Coaches from Douglas County’s five high schools met at the Board of Education Annex on Monday to nominate the player they felt deserved the trophy, which is awarded annually to the top senior player based on athletic performance, leadership ability and good moral character.
This year’s nominees, listed in alphabetical order by school, included Alexander’s Evan Wood, Chapel Hill’s Tre Mitchell, Douglas County’s Ellis Richardson, Lithia Springs’ Joseph Ross and New Manchester’s Mundarius Wright.
Wood began the year slated to be the Cougars’ starting quarterback, but when the coaching staff decided to go with junior Brian Dansereau instead, Wood never complained.
He plugged different holes wherever he was needed throughout the year and when Dansereau got hurt late in the season, Wood took over at quarterback and racked up 315 passing yards and six TD passes and another 130 yards rushing and two scores on the ground. He also had 30 solo tackles and 19 assists at outside linebacker.
Off the field, Wood holds a 4.0 GPA and is ranked first in his class of 392 students. He is a Superintendent Scholar, a Georgia Merit Scholar and a National Honor Society Member.
“In the classroom, he’s not a guy that worries what everybody does. I think he just got his first cell phone and learned to do Facebook a week ago,” Alexander coach Matt Combs joked. “He beats to his own drum and he’s very happy with it.”
Chapel Hill made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and Panthers coach Geoff Pastrick made no bones about how his team got there.
“Our offense went as Tre went,” said Pastrick. “If Tre had a game, we had a pretty good game. If Tre didn’t have a good game, we struggled a little bit. But Tre not having a good game was maybe 120 yards.”
Mitchell rushed 311 times for 1,844 yards and 18 touchdowns. He had two games where he topped 200 yards – against Osborne and Johnson-Savannah. He rushed for 308 yards against Rockmart on the same night he was named Chapel Hill’s Homecoming King.
Mitchell has a 2.87 GPA and has attracted college interest from West Georgia, LaGrange, Mercer and Shorter.
Douglas County played a tough schedule in 2012. Counting the Tigers’ scrimmage with Carrollton, they played nine teams that made the playoffs – and seven of those teams hosted playoff games.
And while lesser athletes might have been deterred by losses, Richardson stepped up at QB every Friday night. He was the top vote getter when the Tigers recently elected team captains.
“Ellis was one of those kids that kind of led the herd,” said Douglas County coach Jason Respert. “When you get in tough situations, you need a tough kid to stand up and kind of calm the storm a little bit and Ellis was that for our team.”
Richardson was also an offensive machine. He led the team in three categories – scoring with 16 touchdowns, passing with 1,610 yards and rushing with 485 yards.
Richardson is in the International Baccalaureate program at Douglas County and holds a 3.1 GPA.
Lithia Springs’ linebacker and strong safety Ross was the star that shined brightest for the Lions despite a tough year in the win-loss column.
“The good Lord blessed me with this young man or else I wouldn’t have made it this year,” Lions coach Scott Dean said… “I tell him all the time, ‘You’re my Tim Tebow,’ because that’s what this kid is to me.”
Ross led the Lions for the second straight year in tackles with 119. He also played fullback at the end of the season and was just as effective on offense.
He was Lithia’s defensive MVP the past two years and was a two-year captain. He also won the Special Forces Award and earned the weekly Head Hunter Award five times.
Ross has a 3.12 GPA in the classroom and ranks in the top third of his class.
“He’ll never quit. I’ve never watched a play where I’ve said, ‘That’s not as good as this kid can do,’” said Dean. “He’ll play sideline to sideline. He runs downhill. He brings the wood. He sells out. He’s everything football should be.”
Wright was one of three seniors for New Manchester and Jags coach Rob Cleveland said he was lucky to have the linebacker leading a young defense.
Wright was tops on the team with 69 solo tackles, 29 assists, two sacks and four forced fumbles.
In addition to football, Wright is a big part of the Jags’ wrestling and track programs.
Academically, he holds a 3.52 GPA and is active in numerous clubs at school.
“He was kind of the glue this year that kept us together,” Cleveland said. “Before every game, I’d say, ‘Mundarius, it’s your job to keep us up on the field, keep us playing hard.’ And I feel like our kids did that all year and a lot of it was because of him. He was the senior leadership.”
The winner of the Howard Thompson Trophy will be announced at a later date.