Wil­helm Award fi­nal­ists re­vealed

Five area stand­outs up for award; win­ner an­nounced Nov. 12

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - SPORTS - By Jon Behm JBehm@Morn­ingJour­nal.com @MJ_JBehm on Twit­ter

For 12 weeks, a watch list has been pro­duced high­light­ing play­ers to keep an eye on as can­di­dates to claim the Matt Wil­helm Award.

When the play­offs be­gan, that list was trimmed down to 12 play­ers.

Now, with the award be­ing pre­sented dur­ing a cer­e­mony at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Hoo­ley House in Westlake, the list has been trimmed to five fi­nal­ists, se­lected from The Morn­ing Jour­nal’s 25-school cov­er­age area span­ning Lo­rain County and West­ern Cuya­hoga County.

Here are the five fi­nal­ists, in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der, with their ac­com­plish­ments this sea­son:

Leighton Ban­joff, Elyria Catholic

The Pan­thers’ of­fense had been stag­nant in pre­vi­ous years. Un­der a new coach, not many knew ex­actly what to ex­pect from Elyria Catholic. How­ever, one thing was known: the of­fense would surely use the tal­ents of Ban­joff, and boy has it ever. While the Pan­thers have de­vel­oped a strong pass­ing at­tack, Ban­joff’s num­bers have not fal­tered. Why? Be­cause the se­nior stand­out ad­justed his skillset with the team to be­come a multi-di­men­sional threat, se­cur­ing Elyria Catholic not only a play­off berth in the process, but a first-round home game, a first-round vic­tory and a share of the Great Lakes Con­fer­ence ti­tle, too. Ban­joff had over 1,900 yards of of­fense this sea­son, mak­ing his pres­ence felt at all times. He rushed for 1,571 yards on 192 car­ries and caught 17 passes for 275 yards. He even threw for a 70-yard touch­down. In other words, he had 1,916 yards on 210 touches — or an aver­age of 9.1 yards per touch. He also has 22 touch­downs — 19 rush­ing, two re­ceiv­ing and one pass­ing. But that was only one prong of Ban­joff’s skill. De­fen­sively, he had 114 tack­les (52 solo) as a linebacker, with four tack­les for a loss, two sacks, five forced fum­bles, two fum­ble re­cov­er­ies and two pick-sixes re­turned for a to­tal of 115 yards — bring­ing his to­tal to 2,031 yards on 212 touches for an aver­age of 9.6 yards per touch and 24 touch­downs.

Bran­don Cole­man, Columbia

The se­cret to Columbia’s suc­cess over the past four years is one of the worst guarded se­crets in Lo­rain County: Bran­don Cole­man. The se­nior run­ning back has been the heart of the Raiders’ of­fense in his time in green and white. And it’s not hard to see why. Cole­man is one of the best ever to come through Lo­rain County, and ends his high school ca­reer as the all-time lead­ing rusher with 5,140 yards — the only player in county his­tory to cross the 5,000 thresh­old. Still, it was Cole­man’s se­nior year that showed what he could do. For the en­tire sea­son, Cole­man av­er­aged over 10 yards per carry, end­ing the sea­son at 11.5. In other words, the odds were that when­ever Cole­man ran the ball, it would re­sult in a Columbia first down. But it may be Cole­man’s abil­ity as a leader that is his best qual­ity. He is not the most vo­cal of lead­ers, but his re­lent­less ef­fort and will­ing­ness to help his team­mates at times made Columbia a bet­ter team than their skill in­di­cated. But of­fense is just one facet of Cole­man’s abil­i­ties. He was also one of the top lineback­ers in the Pa­triot Ath­letic Con­fer­ence and his abil­ity to play at a high level while vir­tu­ally never leav­ing the field made Cole­man an in­cred­i­ble player. For the sea­son, Cole­man had 1,698 yards, 23 touch­downs and a two-point con­ver­sion on 148 car­ries, caught 11 passes for 102 yards and added a pass­ing touch­down. De­fen­sively, Cole­man had 74 tack­les (48 solo) with 12.5 for a loss, a sack and two in­ter­cep­tions.

