Central Ohio High School Sports Awards: Finalists announced for Super 24 football
ThisWeek has been honoring the top high school football players in central Ohio since 1993, and selecting our longest-running Super team is a highlight of our year.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic led to the shortening of the 2020 regular season and the expansion of the playoffs, but the players, as always, delivered memorable performances.
One of these honorees will be named Super 24 Captain – our football Athlete of the Year. That honor will be announced during the Central Ohio High School Sports Awards online show at 7 p.m. July 8.
Finalists in all 10 fall sports should register at sportsawards.usatoday.com/centralohio. The finalists for boys golf, girls golf, girls tennis, boys cross country, girls cross country, field hockey, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball previously were announced. To read bios for those athletes, visit ThisWeekSPORTS.com and click on the H.S. Sports Awards link.
Below is the Super 24 for football:
Brennan Albertini, Westerville North
The 6-foot, 210-pound Albertini was a versatile player for the Warriors as they went 6-4 to record their first winning season since 2004.
The senior rushed for 605 yards and seven touchdowns on 112 carries, caught 13 passes for 78 yards, led the defense in tackles with 76 – along with three interceptions and a fumble recovery – and threw for two touchdowns in spot duty at quarterback.
Albertini was named OCC-Capital Division Defensive Player of the Year, first-team all-district and third-team all-state.
“His ability to fill a need and make an impact at those positions was unbelievable,” coach Bryan Johnson said. “The thing that made Brennan stand out was his passion to get better and turn this program around.”
Stephan Byrd, Canal Winchester
Byrd, a 6-0, 210-pound junior, surpassed 4,000 career rushing yards at the end of the season as the Indians went 5-5 and won their first playoff game since 2012.
Byrd, a three-year starter who committed to Cincinnati in November, ran for 1,363 yards and 19 touchdowns on 166 carries, caught 11 passes for 262 yards and four scores and saw time at linebacker late in the season. He was named first-team all-OCC-Capital, all-district and all-state and enters his senior season with 4,120 rushing yards and 61 total touchdowns.
“Stephan Byrd is the best player I have ever coached,” former Indians coach Josh Stratton said. “He has a great disposition each and every day. He has a smile on his face and never takes himself too seriously.”
Jamarius Dinkins, Walnut Ridge
With the City League championship game tied, this senior defensive lineman recovered a fumble at the Eastmoor Academy 4-yard line to set up the winning score two plays later in a 14-6 victory.
“Dinkins has been doing that for four years,” former Scots coach Byron Mattox said. “He’s just a fantastic player with high energy. This was the way I envisioned it when these guys came in, winning something big.”
Dinkins, who is 6-6 and 270 pounds, will play at Kentucky as a defensive lineman after being named the Division II district Defensive Player of the Year. He had 13 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and four forced fumbles as the Scots went 6-3 and captured their second consecutive league title.
He also was a four-year starter on the offensive line.
Cayden Dougherty, Worthington Kilbourne
The 5-10, 160-pound senior played varsity for the first time last fall and filled up the stat sheet at wide receiver.
Dougherty caught 50 passes for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns with zero drops. He also had three returns for touchdowns on special teams as he compiled 1,378 all-purpose yards.
His efforts were a key component in Kilbourne’s breakout season, as the Wolves went 6-4 and won two Division II playoff games.
Dougherty was first-team all-OCC-Capital and all-district and second-team all-state.
“Cayden is a 50/50 ball guy who has great ball skills, tracking skills and unmatched game speed,” coach Mike Edwards said. “He shows up to work hard every day, and when game time comes he expects to win and he expects to make plays.”
Kaden Doup, Olentangy
Doup, a 5-9, 170-pound quarterback, helped lead the Braves to a Division II, Region 7 semifinal in his only season as a starter.
The senior completed 114 of 164 passes for 1,462 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions and rushed for 254 yards and five scores on 80 carries as the Braves went 6-3, losing 14-10 to Massillon Perry in a regional semifinal.
