MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
The Times’ all-Suncoast team is comprised of the best football players in our coverage area, which encompasses Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Offensive Player of the Year
Ath Alvin Bailey, Jr., Armwood
Armwood High coach Sean Callahan first suggested Bailey might be the state’s top player after a 35-0 romp over Sickles, when the 6-foot junior totaled nearly 300 yards. In response, people cackled.
allahan reiterated the suggestion in ensuing weeks, as Bailey — a receiver pressed into quarterback duty — flourished whether in the shotgun, in the slot or in zone-read looks. This time, people contemplated.
He delivered the proclamation yet again (“He’s the best football player in the state of Florida”) after Bailey single-handedly salvaged the Hawks’ season with a winning 65-yard touchdown run in the final three minutes of Armwood’s 35-31 playoff squeaker against Lakewood Ranch.
This time, people concurred.
With Bailey — 2,251 total offensive yards, 21 TDs — the Hawks are a Class 6A state champion and the nation’s No. 2 high school team according to ESPN. Without him, they’re a first-round playoff casualty. In a year mired in injuries and investigations, this Hawks legacy — he’s one of four siblings to play for Armwood — was the sleek constant and personification of clutch play.
Twice in the playoffs he accounted for two winning fourth-quarter touchdowns (one run, one pass), not counting the 80-yard toss to Matt Jones that essentially sealed a 40-31 triumph over Miami Central in the state final. Seems Callahan knew what he was saying all along.
“I’ve just got to take that (compliment) in stride, do what I’ve got to do to help the team get the win,” Bailey said. “It feels good to hear Coach Cal say that.”
Defensive Player of the Year
DT Allen Covington, Sr., Armwood
The staggering evolution of Allen Covington spanned 15 games. In fewer than four months, Armwood’s first-year starting strong-side defensive tackle transitioned from project to decoy.
Watch the replays, and you’ll see rangy No. 99 getting double-teamed relentlessly by Miami Central in the Dec. 17 state final, which helped free Oklahoma-bound speed rusher Eric Striker (12 tackles, two sacks) off the edge.
Rewind even further, to August, and you encounter a converted tight end finding his way. Covington, who said he only dabbled in defense as a junior at Tampa Bay Tech, was a 265-pound unknown commodity.
“When we started working out, he didn’t really know where he was going to play — offensive line, defensive line, tight end,” longtime Hawks defensive coordinator Matt Thompson said. “I just remember seeing the kid run and knew that he could play.”
But not even Thompson could have envisioned the staggering totals Covington posted: 93 tackles, 11 sacks (tied for the team lead), two caused fumbles, five pass deflections, even a pick-six (against Tampa Bay Tech).
“He made some mistakes, but being his first year of playing defensive tackle, he did a great job,” Thompson said. “That’s one of those positions sort of like offensive line — you can’t just go in and play. I just think he’s going to get better and better.”
Statistically, Armwood senior DT Allen Covington’s senior year stacks up with some of the best ever posted by a Hawks defensive lineman:
Player, year Tackles Sacks
Allen Covington, 2011 93 11
Man-Man Jackson, 2009 76 9
Ryne Giddins, 2008 75 5
Ryne Giddins, 2007 98 21
Torrey Davis, 2006 72 16
Coach of the Year
Robert Weiner, Plant
With a victory over nationally No. 3-ranked Miramar in the Class 8A title game, Weiner won his fourth state championship in six seasons. And this might have been his best coaching job yet since his team lacked the star power of years past. Plant entered the season with questions at quarterback, a patchwork offensive line, an unknown defense and an excessive amount of two-way players. But like Plant’s state title teams of yesterday, the Panthers got exponentially better every week, culminating with Weiner raising another state trophy at the Citrus Bowl.
QB Jacob Guy, Sr., Pasco: Set Pasco Country records in passing touchdowns (42) and yards (2,672).
RB Nelson Agholor, Sr., Berkeley Prep: Ran for nearly 2,000 yards while playing three ways for state semifinalist Bucs.
RB Brent O’Neal, Sr., Canterbury: Averaged more than 10 yards a carry in surpassing 2,000 yards; tallied 34 touchdowns.
RB David Emmanuel, Jr., Pasco: Averaged 10 yards per carry; finished with 1,325 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns.
RB Tyler Lane, Sr., East Lake: Led region finalist Eagles with 1,518 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven straight 100-yard games.
OL Cody Waldrop, Sr., Armwood: South Carolina commit was arguably the area’s top guard.
OL Kevin McCoy, Sr., Armwood: One-time couch potato now coveted by Division I-A coaches.
OL Nathan Shienle, Sr., Plant: Was the cornerstone of the Panthers’ stellar offensive line.
OL Mason Cole, So., East Lake: Will have tons of offers after a stellar season at tackle.
OL Jonathan Jun, Sr., Admiral Farragut: Moved to guard in the postseason and paved way for Blue Jackets’ stellar running game.
WR Artavis Scott, So., East Lake: Eagles’ top target had 1,158 yards and 12 touchdowns.
