Baldwin High School held its annual banquet honoring this year’s football players and cheerleaders Wednesday.
There student-athletes received awards and recognitions and also heard life advice from a man who was in their position only about a decade ago — former Clemson University linebacker and current Furman University DB coach Corico Wright, a BHS alum. He was invited to speak by his former head coach and current Baldwin football head Jesse Hicks who gave a few opening remarks prior to the night’s meal.
“This is not about receiving a trophy,” Hicks said. “I have a bunch of trophies at my mother’s house and I could not tell you what they’re for. But all the relationships I had with my teammates and coaches are still with me. That’s the most important thing. We’re here to celebrate the season, these young men and everybody who’s been a part of what we do.”
Once mealtime was over, Wright was given his turn at the microphone. Those following Braves football through the late 2000s may remember him better as Corico Hawkins as he underwent a name change during his time at Clemson. He earned all sorts of accolades, both on the field and off, during his time as a Baldwin Brave and helped the program to some very successful seasons in Coach Hicks’ first tenure.
Wright is currently the defensive backs coach for Furman University having coached at both James Madison University and Murray State before accepting his current post last year. While playing linebacker at Clemson, Wright played in 52 games and started 26, accumulating 200 tackles (17 for loss) along the way. The BHS alum was also named to the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll for his work in the classroom. Wright graduated from Clemson in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and later earned his master’s in human resource development in 2015.
During his address, he challenged Baldwin’s football players and cheerleaders to make the most of their life opportunities, giving several colorful examples along the way. He later told The Union-Recorder he was grateful to be offered the chance to speak at his high school alma mater.
“Words can’t express what I truly and deeply feel about this opportunity — I just appreciate it,” Wright said. “I was born and raised here. Baldwin football turned me into half of what I am today. I’m just grateful that Coach Hicks asked me to come back here.”
Asked what type of role Hicks played in his life, Wright replied, “He’s been a father figure for me since I was playing here and afterwards. He continues to be a father figure for me today.”
Once Wright was done delivering his fiery message to the crowd, the time for the student athletes to be honored. First up, were the 2019 cheerleaders under head coach Erica Jackson. Award recipients and their awards were:
- Captains Awards - Lymesha Henry, Kya Larkin, Jaden Hunt
- Academic Award - Soniya Braziel
- Most Valuable Cheerleader - Kya Larkin
- Outstanding Leadership Award - Lymesha Henry
- Most Improved - Akeya Braziel
- Rookie of the Year - Sha’Caria Hubbard
- Most Dedicated - Amia Moss
- Most Spirited - Rebecca Elangwe
- Most Improved Technique - Kali Dean
- Emerging Leader - Taylor Latimore
- Best Technique - Ta’Keya Cleveland
Football awards closed out the night as the best and brightest 2019 Braves were honored. Earning the top nod was senior running back Zaahir Salahuddin who was named both Team and Offensive MVP. Salahuddin finished his senior campaign with 700 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing while also helping out often on defense. He was named the Region 3-4A Player of the Year for his efforts. Although he will be missed, senior kicker/punter Lucas Webb leaves arguably a bigger hole in the program. Webb finished out his career as the three-time Region 3-4A Special Teams Player of the Year and was the easy pick for BHS Special Teams MVP for his work kicking the football. Defensive MVP was the only award to go to an underclassman as sophomore linebacker Gavin Davis took the honor. Davis was named All-Region and also an All-County First Team defender after posting 80 total tackles this season. Other season awards and recipients named Wednesday included:
- Academic Award - sophomore DB Dexter Ricks Jr.
- Offensive Coach’s Award - senior WR Jordan Driskell
- Offensive Most Improved - sophomore RB Jeramiyah Scott
- Defensive Coach's Award - senior DE Khabir Henderson
- Defensive Most Improved - sophomore DB Kirtavious Hightower
- Most Versatile - senior WR/RB Antavius Brookins
- Best Back - sophomore QB Gerald Kilgore
- Offensive Lineman Awards - seniors Jordan Walls and JaNoah Watkins
- Best Wide Receiver - freshman Shatavious Hogan
- Best Linebacker - senior Noah Hill
- Best Defensive Lineman - sophomore Omarion Knight
- Best Defensive Back - junior Javon Bullard
Several people finished off the Wednesday celebration with closing remarks including Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan who presented Hicks and his team a plaque in recognition of their hard work this season.
The Braves’ 2019 season came to an end in the second round of the state playoffs after losing to eventual champion Blessed Trinity.