Doup, who was named second-team all-OCC-Cardinal, first-team all-district and third-team all-state, will play for Otterbein, where his father, Tim, is head coach.
“Kaden did an outstanding job of commanding our offense … as a first-year starter,” coach Mark Solis said. “(Doup) showed tremendous leadership both on and off the field in the midst of the challenges we all faced.”
Braedon Elwer, New Albany
Elwer, a 6-4, 250-pound tight end/offensive lineman, was a key component in New Albany’s passing and blocking schemes as the Eagles went 5-4 and reached a Division I, Region 3 semifinal.
The senior caught seven passes for 87 yards and a touchdown and was one of the lead blockers in an offense that averaged 323.4 yards per game and amassed 2,019 yards rushing. He was first-team all-OCC-Ohio, all-district and all-state.
“Braedon was a tenacious blocker and a huge reason for any success that we had offensively and defensively over the past two years,” coach Bubba Kidwell said. “Not many linemen can make the move from offensive tackle to tight end and be a big-time playmaker in both the run and pass games.”
Zeke Healy, Westerville Central
Healy, a 5-10, 200-pound linebacker, helped lead the Warhawks to the Division I, Region 3 final, where they lost 38-7 to eventual state runner-up Pickerington Central to finish 7-2 overall.
The senior led the defense with 75 tackles and had three sacks and an interception. He was named first-team all-state and all-district and OCC-Ohio Defensive Player of the Year.
“Zeke has been a vocal starter on our team for the past three seasons,” coach Brent Morrison said. “As the only two-time captain in our program history, he’s left his mark as the leader of one of the best defenses in central Ohio. Zeke played in a way that encouraged others to raise their level of play and match his intensity.”
Central went 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio to finish second behind Pickerington North (5-0).
Judah Holtzclaw, Westerville Central
Holtzclaw, a 6-6, 220-pound senior quarterback, directed the Warhawks’ spread offense, completing 109 of 177 passes for 1,339 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. He added 348 yards rushing and 10 scored on 83 carries.
He was named first-team all-state, all-district and all-league.
“Judah was coming off an all-state performance during his junior season and one of the first things he did was ask me what he needed to improve upon,” Morrison said. “We set some physical, mental and leadership goals and he rose to the challenge in all the categories. He became a legitimate run/pass threat, had a better control of the offense and was voted captain by his peers.”
Holtzclaw played in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl on Dec. 14 in Arlington, Texas.
Blake Horvath, Hilliard Darby
Horvath, a 6-2, 190-pound quarterback, was a dual threat to opposing defenses.
The junior ran for 1,186 yards and 20 touchdowns on 156 carries and completed 34 of 60 passes for 416 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in Darby’s triple-option attack.
Horvath led the Panthers to a 21-7 victory over Gahanna in the opening round of the Division I playoffs before they lost 35-16 to Pickerington Central to finish 4-4.
He was first-team all-OCC-Cardinal and all-district and third-team all-state.
“Blake got better with each game we played this season,” coach John Santagata said. “The ability to score 20 touchdowns in only eight games shows his toughness and athleticism. Even more noticeable was his ability to lead and have a positive impact on his teammates.”
Jaylen Jennings, Harvest Prep
After the Warriors’ 2019 season ended in a Division VII state semifinal, they made a smooth transition to Division V as this 5-10, 175-pound junior running back led the way.
Jennings rushed for 1,623 yards and 22 scores on 163 carries and was named district Offensive Player of the Year as well as first-team all-MSL-Ohio and all-state.
Harvest Prep reached a Region 19 semifinal, where it lost 21-14 to Ironton to finish 7-2. The Warriors avenged their only regular-season loss by beating Columbus Academy 20-17 in a regional quarterfinal as Jennings scored the winning touchdown.
“Jaylen is what we look for in running backs,” coach Milan Smith said. “He’s fast, strong and has a burst. ... He understands what a Harvest Prep football player is about – toughness, humility and preparation.”
