Football season in Elmore county ended last Friday night, with all six county teams either not making the playoffs or losing in the first round of their respective classes.

The first-round exits make for a rather short year for county teams, but even with the season only lasting 12 total weeks for our teams, there were plenty of memorable moments this season.

I was only able to cover one or two games a week, so there were tons of moments that I missed, but here are a few of the highlights that stood out to me in my first season of covering high school football in Elmore county.

I’ll start with some extremely impressive individual highlights.

Jalyn Daniels

In Week One, Tallassee running back Jalyn Daniels put on an absolute show to start the season on a Thursday night. Quarterback Tyler Ellis was out with sickness, so Daniels and the Tigers ran the ball mostly out of the Wildcat formation.

It worked. And then worked again. Then worked again. Daniels ran the ball on 89% of his team’s offensive plays, and he finished with a stat line of 32 carries for 310 yards and three touchdowns. What a game.

Austin Champion

Edgewood Academy quarterback Austin Champion had a very successful season throwing the ball this year, but he really stood out in a homecoming win over Lakeside on Oct. 1.

In the win, Champion accounted for five total touchdowns - three passing and two rushing - and scored the game-winning touchdown with his legs with just two minutes left in the game. The game was also Champion’s first career game with multiple rushing touchdowns.

Payton Stephenson

Elmore County’s offense saw some success on the ground throughout the year, but Stephenson and the Panthers’ offense scorched Talladega in a region loss late in the season. Stephenson scored four rushing touchdowns in the game, two in each half, as he ran for over 300 yards in the game.

Cooper Mann

I hit the road for Holtville’s non-region game against Marbury midway through the season this year, and I’m glad I did. Cooper Mann, who plays defensive end for the Bulldogs, went off with five tackles, three tackles for loss, three sacks and a fumble recovery.

Most of his work came in the second half, and especially on the last drive of the game. With Marbury threatening to score on the six-yard line, Mann sacked the Marbury quarterback on second and third down to push Marbury back to around the 20. Marbury didn’t score, and Holtville held on for the 31-17 win.

Gabe Bryant and Marcus Haynes

In Reeltown’s regular-season finale against Holtville, Bryant and Haynes stepped in and delivered in a big way in the passing game. The two, with Bryant at quarterback and Haynes at receiver, connected for five completions for 227 yards and four touchdowns.

Bryant finished the night 7 of 10 passing for 232 yards, and Haynes added an interception on defense to make his impressive night even better. The Rebels beat Holtville, 40-26, in the game.

Biggest moments

Those were the most impressive performances I saw, but how about the biggest moments from the year? These may not be the best statistical performances, but these players showed up when their teams needed them the most.

Wetumpka’s Tyler Johnson vs. Stanhope Elmore

Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore faced each other on Oct. 22 with a playoff berth on the line. Wetumpka entered the game without starting quarterback Nate Rogers, and back-up quarterback Dorian Jackson left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

In comes freshman quarterback Tyler Johnson, and the freshman did exactly what he was supposed to do. On third-and-goal from the 20-yard line, Johnson tossed the game-winning touchdown pass to running back Quinn Wilson with just seven minutes left in the game.

It was the only touchdown of the night for Wetumpka, and the Indians won 8-7 to clinch a playoff berth.

Stanhope Elmore’s Jackson Thomas vs. Eufaula

In Stanhope Elmore’s homecoming game, the Mustangs trailed 20-17 in the closing minute of the football game. Eufaula had just kicked a field goal to give itself the lead, but Stanhope quarterback Jacob Bryant and receiver Jackson Thomas had other plans.

At midfield with about 20 seconds left, Bryant hid Thomas on a slant pass, and Thomas cut back outside to open field. He raced 50+ yards to the end zone, and gave Stanhope the 24-20 homecoming win.

Wetumpka’s Nate Rogers and Jamarion Thrasher vs. Tallassee

In just the second week of the season, fans around the county were treated to the best finish of the football season. Tallassee was leading Wetumpka, 14-12, at Hot O’Brien Stadium when Rogers and company faced a 4th-and-20 at the Tallassee 40-yard line.

But with 7.3 seconds left and on seemingly the last play of the game, Rogers rolled out to his right and threw the ball towards the right side of the end zone. There, Thrasher caught the pass in stride next to two Tallassee defenders and the buzzer sounded with Wetumpka winning the game, 18-14, on the touchdown.