Today we reveal our final list of Mr. Football candidates for the 2012 season. I've said it before, but I'll say it again - this year is the most wide open Mr. Football race we have had in NH in a LONG time. There are so many strong candidates that it was very difficult to narrow this list down. I wanted to narrow it down to only 4 or 5 candidates, but all 9 of these players deserve the recognition.
This is a statewide Most Valuable Player award. Individual and team performance is taken into account, as well as a player's versatility and his importance to his team's success.
The winner of the 2012 NH Notebook Mr. Football award will be announced on Saturday. For now, here is a look at the candidates. (listed alphabetically)
Connor Benjamin, QB/DB/KR, senior, Goffstown - carried Grizzlies to D-III title game. Benjamin put up some simply staggering numbers, as he had multiple games with 500 yards of total offense and he also had multiple games with 5 TDs. Had over 1,000 yards rushing and nearly 1,000 yards passing as well. Benjamin also played defensive back and returned kicks.
James Caparell, QB, senior, Bedford - was the best QB in the state this season, and the MVP of a Bedford team that is a consensus top 4 team in NH. Threw for over 1,900 yards. Led Bulldogs to not one but FOUR game-winning touchdown drives (against Keene twice, against Dover and vs. Spaulding). Was also a threat to run, and had multiple games with over 100 rushing yards.
Tyler Ford, QB/DB/KR/P, senior, Souhegan - was one of the best players in the state at three different positions - quarterback, defensive back and punter. Had over 1,900 yards passing and over 800 yards rushing. Always covered opponent's top receiver on defense and was also the best punter in the state. MVP for a consensus top 10 team.
Ben Franzoso, RB, senior, Winnacunnet - MVP for the #1 ranked team in the state. He missed three games with a groin injury, but still had more rushing yards than anyone in Divisions I - V. Exeter and Bishop Guertin have 2 of the best defenses in the state, and Franzoso ran for over 200 yards against both of them.
Brandon Goodale, RB/DB/KR, senior, Plymouth - MVP for the only team in the state that went undefeated. Had over 1,300 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Still put those numbers up despite sharing carries with John Thomas. Goodale was also a dangerous return man and a fierce defensive back.
Tyler Grant, RB/DB/KR, senior, Exeter - he simply did it all for an Exeter team that won its second straight D-I title. Grant was arguably the best running back in the state, and he was also arguably the best defensive back in the state. Rushing numbers would have been even higher but he shared carries with 3 other talented backs. Had 217 yards rushing vs. Pinkerton during regular season, and against Manchester Central he scored 4 touchdowns and had 2 interceptions - in the 1st half.
Manny Latimore, RB/DB/KR - Latimore really came on strong late in the season. He had 241 total yards and 4 total TDs late in the season vs. Central, scored 5 TDs in playoffs vs. Nashua South and in D-I title game had over 200 total yards and 2 total TDs. Shared carries with the St. Onge twins but still went over 1,000 yards rushing on the season. MVP for #3 team in the state.
Lucas Luopa, QB/DB, senior, Keene - one of the toughest competitors this state has seen in a while. Had over 1,500 yards passing and also had multiple games with 100+ yards rushing. Makes outstanding reads in the passing game, and was MVP on a Keene team which was one of the top 5 teams in the state. He also played defensive back.
Jesiah Wade, RB/DB/KR, junior, Campbell - Wade might be from a Division VI school, but the numbers he put up this year were too good to ignore. Had over 2,200 rushing yards, which was over 800 yards more than anyone else in the state (according to NH Sportspage). Also scored a whopping 28 touchdowns. Wade is also a hard-hitting defensive back and a beast as a kick returner.
So those are the candidates for the 2012 NH Notebook Mr. Football Award. Who will win? Find out on Saturday when we announce it and run a feature story on that player.