MOULTRIE — Near the end of the four-hour Colquitt County High football banquet held for the first time in the high school’s new cafeteria, Packers coach Rush Propst gave his 15-0 state champions his ultimate compliment.
Propst has been a head coach for 27 seasons and has won seven state championships — five at Hoover and two now at Colquitt County — and his teams have played for three more — two at Hoover and one in Moultrie.
“And this is my finest group,” he said.
Many of the players who helped the Packers repeat as state champions and finish No. 1 nationally in two polls were also members of the 2014 team that got the first 15 of the 30 straight wins.
This year’s group overcame the graduation of an outstanding 2014 senior class and the pre-season loss of a player that had all-state potential.
Then it battled though a playoff run that culminated with games against undefeated teams away from home in the state semifinals and finals.
The Packers stunned 13-0 Mill Creek by hanging 52 points on the Hawks on their grass field, and then did not allow a touchdown in the final 47 minutes in the 30-13 win over Roswell in the state championship game in the Georgia Dome.
“They did everything asked of them times ten,” Propst said.
The Packers were honored by two high school football polls as the national champions. Four other polls ranked them as the national runner-up.
A number of players earned individual awards for helping take Colquitt County where no other Packer team has gone before.
The Lavasky King Packer Pride Most Improved Player Awards went to senior receiver Isaiah Thomas and junior cornerback Jamarius Walker.
The Ralph Taylor Special Teams Award was presented to senior place-kicker Luis “Baby Lou” Martinez.
The Virgil Seay Special Teams Award was presented to junior Tirise Barge.
The Bobby Cobb True Grit Awards were presented to running back Nathaniel Powell and outside linebacker Jay Blakely.
Running back Rafael Merritt and safety Kiontae Green received the Dale Williams Community Service Awards.
The Horkan Family Sportsmanship Awards went to a pair of seniors, receiver Brandon Robinson and defensive lineman Eric Reese.
The Pippin Unsung Hero Awards went to center Daniel Brinson and defensive back and special teams performer Quan Singletary.
The Knuck McCrary Fighting Spirit Awards were given to offensive tackle Trayvus Johnson and defensive tackle Quentin Moore.
Senior inside linebacker JaKobe Shealy won the Rocky Jones Strong Man Award.
Ray Goff was in Moultrie to present his Top Gun Awards to senior quarterback Chase Parrish and senior receiver Kiel Pollard.
The Friedlander Family’s Boar Hog Awards went to senior linebackers Akivie Bailey and Dee Walker.
The Bud Willis Character Awards were presented to defensive tackle Ty Phillips and tight end Shaun Bonner.
Willis, who posted a 93-34-1 record as the Packers coach from 1965-1977, died later Sunday evening.
Jimmy Jeter’s Mr. Dependable Awards were presented to offensive guard Noah Moore and safety Rakeem Hightower.
Colquitt County cornerbacks coach Dextra Polite presented his Ultimate Competitor Awards and this year they went to safety Landon Scott and receiver/running back Ty Lee.
The Tom White Scrambler Awards were given to defensive lineman Nathan Lang and tight end Chris Bouie.
Presented for the first time this year was the Cam Erving Perseverance Award and it went to record-setting place-kicker Luis “Baby Lou” Martinez, who battled back from a severe injury in his sophomore year to become one the state’s top kickers.
The Colquitt County Board of Education presented four Academic Commitment to Excellence Awards that went to punter Karston Spradley, center Daniel Brinson, quarterback Chase Parrish and cornerback Latravious Thomas.
Propst presented the captains awards to Jay Blakely, Dee Walker, Chase Parrish and Kiel Pollard.
Earl Jefferson issued 32 academic awards, awarded to players with averages of 89.5 or better.
The top average is owned by senior punter Karston Spradley, who has a 100.143.
Also honored were the top 14 juniors who are expected to lead the Packers through what will easily be the most difficult schedule in Packers history next fall.
Stacie Connell introduced the Packer cheerleaders and trainer Ryan Kebler brought up the medical staff.
Several groups and individuals who made large contributions to the effort to raise money to pay for the national and state championship rings were recognized, as were Brandon and Kristi Whitaker, who operate the Echo system.
Propst introduced his coaching staff including four — Jeremy Rowell, Sean Calhoun, John Cooper and Josh Crawford — who have accepted jobs elsewhere.
The six assistants expected to be remain on the staff are Shawn Sutton, Dextra Polite, Courtney Sanders, Granger Shook, Joey Bennett and Bubba Walker.