READ WHAT THEIR COACHES HAVE WRITTEN - FIND ABOUT THE KIND OF YOUNG MEN WE HONOR
Coach, On behalf of Coach Blaine Ashcraft, I would like to take this opportunity to submit our nomination for the Black Lion Award. Our nominee is Andrew Raasbach.
It has been a privilege to coach Andrew for the past 3 seasons. As a 4 year letterman Andrew has been the cornerstone of our program. He endured 3 winless seasons and yet was the first player on the field at the beginning of each new season. During these 4 seasons Andrew has played both ways offense and defense in 23 games. In 4 years of varsity football Andrew has missed only one practice. Even more amazing is that during these 4 seasons, 23 football games, he missed one play, only 1 play total, both offense and defense!!!!! He only missed the one play because a strap broke on his shoulder pads and we were bound by rule to take him out and get it fixed.
This season we faced the challenges of installing a new offensive system, the double wing of course, and trying to teach our team how to win. We obviously had our share of plays self-destruct, both in practice and during games. On countless occasions Andrew had the problem assessed across the entire offensive front. After the play, he would raise his hand as if to assure the coaches that he knew what happened and that he would fix the problem. He would then calmly get his team together and issue the corrected blocking scheme and the problem was solved.
In the finest traditions of this great award, Andrew Raasbach has demonstrated every practice, every play, and every down of football, that he is a leader. He has sacrificed personal glory to play on the line. He has sacrificed off the field by giving up much needed hours at work to be on the field every night. He is the Captain of his team, a leader, and a great student and teacher of the game. He has endured playing on bad teams and yet embraced the concept of success in this his final season. Andrew has never sought, nor would he accept, personal recognition for our success this season. He is however, the first to accept the responsibility of seeing his team improve every day.
I can think of no other player that honors the commitment and memory of Major Don Holleder more than Andrew. For these reasons and so many more, we have chosen Andrew Rassbach to receive the title and the award of The Black Lion.
Richard S. Cropp, Assistant Coach, Kayhi Kings
Ketchikan HS, Ketchikan, Alaska
To Whom it May Concern, It is my distinct pleasure to nominate Andrew Daley for the Black Lion Award. When I was reading the biography of Don Holleder and the particulars relative to his football career, there were some parallels (albeit not on the same scale) that were hard to ignore.
This young man has been one of our best cornerbacks and safeties for the past two years. On any other team, he would be an outstanding wide receiver, but in our double-wing offense, he has played tight end, and because of his work ethic in the weight room for the past year, he has developed himself into an outstanding performer at that position on our team.
This year, Andy's senior year, we had a void at Quarterback. Coach Irion and I approached several young men on our team and challenged them to compete for the job. Being physically impressive for the position and a talented all-round athlete, Andy was one of the players approached. He took to the challenge with relish - and soon a five man race was down to two -- Andy and a very talented sophomore.
Andy went on to win the spot for the beginning of this season, because of his unrelenting effort to pay attention to detail - his coachability - and his leadership. His teammates also recognized his leadership and voted him as their captain.
Now, this team, which at this writing is undefeated, division champions and ranked somewhere around 5th or 6th in the state, has the simultaneous potential for success and disaster. The makeup of the team has some very strong egos and some talented, but shall we say, difficult and obstinate personalities. Coach Irion had a special team meeting about his concerns relative to team concept and integrity &endash; and they committed to doing the things necessary for success.
Andy is the leader of this team. He is the catalyst that consistently keeps his teammates on the straight and narrow even though it is not a popular thing to do. He relinquished his position at quarterback because he knew that we were a better team with him at tight-end and the talented diamond in the rough sophomore at QB. He did these things because we as a staff asked him to do so; because he knows it makes us a better team; because he knows it is the right and honorable thing to do.
It is readily apparent that Andy wants to do &endash; and does - the right things. He has absolutely put the team ahead of his personal goals. His leadership has been paramount to this team's success although it has been understated and certainly not reaped the accolades or limelight of others on this team.
In my opinion, Andy epitomizes the attributes that the Black Lion holds sacrosanct &endash; courage, honor, effort, and most impressive &endash; unselfishness. I know he would honor this award with the finest standards in personal deportment.
Respectfully Submitted, Tracy R. Nelson
Queensbury High School, Queensbury, New York
Hello, Coach - I trust all is well with you. I expect you'll be up at West Point this coming weekend for the game and hope you enjoy yourself. I was up last weekend - no game, just a visit - and the leaves were still up. Hopefully Army will rebound and return to their recent winning ways.
My nominee for the Black Lions Award this year is our fullback and MLB, Garrett Grim.
Garrett led our team by example in practice and on the field -- from the very first practice right through the end of the season. He will be most remembered for his play against one of the top teams in our youth league when his braces cut his mouth after a gang tackle and he bled quite a bit.
