Raymell Byrd helped the Whitehall-Yearling High School football team reach new heights this season.
The 6-foot, 175-pound senior quarterback led the Rams to their third consecutive postseason appearance, first playoff win in 15 years and second MSL-Ohio Division title in a row while earning several personal accolades, including being named ThisWeek's Super 25 captain.
"I really appreciate this," Byrd said. "I feel like I worked hard for this and my team backed me up."
Byrd, one of the key performers in Whitehall's resurgence the past few seasons, rushed for 1,784 yards and 26 touchdowns on 241 carries and completed 69 of 148 passes for 1,109 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions this fall. He was named first-team all-state and district Offensive Player of the Year, and he shared MSL-Ohio Back of the Year honors with Columbus Academy's Dorrian Moultrie and London's K.J. Price.
The Rams captured the league title at 5-0 and finished 10-2 overall, losing to Massillon Washington 35-17 on Nov. 9 in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal. A week earlier, they won 38-31 at Dover for their first postseason victory since beating Youngstown Chaney 18-15 in the first round in 2003.
"Raymell is a special kid," fourth-year coach Rod Lightfoot said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's unselfish. He loves the game of football and more importantly he loves the guys he played with. He's a true character and a great athlete. We're just proud to have him."
Byrd also was first-team Super 25 last season after rushing for 1,628 yards and 24 touchdowns and passing for 1,131 yards with 14 scores and four interceptions. He was named first-team all-district and all-league and third-team all-state a year ago.
Byrd plans on playing in college, but remains undecided on a school. Lightfoot said Byrd has received interest from several programs.
"We told everybody that supported our team that we would be the class to do something different and we were the class that did something different," Byrd said. "We made it to Week 12 and we haven't done that in years."Super 25 Team
This 6-0, 203-pound senior linebacker for Hilliard Davidson had 121 tackles, was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district and shared Defensive Player of the Year honors in the OCC-Central.
Annis, a three-year starter who also played tight end, helped lead the Wildcats to the Division I, Region 3 final, where they lost to Pickerington Central 20-13 to finish 11-2. He missed the game against Central with a concussion.
"Evan's recognition as a player is matched only by his character and commitment to the Davidson program," coach Brian White said. "His commitment as a player to the Davidson football program over the past decade is second to none. Evan grew up a Wildcat and saw it through to the end."
This 6-2, 215-pound senior linebacker anchored the defense for Hilliard Bradley, which finished 9-2 after falling to Pickerington Central 14-13 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
Blauser led the Jaguars with 98 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss and had three sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, one interception and one safety. He was named first-team all-state and all-district and the OCC-Cardinal co-Defensive Player of the Year as Bradley won its third consecutive league title. An Ohio University commit, Blauser was second-team all-state, first-team all-district and league Defensive Player of the Year as a junior.
"Cannon was the commander of our defense," coach Mike LoParo said. "He got our defense lined up for anything that offenses gave us."
JOHN BRANHAM JR.
With this 5-10, 218-pound senior running back leading the way, Northland won its second consecutive City-North title and its final eight games to finish 8-2 overall.
The Vikings settled for 12th in Division II, Region 7 after losing their first two games by a total of four points, but averaged 35 points while going 6-0 in league play. Branham, who has offers from 15 FBS programs, rushed for 1,196 yards on 155 carries, had 160 yards receiving and scored 22 touchdowns, including three on returns. He was first-team all-state and all-district.
"Everybody keyed on him, everybody loaded up on him," coach Brian Staats said. "His numbers aren't going to be gaudy because he played less than a half in three of our games. He's not going to be a 2,500-yard rusher, but he's every bit as good."
After contributing as a sophomore when Pickerington Central was a Division I state semifinalist, this 6-4, 285-pound senior defensive linemen emerged as one of the Tigers' leaders in 2017 when they won the state title.
This fall, Carter earned first-team all-state, all-district and all-OCC-Ohio honors.
A Duke recruit, he finished with more than 60 tackles and nine tackles for loss and returned an interception for a touchdown in a playoff win. The Tigers lost to Cincinnati Colerain 28-14 in a state semifinal to finish 11-3.
