, who earned the Georgia player of the year after rushing for 3,172 yards and breaking Herschel Walker's state single-season rushing record, agreed with Lawrence.
"This was nice," said Turman, who also was named to the team last season. "I think the food was better this year, too."
Silver Bluff coach Al Lown was named the South Carolina coach of the year after leading the Bulldogs to a 15-0 record. The Georgia coach of the year was Laney's Eric Parker, who helped the Wildcats to their best record in more than two decades.
Chuck Wimberly, who guided Thomas Jefferson Academy to the GISA Class A state championship, was named independent schools coach of the year. Augusta Christian's record-setting running back, Joel Whingter, was the independent player of the year.
Rounding out the coach- and player-of-the-year honors were Westside coach Gerald Barnes and Evans offensive/defensive lineman Shane Yates. A three-year starter, Yates was one of the two state's best linemen.
The banquet capped the careers of several seniors. Among those is Turman, who helped Washington-Wilkes return to its dominating ways. The senior, who is qualified academically, isn't being pursued by many Division I schools despite his record-setting season.
South Carolina has shown the most interest in him, but now that Auburn running back Rudi Johnson opted to forgo his senior season and declare himself for the NFL draft, Turman said the Tigers have become interested. The senior will be featured in the upcoming weeks on Fox Sports/Net's Countdown to Signing Day.
"This was a great year," he said. "Even though we didn't get the ultimate goal, I accomplished a lot of personal goals I wanted to achieve and some I didn't expect to get.
"But I thought this was a breakout year for me. A lot of schools that didn't know about me before the season, they know about me now."
Lawrence is getting serious looks from Clemson, Tennessee and Auburn, but the most interest he's received has been from South Carolina. But Tuesday night, the Silver Bluff senior couldn't help but to reflect on a perfect 2000 season.
"We accomplished our goal of winning the state championship," Lawrence said. "But we received a lot of support from the community and parents (to make it happen)."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.