By Ray Hamill — When you lead your team to a first league championship in 32 years, you should get some serious consideration for MVP.
And that’s what seniors John Randall and Payton Harbin received, with both players named Little 4 MVPs on Friday.
The talented duo helped set the tone on both sides of the ball for the McKinleyville Panthers, who this fall clinched a first league title since 1990 and a first North Coast Section playoff win in eight years.
“Both kids meant a lot to this program and was highly respected by their peers,” McKinleyville head coach Fel Barlow said. “Being a Wing-T team, John Randall is the one that got it started for us.
“And on defense we are tough against the run and having Ball Hawk Peyton just made us a little more dangerous when we had to defend the pass.”
Harbin led the NCS in interceptions with nine.
Six other Panthers were named to the Little 4 All-League Team, including quarterback Jack Clancy, outstanding lineman Derek Ray and big-play linebacker/receiver Mettah Kuska, each of whom was a team captain this year along with Randall.
Jack Saso, Graeson Amato and Willy Baumgarten each also were named to the all-league team, as the Panthers stormed out to a 5-0 start in league play to clinch the championship with a week to spare.
The Arcata Tigers, meanwhile, have six all-league representatives after winning four of their final five games to clinch second in the Little 4.
Seniors Cedar Birdsall, Jared Wallace and Ryder Meyer all were included, along with junior Cole Vandenplas, sophomore Wilson Medina and freshman Nathaniel Stiles.
Hoopa, which placed third in league, has four representatives, all from a stellar senior class, including Lane Campbell, Darvin Davis IV, Gerard Marshall and Andrew Hunsucker.
Ferndale finished a disappointing 0-6 in league play, but the Wildcats also had some outstanding individual performers, with seniors Jack Westfall and Kannon Christiansen both named all-league.
McKinleyville — Tyler Marsh, Ayden Hillis, Kylar Tiller, Shawn Beasley, Dimitri Harris, Gabe Mountain, Wilfred Patton
Arcata — Mason Taylor, Francisco Zamora, Lincoln Neuman, Jackson Strand, Chase Coleman, Oscar Carlson
Hoopa — Rodney Clark, Bear Little, Donovan Lonewolf, Brian Gulley
Ferndale — Thomas Fergison, Levi Dixon, Isaak Kasso