Another completed football season means there’s another edition to the All-Lakelands Team.

A list of 73 players, who all had impressive seasons, had to be whittled to 29. Some players made the list, while others unfortunately got snubbed. It took Cody Estremera and I, along with two other voting members, more than two hours to put the team together because of how difficult it truly was to narrow the list.

For example, we had nine linebackers who were nominated for this year’s team. With only five spots on the team, we had to argue — and I truly mean argue — over who deserved to be on the team.

However, after a few hours of delegation, we have the team that sits before you, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on this year’s team.

First, we have a new position.

We called it the Specialist of the Year, a spot specifically designed to shine light on a criminally underrepresented position group. This year’s winner is Dixie’s Landon Mitchell, a long snapper who graded at 95% this season. Now, the beauty of this position is that it can change.

If next season there’s a player who tears it up as a punt or kick returner, they can be up for the spot. Although it may not be as flashy as some other positions, it’s an important aspect of the game and deserves to be represented on our team.

Second, there are bound to people who ask, “How did this player make it over that player?” Like any end-of-season team or award nomination, there are some who will think like they were spurned. Unfortunately, we can’t make everyone happy, and that was understood by all four of us.

So how did we get here? Well the numbers don’t lie. We based our decisions on stats first and, secondly, the proverbial “eye test.”

With Cody, Greg Deal and I mostly covering one team each this season, there is obviously going to be some bias. For me, covering Greenwood for all 12 games of its season, I’m obviously a bit more partial toward them because I got to watch them grow throughout the season.

For a team such as Saluda, which I saw play in the preseason, I had to rely on Cody’s eye test and the stats they provided.

What’s interesting about the team is that we were able to represent as many programs as possible with this system. A player such as Marquice Turnman from Calhoun Falls made the team because of what he was able to do this season on a struggling team, and, for me, that’s awesome to see.

This brings me to my final point: It was an amazing time getting a chance to be able to put this thing together. The team is something I took great pride in putting together and, although I would have loved to put every player on it, it would begin to lose its mystique.

Congratulations to those who made the team, and, to those who didn’t, remember that this is just a list and doesn’t take away from your body of work this season.

Contact sports writer James Benedetto at 864-223-1814 or follow on Twitter @james_benedetto.

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