Orlando Jones, Independence
Jones missed his junior season with a foot injury but returned last fall as a two-way standout for the 76ers, who finished 4-4.
The 6-1, 175-pound senior totaled more than 1,400 all-purpose yards while playing quarterback and had eight interceptions, returning four for touchdowns, at defensive back.
Jones was first-team all-district and all-state on defense.
“Orlando Jones was more dominant for our football team this year than any other player has been for any team I’ve ever coached,” coach Maurice Douglas said. “Orlando has flown a little under the radar in terms of college offers because he lost his entire junior season to a broken foot, but once he gets to college, we believe Orlando could develop into a star on either side of the ball.”
Aidan Kenley, Olentangy Liberty
An Ohio State lacrosse commit, Kenley was one of the area’s top running backs.
The 5-11, 185-pounder had 1,038 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns on 190 carries, added 27 receptions for 295 yards and one score and averaged 30.6 yards on kickoff returns last fall as the Patriots went 8-2 and were Division I, Region 2 runners-up.
Kenley, who had 2,683 career rushing yards, was co-Player of the Year in the OCC-Central with Dublin Coffman’s Bryon Threats as well as first-team all-district and second-team all-state.
“He was a great leader,” coach Steve Hale said. “He worked incredibly hard over the offseason to prepare for his senior year. He’s a great teammate as well. (He had an) ability to make big plays even when that didn’t look like it was going to happen.”
A.J. Mirgon, Hilliard Bradley
The 6-0, 190-pound senior quarterback led the Jaguars in rushing with 1,031 yards and eight scores on 191 carries. He also was 92-for-183 passing for 1,100 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Mirgon guided the Jaguars to postseason victories over Groveport and Reynoldsburg before a 34-7 loss to Pickerington Central in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal. Bradley finished 3-6.
He was first-team all-league and all-district and second-team all-state.
“A.J. is a tremendous athlete in both football and basketball,” coach Mike LoParo said. “He’s the ultimate competitor and would put the team on his back.”
A three-year starter in both sports, Mirgon has not selected a college or which sport he will play.
Jacob Moeller, Olentangy Berlin
The 6-4, 175-pounder was a three-year starter at quarterback and led the Bears to their first two postseason victories as a senior.
Moeller completed 174 of 286 passes for 2,823 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. A Walsh commit, he was OCC-Cardinal Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-district and all-state.
“Jacob was a silent assassin,” coach Mark Nori said. “He didn’t say much, but he came to work every day and got better. He has an athletic calmness that makes him a good leader. He was the same kid if he threw a touchdown or an interception.”
Berlin finished 5-4, losing 56-29 to Westerville South in a Division II, Region 7 quarterfinal.
Nick Mosley, Pickerington Central
With this 5-11, 205-pound senior running back leading the way on offense, the Tigers went 11-1, won their second consecutive league title and were Division I state runners-up.
A Bowling Green signee, Mosley rushed for 1,003 yards and 29 touchdowns on 187 carries and was first-team all-OCC-Buckeye and all-district and third-team all-state.
He gained experience as a sophomore when the Tigers were state semifinalists, then ran for 1,427 yards and 23 scores as a junior when Central won its second state title in three seasons.
“Nick has been our main running back for three seasons,” coach Jay Sharrett said. “His toughness with the football allowed our program to set repeated fewest turnover records the past three seasons. Nick combines power running with breakaway speed and agility.”
Peter Pedrozo, Westerville South
Pedrozo led the Wildcats’ spread attack at quarterback, as the 5-11, 180-pound senior completed 150 of 214 passes for 2,622 yards with 30 touchdowns and five interceptions.
He guided South to the OCC-Capital title at 5-0 and a Division II, Region 7 semifinal, where the Wildcats lost 45-36 to Massillon Washington to finish 7-1 overall.
Pedrozo was named Offensive Player of the Year in both the district and OCC-Capital and was first-team all-state.
