Teams of the National Frontier Football League (NFFL) released their All-Star selections this week, and 16 area players will be making an appearance in this season’s game.
After taking into account player voting, fan voting and coaching considerations, the Kentucky Warriors will be sending running backs Jontez Jones and Luke Brown, wide receiver David Mallory, safeties Snook Martin and Nathan Fannin, defensive tackle Steve Lee and offensive lineman Robby Logan and Kenneth Jenkins.
Jones, the Warriors’ leading rusher this season with 524 yards and eight touchdowns, was the leading vote-getter among his teammates.
“It’s not really surprising because of his play on the field, but he’s not a real vocal guy,” said Warriors coach Jamie Rice.
Jones may be quiet off the field, but he lets his game speak for itself. Last Saturday against the Southern Ohio Spartans, he scored three touchdowns and led the team with 178 rushing and receiving yards.
“I was happily surprised with the way the team voted,” Rice said. “You could tell those guys took some time to think about who they were voting for.”
Jenkins led the fan vote, which was conducted through likes and comments on the Warriors’ Facebook page. Though Logan and Jenkins are the only two offensive linemen Kentucky will send, Rice couldn’t say enough about the play of his offensive line this season.
“Out of the six (offensive lineman), all of them are fantastic. There’s four guys that didn’t make the All-Star team, and you could make a case for any one of them,” Rice said. “Those guys are the most unselfish guys. They go out there and work hard every day.”
The Warriors have also gotten stellar play from its corners and safeties throughout the 2014 season. In fact, Rice said the entire defensive backfield received player All-Star votes, but it was the Warriors safety tandem of Fannin and Martin that got the nod. Fannin leads the team with six interceptions and has recorded 20 tackles despite missing a few games to injury, and Martin has recorded three interceptions and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss.
“Fannin, he covers so much ground, even if we make a little mistake back there, he erases it,” Rice said. “Snook, he is so good in playing in the box in the running game and in the short passing game. He’s just a nightmare.”
According to Rice, nearly half of the team’s 48 players received All-Star votes from teammates.
“I would have hated to have picked them myself,” he said. “We have a lot of good players. It’s definitely nothing to put your head down about it if you don’t make it.”
Portsmouth’s other semi-pro football team, the Southern Ohio Spartans, will also be sending eight players to the All-Star game. Strong safety and linebacker Byron Underwood, wide receivers Mike Dawkins and Dustin Seaman, linebacker Bryron Sexton, offensive lineman Dan Haney and defensive ends Tre Underwood and Alec Meeker have already been selected, while Southern Ohio is set to name an additional offensive lineman in the near future.
The Spartans’ coaches and owners selected the team’s eight All-Stars.
“We just decided to go with who’s performing,” Spartans owner Jojo Parker said. “Whoever’s out there in the field that’s a leader, that’s who we picked.”
Throughout the season, the strength of the team has fallen on the defensive side of the ball. And, as it often does in football, it begins up front in the trenches. First-year player Alec Meeker has been applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks all season long.
“For being his first year and being undersized (5’9”, 225 lbs.) he’s really surprised me on the field,” Parker said. “He’s a good leader, he plays some fullback too. His performance has been exceptional.”
Not to be outdone, his linemate Tre Underwood has lead a defensive resurgence for Southern Ohio this season.
“He’s come out this year and let his actions speak for himself on the field,” Parker said. “Him and Meeker on that line is dominant.”
Gifted with a number of versatile athletes, the Spartans rely on many defensive backs to produce on the offensive side of the ball as well. Mike Dawkins made his mark as a free safety, but has become the Spartans primary receiver on offense.
“Mike Dawkins is a professional athlete. He’s primarily a basketball player, but with his athletic ability, he comes to the offense and gives us another dynamic weapon,” Parker said. “He’s really been the main source of speed. He’s the receiver to go to on the offense.”
Cornerback Dustin Seaman also seems to fit that mold. Having not played offense the entire season, Seaman stepped in at receiver in the second half of Saturday’s game with the Warriors and picked up 66 yards on three catches to lead the team.
“He’s probably earned a spot on the offense for the remainder of the season, however long that may be,” Parker said.
The date and time of the NFFL All-Star game has not yet been determined.
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter