The choice for this year's News-Times Football Player of the Year is going to be one of the toughest calls in a long time.
Lakeside obviously had the best season, but the Panthers have no huge star. They were a complete team that had contributions from up to a dozen players any given week.
Their defense was, statistically, among the best in county history. However, even on that side of the ball there are several choices. Newcomer Kendal Parker was tremendous all year and certainly warrants a good hard look, but senior linebacker Chris Hartfield was terrific as well, plus he was a solid short-yardage back on offense too. Khadi Tshishiku was one of the area's top defensive backs all year and was a team leader for Lakeside.
On the offensive side of the ball it was truly 11 men getting the job done week in and week out.
The dual quarterbacks the Panthers used were both very good. Sophomore Mark Weidenaar got better as the year went on, and he was not too shabby at receiver when he was not calling the signals.
Junior Ben Wilson was not flashy, but he was a gamer. His first varsity start was proof of that.
Playing in front of a huge crowd, on an emotional night as the Panthers honored Ryan Clark with the Virginia Tech marching band in the stands, Wilson did not flinch. He led the way in a huge 17-0 Lakeside victory.
Jonathan Finch, the reigning Columbia County Player of the Year, was back in the black and gold at Evans. Last season, Finch rambled for more than 1,500 yards. He once again topped the 1,000-yard mark. However, thanks to a combination of more depth at running back, and missing a game late in the season, his numbers were down a bit. While still as talented as any back in the county, was he Player of the Year in 2009?
Another running back coming off a monster 2008 season was Seth Hill. After piling up 1,500 yards for Harlem a year ago, Hill made the jump to Grovetown this season. Well, the new environment did not slow him down. He led the county with more than 1,400 yards and rushed for 19 scores.
Harlem's Zach Morris deserves a mention in this discussion.
While he might have an uphill climb to win the award, he had a tremendous year. Playing with a bunch of youngsters and newcomers, Morris kept Harlem competitive in 2009. He is as gutsy as it gets. It is hard not to root for him when you watch him play.
Well, those are the leading candidates for this year's player of the year. As you can see, the decision is not going to be easy.
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