With the regular season of high school football now in the books and teams
now entering the second round of the post-season, I thought I would take this
opportunity to pick my player of the year, the guy who I think would be the best
candidate for the Mr. Football award in Ohio this year.
In my eyes, it comes down to a three-horse race, and I can make a good case for each of the three young men. With Ted Ginn's Tarblooders of Glenville being eliminated from the playoffs with their loss to St. Ignatius now, he would no longer be on equal footing with the final statistical numbers that Raymond Williams of Cleveland Benedictine and Erik Haw of Columbus Independence, both on winning teams in the first round, will continue to compile.
There's almost no way that you cannot give the award to Williams. He deserved it last year, but an exciting player by the name of Ben Mauk was busy setting national passing records in the same season, and Williams, who rushed for 3,250 yards and scored 39 touchdowns, was the runner-up.
But those gaudy numbers from last season really shouldn't have anything to do with Williams' candidacy this year. In my mind, he had to do it all over again. And Williams (pictured left), with eyes seemingly in the back of his head and uncanny ability to stop and start on a dime, did indeed do it. And he did it while playing against some of the better teams or programs in the state.
Howland was one the best teams in Trumbull County and one of the top teams in Division II this year. Massillon, despite having an off year, is a solid Division I program from Stark County. Bishop Watterson from Columbus in Franklin County is the team that beat Benedictine in the finals last year and is again a top program in Division III. Cardinal Mooney from Youngstown is a top team from Mahoning County and was one of the favorites in Division IV, while the team that they lost to in week 10 is a top Division I team from Cleveland St. Edward in Cuyahoga County.
In all, when you add Walsh Jesuit from Division III in Summit County, Mentor Lake Catholic from Division III in Lake County and Villa Angela-St. Joseph from Division IV in Cleveland, the Bengals played seven playoff teams en route to their 9-1 campaign, of which Williams was the main cog.
In all, Williams raced for 1,994 yards with an 8.37 average and scored 23 Tds. Against Ravenna Southeast in the first round of the playoffs, Williams had a rather bland game by his standards but still ran for 105 yards on 21 carries but scored four times.
While the more rugged schedule may make Williams numbers seem more attractive than either Ginn's or Haw's, whose respective schools are in the Cleveland and Columbus city leagues, you can't use that against either player, at least I won't in this corner.
Ginn (left) was literally "Mr. Everything" for Glenville, on a team chock-full of talented athletes this year. Ginn rushed 100 times for 850 yards and scored 13 TDs as the full-time quarterback. Through the air, Ginn threw for 931 yards and 12 TDs with just two interceptions. As a kick returner, Ginn returned four for 138 yards and one of them went the distance. He ran back 10 punts for 280 yards and three TDs. And on defense, in addition to being an excellent cover corner that also excels against the run, Ginn picked off 8 enemy aerials and returned five of those for scores. That's comes out to 34 trips to the end zone in all. And for good measure, add to that two 2-pt conversions and 1 kicked point-after-touchdown.
Unfortunately the clock struck midnight on Ginn and his fellow Tarblooders in their first-round encounter with the St. Ignatius Wildcats, but Ginn's star still shown brightly against the Cleveland parochial power, validating his immense talent against a more-than-worthy opponent. He threw for three more TDs and had a few more "highlight-film" runs against Ignatius.
But Ginn also had his moments in week one against Mentor, an elite team in the state, and against both Massillon Perry in week two and against Strongsville in the third week of the season. Ginn had a 60-yard scamper against Perry that was likely one of the best runs I've ever witnessed with my own eyes, among many other spectacular ones. Ginn's performance throughout the year, regardless of the competition, was truly sublime and ridiculous.
And last but not least, it's impossible to ignore the monster season that Haw, the future Ohio State Buckeye, had despite being a relative unknown to those outside, and even inside, of the greater Columbus area.
Haw (left) played mostly at fullback in his junior campaign when he rushed for 1,271 yards on the ground and scored 14 touchdowns, but his performance at OSU's camp obviously vaulted him to the forefront of being one of the top players to watch prior to this season. His 4.21 second time that he turned in while being clocked by Ohio State's brass was to intriguing for any high school football follower.
Prior to the season, I made it a point to meet with Haw at Independence to get to know him and his motives for his senior season. He was just as impressive then in the summer time as his season turned out to be. He told me then that he had a lot to prove to everyone, especially because he was an Ohio State recruit, and he did just that.
In the regular season, the 5-11, 205 Haw rushed for 2,438 yards and scored 25 touchdowns, averaging more than eight yards per carry. Haw put an exclamation point on his season with a strong performance in week ten with his league's championship and a potential playoff bid on the line. He ran for 249 yards on 23 carries and ripped off TD runs of six, eight, and 87 yards in a winning performance.
That victory earned the 76ers the chance to host and beat the same Walnut Ridge team in the first round at their home field this time around.
"You really couldn't go wrong with either of those three guys," is simple way that Terry Forbes of the Forbes Report answered the question that I posed to him as to which one of the three he would select to be the player-of-the-year. Forbes has been around Ohio School football for many, many seasons first as a coach and currently as an evaluator of high school talent. He sells his in-depth Forbes Report to colleges and universities throughout the country.
So after considering the information about each of the three that an objective person like Forbes had given to me and coupling that with the way I carefully tried to evaluate each of the top three candidates on my own - I don't think you'll see a Cleveland area reporter, for instance, taking a drive down to Columbus to meet up with a worthy opponent as I have - I came away with the player who I thought is very deserving of the award.
Whether of not he goes on to win to the Mr. Football award this season or not, Ted Ginn Jr. is the best player in Ohio in my eyes. He's truly a special and very unique player to watch, and I'm sure the St. Ignatius faithful will vouch for that statement. Not only does Ginn do it all on the field, but he's all of that and a bag of chips off of it. In addition to being a good student in the classroom, Ginn, in all likelihood, is destined to be an ambassador of the Buckeye state in Olympic competition in the future, be it in 2004 or beyond. He's already one of the top hurdlers, nationally, and he hasn't even competed in his senior season yet.
It's not often that a player with the all-around pedigree of Ginn comes around and for that he should be celebrated. Sure, Williams and Haw are fantastic players in their own right, and I'm hoping that all three of my finalists end up donning the scarlet and gray in their college career, but the more you look at Ginn and consider everything he's done this season, the more impressed you have to become.
Ginn is likely to have a mantle full of national awards this year for his season on the gridiron and especially for his upcoming track season as well, but the Mr. Football award is the one that I think will fit him and define him the best.
While I'm in the process of handing out hardware, my top selection for the Coach-of-the-year in Ohio has to be Steve Trivisonno of Mentor high school. Although unbeaten after 11 games, the Cardinals may be the best kept secret in the state of Ohio. I look for Mentor to knock off St. Ignatius and then play Warren G. Harding in a rematch from last year to represent the region. I'm picking the Raiders to win the state - Thom McDaniels told me they would back in May - but if there is a team that can knock them off en route to the title, it's Mentor.
My top junior of the year is Tyrell Sutton of Akron Hoban High School. Although Javon Ringer, Fred Lenix and Mario Manningham are also very worthy candidates for the award, how can anyone ignore the season and the career that Sutton has quietly put together? And to take that a step further, after seeing Fred Russell from Iowa in person, no one can tell me that Sutton cannot play Big-Ten football.
On the Lighter Side is a weekly column by Gary Housteau for club subscribers. This version was posted on Monday, but look for columns to be regularly posted on Friday.