“Peter was simply outstanding with his decision-making and ability to distribute the football to one of our many weapons,” coach Matthew Christ said. “Although by far his best attributes are his grit and willingness to lead. He undoubtedly has ‘it.’ ”
Pedrozo has committed to Otterbein.
Quintell Quinn, DeSales
A three-time first-team all-district selection who also was first-team all-state the last two seasons, Quinn has signed with Ohio University.
The 6-2, 210-pound running back/linebacker helped DeSales reach a regional semifinal in 2019 and go 9-2 last fall while advancing to the Division III state final, where the Stallions lost 31-28 in double overtime to Chardon.
Quinn rushed for 1,566 yards and 27 touchdowns and had 85.5 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and three sacks, last season. He finished with a program-record 3,363 yards rushing.
“His senior year, he never put the ball on the ground at all,” coach Ryan Wiggins said. “He was tough, hard-nosed and always a team-first guy. ... (He) definitely deserves to go down as one of the best players we've ever had.”
Hammond Russell, Dublin Coffman
The 6-4, 265-pound defensive lineman was the first line of defense for the Shamrocks, who were the top seed in Division I, Region 2 and finished 8-1 overall after losing 18-15 to Liberty in a regional semifinal.
Russell had 52 tackles, including nine for loss, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions. The West Virginia recruit was first-team all-league, all-district and all-state as Coffman won its second consecutive league title by going 5-0 in the OCC-Central.
“Hammond is an incredible athlete, he’s blessed with an incredible skill set and he has a huge heart,” defensive coordinator Curtis Crager said. “He had the ability to make big plays in critical situations, and he can take over a game at times. I really think his best football is ahead of him.”
Kaden Saunders, Westerville South
The 6-0, 175-pound junior emerged last fall as one of the top receivers in the state.
Saunders had 45 catches for 946 yards and 13 touchdowns and was named first-team all-league, all-district and all-state.
The Penn State commit had nine catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-36 loss to Massillon Washington in a Division II, Region 7 semifinal as South finished 7-1 after winning the OCC-Capital.
“It’s been an awesome process watching Kaden work himself into the dynamic player that he was this season,” Christ said. “Kaden has always had elite speed, but his willingness to get in the weight room and embrace the work makes us incredibly excited to have one more ride together. The way he competed in the regional semifinal was simply awesome.”
Keaton Snyder, Pickerington Central
One of the keys to the Tigers averaging more than 40 points during their 11 victories was the play of this 6-2, 275-pound senior offensive lineman.
Snyder, who was special mention all-district as a junior when Central went 14-1 and won its second Division I state title in three seasons, was named first-team all-league, all-district and all-state as the Tigers finished 11-1 and were state runners-up.
The Otterbein commit also helped Central go 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye to capture the league title.
“Keaton was instrumental on our state championship team last season and picked up right where he left off going into the 2020 season,” Sharrett said. “Keaton is one of the most physical offensive linemen we’ve had and without a doubt the fastest, most agile blocker.”
Lorenzo Styles Jr., Pickerington Central
Styles, a 6-1, 190-pound senior, was the Division I district Player of the Year at wide receiver and a standout at defensive back for the Tigers.
The Notre Dame signee, who also was OCC-Buckeye Player of the Year and first-team all-state, set a program record for career starts with 55.
Last fall, Styles had 16 receptions for 263 yards and two touchdowns, 432 yards rushing and three scores and returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns.
“Lorenzo played over 100 plays routinely and excelled as the game developed,” Sharrett said. ‘His athleticism and toughness will be very difficult to match for future football players. Being a starter on two state championships, a state runner-up and a state final four team exemplifies the impact he’s had on our program.”
Jonathan Thompson, DeSales
After becoming a contributor for the Stallions in 2019, Thompson blossomed into one of the area’s top players last fall at linebacker and running back.
The 6-2, 215-pound junior was named Division III district Defensive Player of the Year and was first-team all-state after recording 72 tackles, which included 31 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He had five tackles for loss and one sack in the state final loss to Chardon.