He also was a key blocker at tight end.
"DeWayne brings a level balance with physical play that has led us to our first state championship and several high-profile wins," coach Jay Sharrett said.
The OCC-Ohio Player of the Year, Cooper helped Reynoldsburg go 10-2 and win a share of its first league title since 1993.
The 6-2, 215-pound senior was first-team all-state and all-district at linebacker and also saw action on the defensive line and at running back as the Raiders made the playoffs for the third time.
Cooper finished with 41.5 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
"He sees things happening a lot quicker than other (players) do," coach Buddy White said. "This kid's a four-year starter and he sees when the running back releases. Dez is focused. We play him at defensive end, we play him at running back and he does some strong safety plays for us. Dez could be a featured running back if that's what we needed. He's big, he's strong and he's fast."
Dublin Jerome coach Bob Gecewich calls this 6-5, 280-pound senior the best offensive lineman he has seen in the area since taking over the Celtics four years ago.
A left tackle, Craig had 43 pancake blocks, was first-team all-state and all-district and shared OCC-Cardinal Offensive Player of the Year honors with Hilliard Bradley quarterback Griffin Veil.
Craig is the second player to earn first-team all-state honors for Jerome, which finished 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Craig, who also saw time on the defensive line, has committed to Purdue.
"Cam is a great player and person," Gecewich said. "He has a model work ethic, commitment, effort and mentality and was a teammate that set the example for the team for years to come."
This 5-10, 195-pound senior linebacker was named OCC-Capital and Division II district Defensive Player of the Year after leading Canal Winchester to a 9-1 record.
Davis made 123 tackles as the Indians went 5-0 in the OCC-Capital, winning their first league title since 2012 when they were in the MSL-Buckeye but falling one spot shy of the playoffs in Region 7.
Davis, who also had a team-high eight rushing touchdowns despite running for just 149 yards on 38 carries, recorded 267 tackles the past two seasons.
"He didn't play in the second half, or at the least very little in the second half, of three games," coach Josh Stratton said. "I think our defense was better than last year and Darren was a huge part of that."
This 5-10, 190-pound junior excelled as a slotback, allowing him to stand out at wide receiver and in the backfield for Dublin Coffman, which finished 11-2 overall after losing to Olentangy Liberty 21-7 in the Division I, Region 2 final.
Drennen rushed for 801 yards and 11 touchdowns on 162 carries and caught 30 passes for 464 yards and five scores. He was second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-OCC-Central. The Shamrocks finished second in the league at 4-1, behind Hilliard Davidson (5-0).
"Mike is a super-talented athlete and he has a lot of potential," coach Mark Crabtree said. "His ceiling is very high in terms of what he's capable of doing, and we're looking forward to seeing what he can do in his senior year."
Despite being just 5-7, 165 pounds, this Eastmoor Academy senior was one of central Ohio's most dynamic running backs the last two seasons.
After finishing with more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2017, Edwards rushed for more than 1,600 yards and scored 32 touchdowns this fall as the Warriors won a regional title and lost to Chagrin Falls Kenston 40-7 in a Division III state semifinal to finish 12-2.
Edwards was named first-team all-state and all-City League as well as district Offensive Player of the Year.
"He's a tremendous athlete, a hard worker and a great kid," coach Jim Miranda said. "He's relentless. That's a good word to describe him. He never quits and is very elusive. He makes big plays out of ordinary situations."
This 5-5, 145-pound junior running back for Ready showed his durability in Week 10, rushing 35 times for 256 yards in a 24-3 win over Bexley.
After rushing for 1,483 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017 when the Silver Knights made the Division V playoffs, Foley had 265 carries for 1,640 yards and 17 scores this fall as they went 4-6.
Foley, who also rushed for 265 yards and four scores on 41 carries in a 56-42 win over Columbus Academy in Week 7, was first-team all-district and third-team all-state.
"For a kid his size to carry the ball as many times as he did, he was our workhorse," coach Brian Cross said. "He never missed a game and he only missed one or two days of practice and yet he rushed for 1,400 yards last year and 1,600 this year."