Ryan Maloy, Avon

The se­cret was out af­ter last year: Ryan Maloy is the real deal. The 2017 Matt Wil­helm Award win­ner was a player op­pos­ing de­fenses keyed in on, know­ing that Maloy could hurt them with both his arm and his legs. And de­fenses were still by and large un­suc­cess­ful. The Ea­gles have al­ways boasted a rel­a­tively bal­anced of­fense be­tween the pass and rush. And that did not change this year. How­ever, that did not pre­vent Maloy from shin­ing. The se­nior pass­ing for 20 touch­downs dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son while rush­ing for seven more. Maloy has found the end zone in ev­ery game this year, pass­ing for a touch­down in all of the reg­u­lar sea­son games. In a re­gional quar­ter­fi­nal win against Hol­land Spring­field, Maloy showed that he was play­ing his best at the right time, com­plet­ing 12 of 23 passes for 150 yards and two touch­downs, adding three rush­ing touch­downs on six car­ries. For the sea­son Maloy is 129-for-212 for 1,740 yards, 22 touch­downs and seven in­ter­cep­tions, adding 10 touch­downs and 709 yards on 90 car­ries.

Khennedy Scagliozzo, Amherst

Ev­ery­one knew Scagliozzo was go­ing to be the heart and soul of the Amherst of­fense this year. They still could not stop him. And, with­out the se­nior’s skills, there is no way that Amherst would have been in con­tention for a play­off spot down the fi­nal week. Nor would the Comets have back-to-back win­ning sea­sons for the first time since 2009-10. But why is Scagliozzo such an ef­fec­tive run­ning back? It’s be­cause he is well-rounded. The se­nior can bully it up the mid­dle to get the hard yards, cut it to the out­side to dodge and weave around de­fend­ers and, should he get into the open field, he has the speed to burn de­fend­ers. Oh, and don’t for­get that those skills trans­late into kick re­turns, where he av­er­aged 35.1 yards per re­turn and scored three times. Add that to his rush­ing line of an arealead­ing 1,854 yards and 28 touch­downs on 251 car­ries, and you have an all-around threat.

Jack Spel­lacy, Olm­sted Falls

It seems that ev­ery year, Olm­sted Falls grad­u­ates a lot of ta­lent and there are ques­tions as to if the Bull­dogs will fall off. Spel­lacy made sure to stop those ques­tions. The se­nior run­ning back was a rock for Olm­sted Falls all sea­son. And what could be the most im­pres­sive facet of his game is his con­fi­dence and abil­ity to dom­i­nate in big games. Con­sider Spel­lacy’s stats against top-South­west­ern Con­fer­ence teams down the stretch as the Bull­dogs were fight­ing for a play­off spot: 148 yards and two touch­downs vs. Amherst, 402 yards and five touch­downs vs. Berea-Mid­park and 332 yards and four touch­downs vs. Avon Lake. Spel­lacy was not the type of player to dis­ap­pear in the key mo­ments when his team needed him the most, and that is re­flected in his fi­nal sea­son stat­line: 204 car­ries for 1,728 yards (8.5 yards per carry) and 25 touch­downs, along with eight re­cep­tions for 233 years and three touch­downs.

MORN­ING JOUR­NAL FILE PHO­TOS

Clock­wise from top left, Columbia’s Bran­don Cole­man, Elyria Catholic’s Leighton Ban­joff, Amherst’s Khennedy Scagliozzo, Olm­sted Falls’ Jack Spel­lacy and Avon’s Ryan Maloy have been se­lected as the five fi­nal­ists for the 2018 Matt Wil­helm Award. The win­ner will be an­nounced on Nov. 12 dur­ing a spe­cial edi­tion of Var­sity Chalk Talk at the Hoo­ley House in Westlake.

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