Thompson also rushed for 690 yards and six touchdowns on 96 carries.
“He’s a running back and crash end and outside linebacker who’s been great on defense,” Wiggins said. “He’s an animal out there, all over the field, and has made some key runs as a running back. … We love Jon and love his effort.”
Bryon Threats, Dublin Coffman
The 5-11, 202-pound senior made his name as a running back but also played key downs defensively at linebacker and safety.
Threats rushed for 1,124 yards and 18 touchdowns on 141 carries and caught 21 passes for 402 yards and four scores. On defense, he had 14 tackles, one interception and one pass break-up.
The Cincinnati signee shared league Player of the Year honors with Liberty’s Kenley as the Shamrocks won the OCC-Central at 5-0. He also was first-team all-district and all-state.
“Bryon was a jack of all trades and his physicality separated him from the rest,” said former coach Mark Crabtree, whose team went 8-1. “He didn’t play a lot for us on defense, which may be where he’ll play in college.”
Daniel Tooson, Hartley
This 6-1, 250-pound junior, who starts on both the offensive and defensive lines, is a three-year regular.
He helped Hartley go 9-3 in 2018 and 12-2 with a Division III state semifinal appearance in 2019 before playing a key role last fall as the Hawks went 6-4 with a Division III, Region 11 runner-up finish. Three of their losses were to state runner-up DeSales.
Tooson finished with 15 tackles for loss, eight sacks and two fumble recoveries in being named first-team all-district and all-state.
“Daniel Tooson is an absolutely dominant player,” coach Brad Burchfield said. “He’s a monster and a terror, incredibly dominant. If he wasn’t an all-Ohio defensive lineman, he’d be an all-Ohio offensive lineman.”
•HONORABLE MENTION – Ahmad Armstrong, Eastmoor Academy (So., QB); Ron Blackman, Gahanna Lincoln (Sr., RB); Jeb Burford, Worthington Christian (Sr., OL/DL); Correy Craddolph, Northland (Jr., OL/DL); Malcolm Denny, Hamilton Township (Sr., TE/LB/P); Mitch Fields, Olentangy Liberty (Sr., QB); Phillip Gibson-Perry, Harvest Prep (Sr., LB); Markez Gillam, Reynoldsburg (Jr., WR); Caleb Gossett, Olentangy (Sr., WR/DB); Carson Gresock, Upper Arlington (Jr., RB); Elijah Hawk, Pickerington North (Sr., DL); Brady Hess, Columbus Academy (Sr., QB); Jake Hoying, Watterson (Sr., QB); Will Jados, Westerville Central (Sr., OL/DL); Dijon Jennings, Reynoldsburg (Jr., QB); Landon Johnson, Olentangy (Sr., LB/RB); Caden Konczak, Olentangy Orange (Sr., WR); Diante Latham, Beechcroft (Jr., RB/DB); Christian Lautenschleger, Grove City Christian (Sr., RB/LB); Bennett Lawrence, Olentangy Berlin (Jr., WR/LB); Idris Lawrence Jr., Pickerington North (Sr., RB); Javarus Leach, Walnut Ridge (Sr., RB); Max Martin-Lee, Dublin Scioto (Jr., OL/DL); Cole Matthews, Ready (Sr., LB); Gyvnn Mendenhall, Columbus Academy (Jr., OL/DL); Shawn Munnerlyn, Independence (Sr., WR/TE/LB); Cam Nickleson, Watterson (Sr., RB); Marcelis Parker, Hartley (Sr., RB/LB); Giovanni Scales, Marion-Franklin (Sr., DB/WR); Carter Smith, Olentangy Liberty (Jr., OL); Mitchell Tomasek, Worthington Kilbourne (Sr., QB/P); Joe Trent, Dublin Scioto (Sr., TE); Jalil Underdown, Groveport Madison (Sr., RB); Jason Velazquez, DeSales (Sr., LB); Garner Wallace, Pickerington Central (Sr., QB); Devon Williams, Dublin Coffman (Sr., LB)