He refused to come out and said "Keep running the wedge and 6-G. They won't stop us!" An OU fan, he pointed to the blood on his jersey and exclaimed "This is Sooner blood and I'm a Sooner and we are going to win this game no matter what it takes!" His team mates started jumping up and down and slapping one another on the back and came alive on the line with sustained blocks downfield.
He drove on almost alone on each carry, blockers failing to keep pace with him, as he rallied the team when we were down two scores at half to drive the field and hold the other team scoreless in the second half. He blocked hard as lead blocker and was tackled time after time without the ball the other team respected him so much. Scoring the winning TD on 4th down with just over a minute to play, only to have it nullified by an illegal procedure penalty, Garrett kept rallying his team and made big hit after big hit until we ran out of time and fell short -- on the scoreboard only, that is.
He is the undisputed leader of our team and never quits, encouraging his team mates, never does less than 100% in practice and in the game, never complains about officiating nor the opponent. He goes and goes and makes others play better for the team by his example.
Garrett Grim does exemplify the ideals of youth football, of team, of family and of Don Holleder in his unselfish play and his courage to do whatever it takes to move his team forward and to stop his opponent. He is a true warrior and a solid All-American kid.
Regards, Mark Bergen, Keller, Texas
Coach Wyatt, I am pleased to share with you the Colby High School Black Lion Award winner for 2004. Jeremy Dietz is a junior who played multiple positions for us this year. When the season began, Jeremy's grandfather was battling cancer and was hospitalized. Jeremy was very close to his grandfather and considered not playing football this year so he could spend more time with his grandfather. However, his grandfather told him to play, so Jeremy honored his wish.
Jeremy began the season as a jv tight end but moved to jv quarterback when we lost our starting jv qb to a concussion. Jeremy also played defensive tackle, outside linebacker, and safety on the jv team. He never complained about having to play various positions, and he performed admirably every time we moved him. (In fact, he also practiced at offensive guard early in the season.) Because of his positive attitude and tremendous work ethic, we started him on our varsity defensive line in week five, and Jeremy held his own despite giving up almost 100 lbs to our opponent's linemen. In week six we lost a starting varsity tight end, so we moved Jeremy into that position.
He not only filled the spot, he caught two passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. We were very excited to have a solid performer at tight end, but we then lost our starting varsity quarterback to a season-ending injury. Without hesitation, Jeremy stepped into the position of starting varsity quarterback and guided us to solid offensive performances in our last two ball games. In his first start at qb, he was 7 of 13 for 69 yards and a TD; in his second start at qb (on the road at our biggest rival) he was 2 of 6 for just 11 yards but threw a TD on our first possession.
Coach, Jeremy Dietz has demonstrated Black Lion characteristics all season long. His grandfather died on the Thursday before our Friday night game in week 4, and it was a very emotional time for Jeremy. In spite of the fact that at that point in the season he hadn't played any varsity time at all, he made it to the game and suited up. No one would have questioned his motives had he taken that game off, but he is a true team player. Jeremy has consistently demonstrated courage, honor, and devotion to duty, and I am proud to name him our Black Lion for the 2004 season.
I know you are very busy, but if at all possible I would like to have the certificate in time for our end of season awards dinner to be held next Friday, November 12.
Respectfully, Coach Greg Koenig
Colby High School, Colby, Kansas
Dear Coach Wyatt: On behalf of head coach Bernie Sepp, I have the honor of submitting the Brighton Township Mitey Mites nominee for the 2004 Black Lion award. Our winner this year will be Nick Raught. Nick is not even close to being the biggest player on the team but he made up for his lack of size with football smarts and intensity. He had the respect of the coaching staff to the point that his suggestions on play selection were taken into account during game planning sessions.
One of Nick's other strengths was that he was always trying to help and encourage his other teammates as well. His nickname this year was "Coach Nick". Nick was a returning player to our Mitey Mite team this year. He was our backup QB last year behind his brother, and this year accepted that backup role again to a very strong incoming QB.
He also played Defensive Back. In one game, the starting QB was injured and Nick came in cold off of the bench completed a pass for a 1st down. He had said,"Coach Sepp, if you call a pass, I will complete it" and sure enough, he did. Our team had a young, inexperienced and lightweight offensive line this year. Nick realized this, and he came to Coach Sepp and said, "I see that our team needs help on the offensive line. I think I can help this team more on the line that I can as a backup QB. I have played the line before and I want to give it a shot."
Nick proved that heart and determination are more important than size for an offensive lineman, and he started the remainder of the year at offensive left guard. Pound for pound, he became one of our best linemen. He volunteered to make the move to help his team, knowing that he would be sacrificing the opportunity to carry the ball and score touchdowns.