This 5-9, 193-pound senior running back was instrumental in helping Gahanna save its season with a 41-40 double-overtime win over New Albany in Week 4, rushing 15 times for 158 yards and two touchdowns and adding 108 yards and two scores on five receptions.
Harris was the Lions' biggest offensive weapon as they made the Division I playoffs, finishing 5-6.
In addition to rushing 170 times for 1,053 yards and nine touchdowns, he had 29 catches for 331 yards and two scores and had a kickoff return for a score. He was third-team all-state and first-team all-district.
"His whole career, he's been that guy," coach Bruce Ward said. "I've said year after year, he's probably our best football player, not just our best running back. He could probably be our nose guard."
This 6-6, 245-pound senior defensive end for Olentangy Orange missed three games with a leg injury but still had 35.5 tackles, seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss and was named first-team all-state and all-district and OCC-Buckeye Defensive Player of the Year.
Harrison also had 21 catches for 381 yards and four scores as the Pioneers went 7-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye to share the league title with Olentangy and Olentangy Liberty.
Orange lost to Toledo Whitmer 20-17 in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.
"I think what sets Zach apart is he is a student-athlete that blends once-in-a-lifetime God-given size and talent with an elite work ethic," coach Zebb Schroeder said. "He's a kid that has phenomenal leadership skills that make others around him better."
DONTAY HUNTER II
This 6-5, 240-pound senior defensive lineman for Westerville Central was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-OCC-Buckeye.
A Purdue commit, Hunter had 84 tackles and six sacks despite often being double- and triple-teamed. Central finished 5-6 and qualified for the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.
Hunter played at DeSales for two seasons before transferring to Central. As a junior, he had 45 tackles and earned second-team all-league honors.
"I am extremely proud of how Dontay has grown in his time at Central and I look forward to watching him continue to grow as he moves on to the next chapter of his life," coach Brent Morrison said. "His leadership and commitment to our program are a huge part of our success."
This 5-10, 215-pound junior running back was one of the emerging talents for a Hartley team that finished 9-3, made its ninth consecutive playoff appearance and won the CCL title for the second year in a row.
January rushed 207 times for 1,488 yards and 20 touchdowns and made second-team all-state and first-team all-district in Division III. He also had 19 tackles at defensive back.
January flashed his talent as a sophomore, rushing 28 times for 337 yards and five scores.
"Jalan is a tough, physical player," coach Brad Burchfield said. "He has tremendous vision and a drive to improve. He got a lot better through the year until (an ankle) injury (late in the regular season). He has the ability to be a strong runner and is so explosive."
This 6-0, 200-pound senior excelled at running back and defensive end for Grandview, which finished 7-4 after losing to Bainbridge Paint Valley 39-36 in the first round of the Division VI, Region 23 playoffs.
Jump rushed for 1,003 yards and 11 touchdowns on 122 carries and had 102 tackles, nine tackles for loss, six sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He was first-team all-state and all-district and MSL-Ohio Defensive Player of the Year.
"Hudson was not only a great leader, but one of our hardest-working kids," coach Jason Peters said.
"He is an incredible talent, but he was just one component of a special group of players. It's easy to be a good coach when you have players like that."
A four-year starter, this 6-1, 187-pound senior quarterback for Pickerington North had the best season of his prep career, completing 196 of 308 passes for 2,359 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Lowery was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district in Division I as the Panthers finished 6-4.
After starting most of his freshman season at North, he transferred to Gahanna and started for the Lions in 2016 and 2017 before transferring back to North.
Lowery also averaged 36.1 yards on 31 punts this fall, placing 10 inside the 20-yard line.
"Mike has great arm strength and does a great job making pre-snap reads," coach Nate Hillerich said. "This allows him to make good decisions and get the ball to our playmakers."
This 6-0, 175-pound senior running back, linebacker and defensive back for Columbus Academy shared MSL-Ohio Back of the Year honors and was first-team all-state and all-district in Division V.
Moultrie had 56 receptions for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 106 yards and four scores as the Vikings finished 6-4 overall and 3-2 in the MSL-Ohio.
