Posted: 12:51 pm Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Midseason Awards: Players, Coaches and Most Improved Teams of the Year 

By Jeff Greer

The 2013 season is half over (or half started, depending on your world view). It’s time to give out midseason awards.

We break down the awards based on classification, so the large schools winners represent Classes 5A through 8A and the small schools winners represent Classes 1A through 4A. We’ll also name a Coach of the Year and a Most Improved Team of the Year.

Staff writer Anthony Chiang picked the large schools nominees. I picked the small schools winners.

LARGE SCHOOLS

Offensive Player of the Year
Tommy McDonald, Sr., RB, Palm Beach Central
119 carries, 850 yards, 9 TDs
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound running back leads the county with an eye-popping 850 rushing yards through six games. McDonald is averaging 7.14 yards per carry and 142 rushing yards per game. The senior’s best game of the season came on Oct. 4 against Santaluces, when he ran for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. McDonald has recorded more than 100 rushing yards in five of six games this year.
Jeff’s pick: Tommy McDonald.

Defensive Player of the Year
Marques Gayot, Sr., S, Park Vista
15 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, one interception returned for TD
After allowing 45 points in the season opener, Park Vista is giving up just 14 points per game since that point. Gayot, who is orally committed to Louisville, has been a big reason for the Cobras’ success on defense. The senior has three interceptions in five contests, including one against Santaluces on Sept. 20 that changed the entire game. He took that interception for a touchdown. Gayot entered the season with high expectations and he has not disappointed.
Jeff’s pick: Marques Gayot.

Coach of the Year
Jack Daniels, Dwyer
Top-ranked Dwyer is 6-0, averaging 41.7 points a game on offense
Daniels may have the most talent to work with in the county, but he also has the most distractions to overcome. With a handful of Division I prospects on the roster, the recruiting process is always on his players’ minds. Despite all of that, Dwyer is 6-0 and has outscored opponents by a combined score of 250-34. Even though the Panthers’ offense features three of the best wide receivers in the county, Daniels has done a masterful job of integrating running back Alonzo Smith into the offense to keep defenses honest.
Jeff’s pick: Jeff Dellenbach, Boca.

Most Improved Team
Boynton Beach
Seventh-ranked Boynton is on track for a playoff spot
The Tigers have already set the single-season school record for wins this year. After going 4-5 in 2012, Boynton Beach is off to a perfect 6-0 start. Led by junior quarterback Lamar Jackson, who transferred from Santaluces as a sophomore, the Tigers are scoring 36 points per game and are sitting atop District 15-6A.
Jeff’s pick: Jupiter.

SMALL SCHOOLS

Offensive Player of the Year
Travis Rudolph, Sr., WR, Cardinal Newman
31 receptions, 660 receiving yards, 10 TDs, 114 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry
The award could just as easily go to McArthur Burnett at Pahokee or Glades Day’s Jonathon Rodriguez, but no one player has more of a target on his back than Rudolph. He entered the 2013 season as the top-rated skill-position prospect from Palm Beach County, surpassing Dwyer receiver and friend Johnnie Dixon in the national rankings after an impressive summer circuit. Rudolph averages more than 20 yards per catch, and his 10 touchdowns in five games has him on pace for ridiculous receiving numbers in the run-heavy high school game.
Anthony’s pick: Travis Rudolph.

Defensive Player of the Year
Steven Leggett, Jr., DE, Glades Central
30 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks
Glades Central doesn’t have the offense it normally does, making its defense even more of a focal point. Leggett, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior with colleges asking about him, is one of the top members of a Glades Central that posted its first shutout last week and held Palm Beach Central to just seven points in Week 2.
Anthony’s pick: Steven Leggett.

Coach of the Year
Eric Pitts, Glades Day
The District 7-2A-leading Gators lost a lot from last year but are still 5-0
Here’s the equation: Your team loses its record-breaking, history-making running back who started at tailback each of the past six seasons. It also loses a veteran head coach with three state-title rings. Add in a whole slew of other key losses, and Glades Day’s grip on 7-2A supremacy had to loosen. But Pitts has rallied his team, selling the Gators on a “nobody believes in us” strategy that has them well on their way to another playoff appearance and maybe more. The Gators are 5-0, outscoring opponents 152-51.
Anthony’s pick: Heath Nivens, King’s Academy.

Most Improved Team
Pahokee
The Blue Devils are 4-1 and in the driver’s seat to the District 7-3A title
If you picked Pahokee to beat American Heritage in their Oct. 4 matchup, raise your hand. OK, now put your hand down: You’re lying. The Blue Devils are on a roll, with an athletic, veteran group putting together some gutsy early-season performances that have them primed for a return to the postseason after a three-year hiatus. Pahokee pieced together a virtuoso defensive performance against Heritage to upset 7-3A’s big bully. Now, can the Blue Devils stay consistent and win the challenging district?
Anthony’s pick: Pahokee.