Kyle Wilcox and his Armwood teammates played in the state championship Dec. 18, but in the bigger picture, the senior fullback has reached a far more important final.
Wilcox was named a national finalist this week for the High School Football Rudy Awards, an honor named after Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger of the movie Rudy that's given to those who have the ability to inspire on and off the football field.
"Kyle is an incredible kid," Armwood coach Sean Callahan said. "He is a very special person in addition to being an excellent football player."
Wilcox was one of 12 chosen from a pool of 250 nominees for the award. The final four recipients will be named Jan. 18, with the winner to receive a $10,000 academic scholarship to the college of choice.
"These 12 finalists are amazing," said former NFL All Pro quarterback Drew Bledsoe, chairman of the selection committee. "I'd like to meet each and every one of them so I can shake their hand and let them know how much they've inspired me."
Finalists were chosen based on their ability to inspire others, their courage and character, and their commitment to the game while overcoming personal or physical challenges. Wilcox, who was at one time in foster care, carries a 6.1 GPA and is in line to become Armwood's valedictorian this year.
"The kid is just brilliant," Callahan said. "He is truly deserving of this award."
Wilcox rushed for 616 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010 after transferring from Wharton after his junior season. He helped Armwood reach the state final Dec. 18 before losing to Tallahassee Lincoln 17-14.
"Of all the kids I've had for one year, Kyle stands out," Callahan said. "I was cracking to the coaches the other day that 'how amazing would it be to have a team full of Kyles? Someone who is intelligent, doesn't cause any issues and is always on time?' "
You can vote for Wilcox through Jan. 17 online at highschoolrudyawards.com.
Newsome girls ranked: Newsome's girls soccer team was ranked No. 16 in the most recent edition of the ESPN/RISE Powerade Fab 50 national poll. The Wolves, winners of the recent Sarasota Holiday Classic Elite Division, are 16-0 this season.
"It is definitely something the team is excited about because of all the hard work they have put in over the past two seasons," coach Kelly Townsend said. "But at the end of the day, it's what they still have to do on the field that matters. But I am very happy for them because they deserve it."
Boys Soccer: There is a heated district tournament right around the corner in 5A-8. Newsome, Durant and Plant City are all bunched up at the top of the table, with only two teams advancing through the tournament.
If all ends as expected over the next two weeks (none of the three teams will play each other during that span), Plant City will enter the tourney with the No. 1 seed. The Raiders are 6-1-1 (5-1 in the district) and after losing the opener against district foe Newsome, Plant City has not lost a match since (six wins, one tie). Jorge Martinez and A.J. Black lead the Raiders with five goals apiece.
Durant (6-3-1, 4-1) and Newsome (7-1-2, 3-1-1) will vie heavily for the title when the tournament begins. Andres Plata leads Durant with nine goals, while the Wolves' Joey Perfetto paces Newsome with nine as well.
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.