Wednesday night, 26 area football standouts were invited to Augusta’s downtown Marriott to be part of WJBF News Channel 6’s Football Awards Show. This is not just any award show. WJBF partners with ESPN HS to put on the event, which was televised live in prime time.
ESPN college football analyst Danny Kanell served as guest speaker. Kanell, a former ACC Player of the Year as a quarterback at Florida State, not only spoke, he also co-hosted the awards portion of the evening with WJBF Sports Director Chris Kane.
This is also the most difficult All-Area Team to make because only one player is chosen at each position; no second team, no third team, and no honorable mentions. Coaches from more than 60 area schools voted, and with consultation from ESPN HS, the team was formed.
To even be considered in such a large pool of schools would be great. Last season, in the awards inaugural year, only one player from Columbia County made the team – Evans linebacker Thad Greenaway. This year, several Columbia County players were given serious consideration. In the end, four players made the cut. Here is a look at the Columbia County players who were honored:
Quarterback: Mark Weidenaar (Lakeside)
He was the coaches’ runaway choice as the area’s best quarterback. The 6-foot-4 senior passed for more than 1,800 yards and ran for another 1,000. He accounted for 26 total touchdowns and helped lead Lakeside to the state playoffs despite a 1-4 start to the season. He was selected as the Region Player of the Year and was one of three finalists for the CSRA Offensive Player of the Year.
Offensive lineman: Jacob Wright (Lakeside)
I am so glad he made the squad. He was a workhorse for coach Jarrett Troxler and the Panthers this season. The 6-4, 240-pound Wright did something very rare these days: He started on the offensive and defensive line. He made the team for his blocking, as he helped open holes for an offense that averaged 38 points per game and featured two 1,000-yard rushers. However, he was just as good on defense, and seemed unblockable at times.
Tight end: Michael Clifton (Augusta Christian)
He made the move from tackle to tight end this season. That is certainly not an easy move, but you would not have known from watching him. He hauled in 27 catches and four touchdowns for the Lions while still serving as a terrific blocker for the ground attack. He finished off his senior season by being named Offensive MVP in the South Carolina/North Carolina State All-Star Game.
Punter: Jacob Rizner (Evans)
He is only a junior, and there were several very talented punters in the area; three of the top four vote-getters at punter were from Columbia County. But Rizner was a no-brainer for the team. He averaged 40.2 yards per punt, but more importantly, only had seven of his 38 punts returned, and boasted an amazing net average for 39.5 per punt. For his efforts he was named the All-State Punter in AAAA.
Congrats to a former Panther
Charles Folger transferred from Lakeside to Lincoln County after his sophomore season and enjoyed two solid campaigns for the Red Devils. When he left Lakeside he was a 6-4, 195-pound defensive end. Now Folger is a 6-5, 220-pound offensive tackle prospect.
A couple of recruiting Web sites have included Folger in a list of the top unsigned players in Georgia. He currently has an offer from Carson-Newman. He also is getting a lot of attention from Georgia Southern and several other schools.
Folger now has the option to play at Georgia as a preferred walk-on. Former Evans star Reuben Faloughi took that route and earned a scholarship from the Dogs.
Folger has some tough decisions to make. Right now he is also enjoying a nice season for Lincoln County’s basketball team. He is averaging nine points, 13 rebounds and four blocks per game for the Red Devils.