WR Trey Dudley-Giles, Sr., Pasco: Three-way star totaled 23 touchdowns and almost 1,700 yards.
WR Chris Murray, Sr., King: Ohio University commit had almost 900 yards receiving.
K Nick Feely, Jr., Jesuit: Last of the famed Feely siblings booted four field goals of 40-plus yards.
ATH Janarion Grant, Jr., Pasco: Speedster scored 28 TDs and tallied more than 1,800 total yards.
KR David Jones, Sr., St. Petersburg: Had two returns for scores and three others called back on penalties.
QB Bennie Coney, Sr., Plant City
RB Wesley Bullock, Jr., Plant
RB Tyrail Hawkins, Jr., Hernando
RB Matt Breida, Jr., Nature Coast
RB Diomi Roberts, Sr., Countryside
OL Nate McCoole, Sr., Sunlake
OL Jeff Kruse, Sr., Gulf
OL Robert Gibbons, Sr., Jesuit
OL Jeff Albert, Sr., Countryside
OL Richy Klepal, Jr., Plant
WR Travis Johnson, Jr., Jesuit
WR Rodney Adams, Jr., Lakewood
WR Sean Culkin, Sr., Indian Rocks Christian
K Sean Covington, Jr., St. Petersburg
ATH Billy Pavlock, Sr., Palm Harbor University
KR Byron Pringle, Sr., Robinson
DL Tyriq McCord, Sr., Jefferson: Top lineman recruit is expected to announce college choice at U.S. Army All-American Game.
DL Mike Love, Jr., Countryside: Recorded 15.5 sacks and led Cougars to a third straight district title.
DL Jordan Sherit, Jr., Hillsborough: Gifted rush end (9.2 tackles a game) wreaked havoc off the edge.
DL Malcolm Hudson, Sr., Hernando: Led the Leopards to their first district title since 1997.
LB Eric Striker, Sr., Armwood: SI.com prep All-American is bound for Oklahoma.
LB Schyler Miles, Sr., Berkeley Prep: D-I prospect had 123 tackles while doubling at fullback.
LB Jeremi Powell, Sr., Pinellas Park: Florida recruit had 19 sacks and 27 tackles for loss.
LB Mike Tate, Sr., Plant: Tallied seven games with 16 or more tackles for state title defense.
DB Rayshawn Jenkins, Sr., Admiral Farragut: Miami recruit solidified defense after returning from injury.
DB Gary Simon, Sr., Gibbs: Team’s biggest playmaker recorded seven interceptions.
DB Leon McQuay III, Jr., Armwood: Three postseason picks, including one for a TD in the state final.
DB Vernon Hargreaves, Jr., Wharton: May be the state’s top DB prospect right now.
P Morgan Sever, Sr., Largo: Nailed five punts inside opponents’ 5-yard line this season.
UTIL Robert Davis, Jr., Carrollwood Day: 1,832 rush yards, 47-yard kick return average.
DL Brad Smith, Jr., Jesuit
DL Auggie Sanchez, Jr., Northeast
DL Darren Hambrick, Jr., Hernando
DL Patrick Wright, Sr., Plant
LB Nick Morrison, Sr., Sunlake
LB Keionne Baines, Sr., Armwood
LB Derrick Doss, Jr., Largo
LB Josh Scarberry, Sr., Gaither
DB Keenan Stalls, Sr., Plant
DB Rashaud Daniels, Sr., Sunlake
DB Antwon Amstrong, Sr., Plant City
DB Devin Abraham, So., East Lake
P Kody Thomas, Sr., Robinson
UTIL Jamal Roberts, Sr., Zephyrhills
Alonso: Brandon Holloway
Armwood: Cameron Dees, Matt Jones, Kevin McCoy, Shelldon Lewinson
Bishop McLaughlin: Jordan Betancourt
Brandon: Tyrell Garner
Chamberlain: Xavier Johnson
Clearwater Central Catholic: Ian Koch
Countryside: Tyler Serpo, Adam Vinson
Durant: Jamarlon Hamilton
East Lake: Pete DiNovo
Fivay: Kyrie Rodriguez, James Bullock
Hernando: Derek Moore, Jeremiah Jackson, Robert Hill Bronson
Hillsborough: Anthony Brown, Armaud Herndon, Earl Moore
Lakewood: Dante Fowler, Jevaris Little
Land O’Lakes: Kent Taylor, Nico Watts
Largo: Shawn Barker, Frankie Hernandez, Chris Skukalek
Nature Coast: Richard Hart
Newsome: Will Worth
Pasco: Brandon Ray, Joey Ivie, Aryn Strickland, Nick Wilson
Pinellas Park: Iman Smith
Plant: Antonio Crawford, James Few, Jonathan Haney, Drew Madhu
River Ridge: Austin Schwarz, Phil Molina
St. Petersburg Catholic: Ryan Green
Sunlake: Canon Clark
Zephyrhills: Devon Brockington