(Last updated 11/22/09)
Let the debates begin for the 2009 New Hampshire Mr. Football Award! Clearly, there are a number of players who had big seasons and can make a case for winning it. Last year it was no contest, with South's David Zocco taking home the hardware. This year it is definitely more wide open.
To win this award I think a player has to be of great value to his team. He doesn't necessarily have to be on a team that won a championship, but that certainly helps. I also think the more ways the player helps their team the better. Two-way-players have an advantage in my mind, and especially plays who play offense, defense AND special teams. I think consistency is important, as well as performing well in big games. Having good statistics certainly helps, but stats don't always tell the whole story. They don't show how good of a leader a quarterback is, or how good of a blocker a half back is in pass protection, for example. Stats also don't account for differences in divisions. Rushing for 200 yards against a weak D-V defense is very different than rushing for 200 yards against a strong D-I or D-II defense.
Below I breakdown the field, and rank the candidates for this year's Mr. Football Award.
1. Steve Jellison - Souhegan...You could make a very strong argument that Jellison is the best offensive player in NH as well as the best defensive player in NH. That alone makes him one of the top contenders for this honor. He led his team to a state title, and came up big in his team’s two biggest games. Those would be the two playoff games, against Milford and Portsmouth, respectively. He had 198 yards and 3 TD’s vs. Milford, and 236 yards and 4 TD’s against Portsmouth. Wow! Can a D-III player really win the award, though?
2. Mike Kelly - Bishop Guertin...What can you say about this kid? He lines up in the backfield and runs the ball. He lines up in the backfield and takes a pitch. He lines up in the backfield and catches the ball. He lines up as a receiver and catches the ball. He returns kicks and punts. He does all of those things for BIG yardage, and is a threat to score ever time he touches the rock. Plus he’s also an excellent defensive back. He plays for the best team in the state. He game up big in the big games and against good defenses. In the Exeter game, he took the opening kickoff for a TD only to have it called back. Then took the pitch, bounced it to the outside, and ran it 91 yards for the TD. In the title game against a good Winnacunnet defense, he had a rushing TD, a receiving TD, and a punt return for a TD. All of that, he was playing with a sore ankle! What more do you want?
3. Max Jacques - Salem...Jacques had an unbelievable year for Salem. Not only is he the best player on the team that won the Division I title, but he is also a two-way player. He is very good DB, as well as a running back for the Blue Devils. He had some monster games of 200 yards or more, including an amazing 331 yards and 4 TD’s against South. He also had an interception on defense in that game. He also scored a rushing TD in his team’s biggest game, a win over Nashua North in the championship game. He also returned kicks and punts for Salem.
4. Andre Williams - Nashua North...One advantage that Williams, as well as Cavanaugh have over the other players is that they are without a doubt the best players on their teams. With teams like Salem, BG and Souhegan, they all have two or three candidates. The players on those teams will steal votes away from each other. After all, how can a player be Mr. Football if the argument could be made that he isn’t even the best player on his own team? As for Williams specifically, he was very consistent all year long, and he was at his best in big games like against Central, South and Pinkerton in the regular season, and against Central and Salem in the playoffs. He also is a good defensive player for the Titans.
5. Mike Cavanaugh - Manchester Central…Like Williams, Cavanaugh also has the advantage of being his team’s unquestioned top player. Cavanaugh did it all for the little Green. Not only was he one of the state’s top rushers, but he also returned kicks, played defense, and he is the second best pass-catching half back in the state after Kelley. Central was an inconsistent team, was Cavanaugh was not. He was the one constant. The one guy Coach Ray knew he could count on.
6. Adam Hall - Bishop Guertin...He was consistent all year long, but was especially strong in big games, and against strong defenses. He had a huge game running the ball against Exeter and he had 141 yards and a touchdown in the title game against Winnacunnet. He might be even higher up the list if he did more than just run the ball up the middle. The backs ahead of him also play defense, catch passes or play special teams.
7. Jerickson Fedrick - Salem...Only a sophomore, but he has the size, speed and strength of a senior. He was overshadowed by Jacques for most of the year. But he was solid all year long, and was probably a more effective back than Jacques in Salem’s two playoff wins. Like Jacques, Fedrick also was a good defensive player, and helped the Blue Devils win the D-I title.
8. Mike Montville - Portsmouth...He was the top wide receiver in the state, bar none. He had a quarterback who hadn’t started a varsity game before this year, and every game he was double or triple covered. All of that, and he still managed to put up huge numbers all year long. Against Milford week 10 he had 7 catches for 139 yards and 3 TD’s, plus an interception on defense. And in the Clipper’s title game loss vs. Souhegan he had 12 catches for 205 yards. He was also a safety on defense, and was one of the state’s hardest hitters. Plus he was valuable on special teams as well, as one of the top punters around.
9. DJ Petropulos - Souhegan...He was the state’s best quarterback this season. He had over a 60% completion percentage, over 22 TD’s and only 1 interception. He led his team to a state title. He will clearly lose votes to Jellison, who was Souhegan’s best player in their two playoff victories.
10. Zach Kelleher - Exeter...Very good two-way player. All-state talent at RB as well as DB. And did it for a team that was in the top 10 all year long. He had over 6 interceptions on defense, and well over 6 touchdowns on offense. Plus he returned kicks and punts for the Blue Hawks. He wasn’t known for catching passes, but he did have a HUGE 87 yard TD catch in Exeter’s semi-final loss to Winnacunnet.
