Last season saw an awesome race for the state’s most prestigious individual award. A trophy given to the likes of Robert Alexander, Randy Moss, and Ryan Switzer. In 2017, it came down close to four seniors. Tyson Bagent of Martinsburg, Jadon Hayes of Huntington, Jeremy Dillon of Mingo Central, and the eventual winner: Mookie Collier of Bluefield. Now, unlike last year, we have no previous winners and a clear stable of potential winners. Here is our top five favorites to take home the golden football.
5. Donovan Kirby (RB)
2017 Stats: 2,554 Rushing Yards, 29 Rushing TD’s (11 Games)
The state-leading rusher of 2017 returns this season in a new uniform. Previously at Madonna (A), Kirby will now run the ball for a talented Weir Red Rider offense. He will play higher competition but will also have more depth around him. He might have to share touches with several all-staters, but we could see another stat-packed season of his trucking and jumping runs.
4. Malakai Brown (WR)
2017 Stats: 81 Receptions, 1,393 Receiving Yards, 29 Touchdowns (11 Games)
The breakout wide receiver comes into this season as the lone junior in our top five. He was practically unguardable in the eastern panhandle. A big question could be in having a new quarterback, but we aren’t too worried. We could definitely see him putting up similar numbers, if not bettering them from the season prior.
3. Cason Payne (QB)
2017 Stats: 2,102 Passing Yards, 23 Passing Touchdowns, 925 Rushing Yards, 17 Rushing Touchdowns (12 Games)
Payne put up some excellent numbers last year. The Black Knights also had a stellar year. With AA being the wide-open class it is, Payne could easily punch his ticket into immortality. We expect better numbers on the ground and in the air while also being more efficient. We also expect them to go further in the playoffs which means more games.
2. Ivan Vaughn (RB)
2017 Stats: 1,805 Rushing Yards, 24 Rushing Touchdowns, 8 Receptions, 149 Receiving Yards, 3 Receiving Touchdowns (10 Games)
Vaughn battled some injuries last year and still managed nearly 2,000 yards rushing. With a stacked line and new quarterback, it would seem a perfect scenario for Cabell Midland to push their star back to the top. We expect some big slashing runs every week and a lot of firework businesses being appreciative of Vaughn.
1. Kerry Martin Jr. (QB)
2017 Stats: 2,532 Passing Yards, 32 Passing Touchdowns, 1,072 Rushing Yards, 17 Rushing Touchdowns (13 Games)
Nothing surprising here. A dual-threat and experienced quarterback who reached the semifinals last year is ready for his run at the award. Coach Jon Carpenter has already coached two offensive stars to the award so he knows how to highlight candidate talents. If Martin Jr. puts up anywhere near the numbers he did last year, the award is in the bag.
Candidates to Watch For
Jarod Bowie (WR) Martinsburg
Breeden Gilbert (RB) Fairmont Senior
Dewayne Grantham (RB) Martinsburg
Curtis McGhee III (QB) Wheeling Central
Amir Richardson (WR) University
Brenton Strange (WR) Parkersburg
Grant Wells (QB) George Washington