"When your best player is also your hardest worker, you've got a chance to build a special program," coach Robin Miller said. "Dorrian was the consummate teammate, always leading by example and doing whatever it took to help the team.
"While we will surely miss his unbelievable exploits on the field, we will miss his personality, character and off-field intangibles even more."
There might not have been a more accurate quarterback in central Ohio the last two seasons than this 6-4, 210-pound senior for Walnut Ridge.
After throwing for 1,632 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2017, Murphy completed 125 of 192 passes for 1,985 yards with 29 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for three scores this fall.
He threw just one interception during the regular season. The Scots went 9-2 and lost in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.
Murphy was second-team all-state and first-team all-district.
"Isaiah does an outstanding job of leading our offense," coach Byron Mattox said. "He makes great decisions and takes care of the football. He keeps all of the receivers involved."
Few players from central Ohio possessed the big-play abilities of this 6-2, 198-pound senior wide receiver and defensive back for Reynoldsburg.
Rice, a Purdue commit, had 22 receptions for 462 yards and five touchdowns and had three interceptions, including two that he returned for scores. He was named second-team all-state and first-team all-district as a receiver.
Rice, who had 36 receptions for 701 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior, helped the Raiders go 10-2 and reach the second round of the Division I playoffs for just the second time.
"We see it every day in practice," coach Buddy White said. "He plays like he practices. He does everything you see in the game. Whenever your top player is your hardest worker, it says a lot about your team."
This 6-2, 215-pound senior linebacker for Hilliard Davidson recorded a team-high 132 tackles and led the Wildcats in interceptions with three.
Royer was named first-team all-state and all-OCC-Central as well as district Defensive Player of the Year in Division I.
Royer, a three-year starter who also saw time as an H-back, helped Davidson finish 11-2 overall, win the OCC-Central title at 5-0 and reach the playoffs after missing the postseason in 2017. The Wildcats reached the Region 3 final before falling to Pickerington Central 20-13.
"Ethan is a multi-sport athlete and an excellent student who committed countless hours in the offseason to making not only himself but other teammates better," coach Brian White said.
Pickerington Central went 45-9 the last four seasons with this 5-9, 170-pound senior playing multiple roles.
A wide receiver, defensive back and return specialist, Simuel had 16 catches for 237 yards and three touchdowns and five interceptions, including one that he returned for a score, this season as the Tigers reached a Division I state semifinal and finished 11-3. He also had more than 300 yards and scored twice on kickoff returns.
Simuel was named first-team all-state and all-district on defense.
Central reached a state semifinal in 2016 and won the title in 2017.
"Terry has been the tip of the spear for us all season long, offensively, defensively and on special teams," coach Jay Sharrett said. "He plays over a hundred snaps a game at full speed."
This 6-1, 180-pound senior became the third quarterback in as many seasons to lead Hilliard Bradley to a Division I playoff berth and an OCC-Cardinal title.
Veil completed 172 of 267 passes for 2,541 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions and rushed for 261 yards and four scores on 95 carries. He was named first-team all-state, district Offensive Player of the Year and league co-Offensive Player of the Year.
The Jaguars went 9-2 overall, losing to Pickerington Central 14-13 in the first round of the Region 3 playoffs, and 7-0 in the OCC-Cardinal. They have won 16 consecutive league games.
"Griffin is a tremendous leader who had full control of the offense and had a great understanding of our game plan," coach Mike LoParo said.
One of the top linebackers in Division III, this 6-1, 210-pound senior also was asked to carry the brunt of the DeSales offense this season.
Velazquez, a Michigan commit in football and baseball, had 76 tackles and 20 tackles for loss as DeSales finished 5-5.
He rushed 160 times for 917 yards and 13 scores and had 14 receptions for 103 yards, but moved from running back to quarterback for the final five games because of an injury to Reno Godfrey, throwing for 134 yards and a score. Velazquez was named first-team all-state on defense and district Defensive Player of the Year.
"Joey is really, really good," coach Ryan Wiggins said. "Joey gives it 110 percent in the weight room, on the practice field and in the games. ... He's unselfish. You name it, he did it for us."