11. Kyle McAuliffe - Plymouth...A monster season rushing the ball for McAuliffe. Plymouth has a storied history, and this year he broke the school's single-season rushing record. Also played defense for the Bobcats, and was dominant in their title game blowout over Laconia. Had numerous games with 200 rushing yards and multiple TD’s for Plymouth. He also was a starter on defense.
12. Connor Lyons - Trinity...One of the state's fastest players, he was consistent, and led Trinity to an undefeated season. Put up some outstanding rushing numbers, albeit in Division-V. Pelham's Bruce Veira was one of last year's five Mr. Football finalists, can Lyons make it two years in a row for a D-V player? Like Kelly, Lyons is also a threat to go for a TD each time he touches the ball, and not only runs the ball but also returns kicks for the Pioneers, often times for big yardage. He's also a key defensive play for Trinity.
13. Matt Cannone - Salem...Cannone was one of the state’s top five QB’s all year long, and came up even bigger for Salem in their title game win over North. He threw the game winning 46 yard TD pass with under two minutes left to give the Blue Devils the championship. Most of the season it was Jacques and Fedrick who carried the team, but in the playoffs Cannone showed he can shoulder the load as well.
14. Brian Bozek - Laconia...The case for him is that he was dominant not only running the ball, but also on defense. The case against him is that in Laconia’s two biggest games (vs. Plymouth) he had tough a tough time producing. Still, no one would argue that he is one of the state’s best defensive players. And for the most part he was a prolific running back as well.
15. Eric Guinto - Pinkerton...An electric player, he’s fast and he’s a playmaker for the Astros. He returns kicks and also catches passes out of the backfield, in addition to running the ball. However, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy for long enough periods of time over the last couple years to reach his full potential. He suffered a concussion, and was forced to sit out Pinkerton’s last two regular season games. Still, he did play in his team’s semi-final game against Salem. And even though they didn’t win, Guinto had 116 yards on just 14 carries and 3touchdowns.
16. Steve Cuipa - Bishop Guertin...He was the starting QB for the best team in the state. Sure, he had A LOT of talent around him, but his decision making was exceptional, and he ran the option nearly flawlessly all season. He showed a rocket arm and good speed when running the ball.
17. Derek Furey - Timberlane...Furey was the best player in the state who’s team did not make the playoffs. I can’t see a player from a non-playoff team making the list of five finalists for this award, but Furey deserves the recognition nonetheless. He didn’t have as good of a year as he did last year, but still had some huge games, including a monster performance vs. Merrimack. It was a very tough way to end his season, and career by having to sit out the Alvirne game with an injury. It was the last week of the regular season, and the winner of that game got the 4th playoff spot in D-II. But unfortunately for the Owls, Furey couldn’t play. Still, when this kid is healthy and playing well, he’s as good as any back in NH.
18. Steve Cronan - Winnacunnet...Similar player to Cuipa, in his ability to run the option, good running speed and good arm. Cronan is even bigger and stronger than Cuipa, and you could argue he has the better arm. Cronan’s only weakness is turnovers. He threw two interceptions vs. both Alvirne and Exeter, and had a crucial fumble in the D-II title game against BG. Still, this kid is a great athlete who made plays all year long with his arm and with his legs.
19. Ryan Simpson - Pinkerton...One of the few QB’s this season who also played on the defensive side of the ball. Simpson wasn’t asked to do much passing most of the year, but when Guinto got hurt he got a chance to show off his strong, accurate arm. A very tough player, he managed to stay in the lineup all year despite Pinkerton playing the state’s most difficult schedule.
20. Nate Jones - Portsmouth...He had never started a varsity game at QB before this year, but Jones still had a huge year, both throwing the ball and running it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the state’s best WR in Montville, and the speedy Billy Lane to throw to. The senior signal caller also had big games against good teams, especially the win over Milford and the loss to Souhegan in the D-III championship game.
21. Keith Farkas - Nashua South...Farkas was by far the best quarterback whose team missed the playoffs. He did everything he could for South, however. He was not only the team’s QB, but he also played DB on defense. He put up some huge passing numbers. The kid is an amazing athlete, and has a great arm. He just didn’t win enough ballgames, and at times his decision making could have been better. Keep your eye on him, though. I’ve got a feeling he’ll be a lot higher on this list next season.
22. Alex Lambert - Londonderry…Sure, he played for a non-playoff team, but he still had a huge season. He ran the ball, caught passes out of the backfield, and returned kicks for the Lancers. Lambert lacks size, and he was forced to carry the ball a lot more than expected due to Joey McLaughlin’s injury. But he overcame these things to emerge as one of the state’s best backs.
23. Colin Hay - Plymouth...Along with McAuliffe, Hay carried the load offensively for Plymouth. Some games Hay was even the better player. And like McAuliffe, he was also one of the Bobcats better defenders.
24. Joe D'Angelo - Pelham...Following the graduation of Veira, it was up to D’Angelo to step up and take control of the Pelham offense. He did just that, and showed a strong, accurate arm all year while putting up some mammoth passing numbers. He did however, struggle against good teams like Bow, Trinity and in the Python’s semi-final loss to Bishop Brady.
So, there you have it! 24 excellent players who all had great years. But only 5 of them will be finalists, and only 1 will take home the trophy and be named the 2009 New Hampshire Mr. Football...let the debate commence!