2018 Most Outstanding Player
Sam Howell, Sun Valley
Why he was chosen: Howell came into the season as one of the state’s best-known recruits, but only added to his legend with his fine senior season. The North Carolina commit will go down as one of the top quarterbacks to ever play in the state and a Spartan legend. This season, Howell led Sun Valley to a 10-3 record with his right arm and bullish running style. In addition to completing 179-of-299 yards for 3,240 and 36 touchdowns with his arm, Howell ran for nearly 1,400 yards and 17 more touchdowns. Howell started at Sun Valley as a freshman and has put up some mind-boggling numbers since.
According to the NCHSAA football record book, Howell is first in total career yardage with 16,815, edging East Lincoln’s Chazz Surratt by just over 200 yards. He’s also second in career passing yardage (13,355), third in touchdown responsibility (213) and fourth in most touchdown passes (144). Howell is also third in state history in career pass attempts (1,343) and ran for 3,621 while averaging 6.5 yards per rush during his career.
What they’re saying: “He got banged up sophomore year,” said Sun Valley coach Tad Baucom. “We’ve seen him concussed on the sidelines and be out for a couple weeks. We’ve watched him open up his non-throwing hand and have it wrapped up only to come back in and play. Junior year, we thought we were down and out a quarterback in the last quarter because he rolled an ankle. We were down two touchdowns, but he came back on the field to bring us back in the lead late in a playoff game … All of his teammates buy into everything about him.”
“Sam Howell is the real deal,” Porter Ridge coach Michael Hertz said. “He’s as good as any high school quarterback I’ve seen, and I’ve been coaching for 20-plus years. He’s incredibly accurate and he can make all the throws. And the thing that makes him so difficult to defend is that he is a truck running the ball.”
2018 Offensive Player of the Year
Jaylen Coleman, Porter Ridge
Why he was chosen: Opposing offenses knew to stop Porter Ridge, you must limit running back Jaylen Coleman. Even though everyone knew it, none could do it.
The Pirate senior had a phenomenal season, only missing 2,000 yards because he got banged up a little during the Pirates’ run to the 4A regional championships.
But along the way, he was terrific. Coleman opened the season by running for 349 yards and four scores against Cuthbertson. He rarely slowed down.
Coleman gained more than 100 yards in nine games. Only Sun Valley, who “limited” Coleman to 87 yards on 20 carries even slowed him down this year.
All told, Coleman averaged 9.3 yards per carry and closed the season with 211 carries for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns.
What they’re saying: “He’s a special player,” Porter Ridge coach Michael Hertz said. “Not only does he have great speed, but he’s very smart. He can get any yard and he knows when to turn on the breakaway speed. He’s just a real smart athlete. He was also lucky enough to have a good offensive line, so you take all of that and he had a great year. His carries were down some because he scored so much and averaged nine yards per carry… We will give it to him anytime, regardless of down and distance, and we know he’ll get us positive yards.
“I think he’s a good fit anywhere. You combine his athletic talent with his grades – he has a 4.5 GPA and is in school leadership – he’s as well rounded a player and kid as I’ve come around in a long time.”
2018 Defensive Player of the Year
JT Killen, Charlotte Christian
Why he was chosen: Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Charlotte Christian defense gave up 14 points. Total. It was a stout group starting up front and running to the talented secondary that will produce at least three Division I prospects, but the man holding it all together was senior linebacker JT Killen.
Despite missing one game and part of another with a targeting penalty and parts of others due to the Knights calling off the dogs in blowouts, Killen still accrued more than 10 tackles per game and led the team with 101 stops. In addition, the Coastal Carolina two-sport commit had 15 tackles for loss, five sacks, four quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown and an interception.
The bigger the game, the bigger a role Killen would play in its outcome. In the opener against NCHSAA 3A champion Catholic, Killen had 21 tackles. In a game against Providence Day, Killen had 12 tackles and he had 11 in the state final win over Christ School.
What they’re saying: “His humility on that side of the ball as a quiet leader separates him,” said coach Jason Estep. “He didn’t have to say anything, but he did everything. I think the guys knew he’s the guy in the middle. He gets everyone lined up and diagnoses plays and makes big plays when we needed him. On a very talented defense I think everyone would agree he was our leader out there.”