NEWLAND — Following a season unlike any other in its history, the Avery High School football program hosted its annual end-of-season banquet on Sunday, May 16, at the high school cafeteria.

“This was a very strange season, and it was strange to have a football banquet on May 16th,” Avery head coach Mac Bryan said of the event. “It was hard to find a date to host it with all the other sports events going on, but we were able to get it done. I thought this was a year of fighting through adversity.”

Each of the Viking players received a varsity letterman certificate, while several Vikings were honored individually for excellence and achievements this past season.

The team honored its eight seniors, David McCollum, Trent Whitelock, Chandler Berry, Jackson Pickett, Ty Smith, Troy Hoilman, Dalton Towe and Cyle Hicks, for their contributions to the program with a commemorative football and gift bag courtesy of the Avery County Quarterback Club.

In recognition for their performance through the season playing in arguably one of the most difficult 1A/2A conference in the state in the Western Highlands Conference, the program recognized its All-WHC performers, which included Hoilman, Levi Andrews, Chad Giarrusso, Smith, Hicks and Vance. Hoilman also qualified for a national honor, as he received the Burlsworth Award, which recognizes character and leadership on and off the field.

Avery’s four football captains, Hoilman, Smith, Hicks and Andrews, were honored at the banquet, with Smith named as the overall Western Highlands Conference Player of the Year, as he amassed 34 catches for 555 yards and six touchdowns in only five contests, as two of Avery’s games were canceled due to COVID-19.

“Ty’s award wasn’t just for offense or defense, but he was overall named best player in the conference,” Bryan explained. “You don’t see a team that loses three conference games have the conference player of the year very often, and that’s a real credit to the way Ty played.”

Avery Football also honored those who excelled in the weight room. One Super Viking, Troy Hoilman, was recognized for exceeding 1,100 pounds combined in the bench press, hang clean and squat disciplines, while a total of six Iron Vikings, J’Leyn Hoilman, Levi Andrews, Chad Giarrusso, Ty Smith, Lane Hoilman and Zach Vance, also received plaques for exceeding 900 pounds in the disciplines.

In team awards, the Vikings Offensive Linemen of the Year went to Levi Andrews and Cyle Hicks, while the Defensive Lineman of the Year award went to Jericho Nunley. Special Teams Player of the Year was awarded to Chad Giarrusso, while Defensive Player of the Year was awarded to Andrews and team Offensive Player of the Year was Troy Hoilman. Team Most Valuable Player was given to Ty Smith.

“I want to thank the Quarterback Club for all they did in putting the banquet together and for all they do throughout the year. It’s important that people join the club and continue to get involved there, as we’re not able to function as we do without the Quarterback Club,” Bryan added.

Looking at this year’s season, Bryan noted a thread that has been woven through his program for the past three years marking the advancement of the team.

“The theme of the banquet this year goes back to a couple of years ago, where our goals included not being blown out on the football field, then advancing last season to hanging in with teams, and this year I feel we were out there going nose to nose with opponents and fighting in those games against better teams,” Bryan noted. “We didn’t necessarily beat those teams, but we were there, and those are the stepping stones we’re seeing.”

Bryan also explained that the program has full intention of reviving the junior varsity football program that was a casualty of COVID-19 in 2020, and stressed the importance of younger players committing to join the program this coming season, which begins with off-season work later this month.

“We need numbers back out here and we need to have a full JV schedule. That’s our goal, to try to play a JV schedule in 2021 which will be overseen by a JV head coach and assisted by our varsity staff,” Bryan said. “We were able to play eight JV games in 2019, but we can’t go through another year without a junior varsity team.”

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