This 5-11, 195-pound senior linebacker became one of the top tacklers in Hilliard Darby history, totaling 126, including 7.5 for loss, this fall. The program record of 148 tackles was set in a 12-game season in 2013.
Wile was named first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and all-district and third-team all-state as Darby went 8-3 and reached the Division I, Region 3 playoffs. It lost to Clayton Northmont 42-20 in the first round.
"Nick is a tremendous leader and competitor," coach John Santagata said. "He was the quarterback of our defense, setting our fronts and making the proper defensive calls. We used him some on offense, too, and he was our best perimeter blocker. He played on every special team and was an extremely valuable component of our football team."Honorable Mention
Jay Amburgey, Reynoldsburg (Sr. DL/OL), Alex Azusenis, Olentangy Liberty (Sr. OL/DL), Brett Baker, Grove City Christian (Sr. DB/QB), Zion Bangura, Harvest Prep (Sr. LB/TE), Michiah Burton, New Albany (Sr. RB), Payton Collins, Hartley (Sr. OL), DiJahn Davis, Thomas Worthington (Sr. RB), Drew Davis, Watterson (Sr. OL/DL), Jack Duffer, Hilliard Bradley (Sr. WR), Blake Eiland, Delaware (So. QB), Nick Fisanick, Upper Arlington (Sr. LB), Keon Freeman, Whitehall (Sr. LB), Jaylen Gilbert, Centennial (So. QB), Connor Haag, Olentangy (Sr. QB), Michael Hartings, Worthington Christian (Sr. LB/RB/P), Zach Hill, Olentangy Orange (Jr. LB), Karter Johnson, Pickerington Central (Sr. DL/TE), Connor Jones, Hilliard Darby (So. RB), Will King, New Albany (Sr. DL), Luke Lachey, Grandview (Jr. WR/DB), Marquise Laster, Eastmoor Academy (Sr. QB), Mitchell Okuley, Olentangy Liberty (Sr. QB), Daquan Owens-Johnson, Harvest Prep (Sr. RB/DB), Kenyon Pannell, Dublin Scioto (Sr. WR/DB), Mike Powers, Marysville (Sr. LB/RB), Jasiyah Robinson, Groveport (Jr. DL), Kyron Rogers, Dublin Scioto (Sr. QB), Mason Sawyer, Hartley (Jr. LB/RB), Chris Scott, Pickerington North (Jr. WR), Noah Smith, Dublin Coffman (Sr. LB), Rondale Smith, Westerville North (Sr. RB/LB), Christian Sweet, Hilliard Davidson (Sr. DB/RB), Dez Turkson, Canal Winchester (Sr. OL/DL), David Williams, Gahanna (Sr. LB), Julius Wood, Walnut Ridge (Sr. DB/WR).Past Captains
2017: Daniel Bangura, Harvest Prep; 2016: Aaron Latiolais, Heath; 2015: Deeb Haber, Olentangy; 2014: Gunnar Hoak, Dublin Coffman; 2013: Jared Drake, Westerville Central; 2012: Ja'Wuan Woodley, Hartley; 2011: Ross Franklin, Johnstown; 2010: Jayshon Jackson, Westerville South; 2009: Matt Ferguson, Pickerington North; 2008: Josh Kusan, DeSales; 2007: Jeremy Ebert, Hilliard Darby; 2006: Kasey Wendal, Westland; 2005: Jordan Gafford, Worthington Kilbourne; 2004: Christen Haywood, Hilliard Davidson; 2003: Jack Rafferty, Coffman; 2002: Brady Quinn, Coffman; 2001: Erick Phillips, Davidson; 2000: Maurice Hall, Brookhaven; 1999: Nathan Poole, Grove City; 1998: Kyle Slager, Upper Arlington; 1997: Jesse Kline, Upper Arlington; 1996: Derek Combs, Grove City; 1995: Nick Goings, Dublin Scioto and Andy Katzenmoyer, Westerville South; 1994: Goings, Dublin; 1993: Steve Baird, Hilliard