For most kids, football is all about scoring touchdowns and hearing your name on the PA system. This level of maturity in an 11 year old boy is rare indeed. Nick's self-sacrifice for the good of the team is in keeping with the tradition and spirit of the Black Lion award, and we believe that our 2004 nominee does honor to the memory of Major Holleder.
Respectfully, Mark Rice, Black Lion Contact
Brighton Township Mitey Mites, Beaver, Pennsylvania
Dear Coach Wyatt, members of the Black Lions, and members of the Holleder family: It is my great privilege to nominate Matthew D. Carpenter, one of our senior football players, for the Black Lion award. Throughout a tough rebuilding season for our football program here at Platte Canyon High School, Matt has been a shining example to his teammates.
His approach to the game is one that I hope my 6-year-old will emulate some day: he is eternally positive, exhorting his teammates to achieve more while demanding only the best effort from himself. He did not ask his teammates to do anything he would not do himself. What sets Matt apart from his teammates is his willingness to perform whatever is asked of him. He played two different positions on offense and never complained about being switched from one position to another; in fact, his response was, "Whatever you think, coach."
Matt played the entire year with an injured knee, which obviously hampered his production; but again, he never took the easy way out --- he wanted to play and he played through the pain of the injury. Matt is a coachable kid and is respectful of the game. He is a fine example of the qualities associated with this award: courage, determination, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. Thank you again for sponsoring this award and thanks for allowing me the opportunity to nominate Matt.
Sincerely, Mike Schmidt, Head Football Coach
Platte Canyon HS, Bailey, Colorado
To whom it may concern,
I would like to nominate an outstanding, unselfish and dedicated football player by the name of Justin Harmon for the Black Lion Award. Justin is the heart and soul of the Danville Panthers A-team here in West Virginia. Our win/loss record may not be the best, but it has shown the coaches and players that some team members are winners regardless of the score.
Justin plays Tight end and Defensive end primarily. He also snaps for punts and plays any other line or back position we ask without any hesitation. He has not missed a single practice. He runs his laps around the field and then runs back to encourage the other players not to walk. Unfortunately we had a minor disagreement between two of our players over a missed block, as the argument began to become heated Justin stepped in and calmed them down and got everyone focused back on the practice. This young man is only 12 years old. His leadership is already evident and a vital part of our team's unity.
Justin is always our go to guy in a pinch. He is a great ball handler but his unselfishness really helps bring the younger players into a team mentality. I wish we could have ten more just like him, then the scoreboard would reflect what we all know is true of him.
My name is Stephen Calloway, I am the Line Coach for the Danville Panthers. I am writing this letter of recommendation on behalf of our Head Coach Mark Damron. Please consider Justin for the Black Lion Award, if ever a kid represented the qualities your looking for it is Justin Harmon.
On behalf of the Danville Panthers A-Team I thank you for your time and consideration.
Stephen Calloway, Madison, West Virginia 25130
Coach Hugh Wyatt: I am writing this Black Lion Award recommendation on behalf of Cullen Braun. I have known Cullen through his involvement in our football program and as a student at Southwest High School. He has many excellent qualities that make him a fine student-athlete and quality person.
Cullen is an outstanding and dedicated person. He is unselfish in his treatment of others, in and out of the school environment. This unselfish attitude both as a person and football player, directly relates to his success in the classroom, school community and athletic field. This is exemplified by his volunteer efforts at our high school booster club. He is a person who is willing to put in the hard work necessary to help the team in anyway.
As a first-year senior starter as a quarterback, in fact this was his first year of very starting at any previous level of football, on our varsity football team, Cullen learned the value of leadership, dedication, teamwork and commitment. These skills and his unselfish attitude enabled him to become an important part of our team's WIAA playoff qualification. Cullen has shown a willingness to work above and beyond what was asked or expected of him as revealed by his almost perfect attendance in our off-season conditioning program, this past winter and summer. Although not being a starter, until his senior season, he has shown the determination never to give up!
Cullen was the only player on our team who was willing to accept the risk of leadership of being our team's quarterback. He gained the confidence of others and in himself throughout the season and was a substantial part in our team qualifying for the playoffs. His true act of unselfish dedication and commitment to the team and our program will be something for our younger players to look up to. These examples are what I believe makes Cullen our Black Lion Award Winner. Like Major Holleder showed that he was determined to bring success to the Army Football program even though he faced great adversity, he prevailed. As part of our football team at Southwest H.S., Cullen defined what it means to be a team player. His unselfish attitude and play, hard work, commitment to his teammates and willingness to put the team first, made Cullen a very respected member of our football team.
I am therefore proud to write this Black Lion Award recommendation for Cullen Braun. His qualities make him an outstanding person and represent the type of individual who is a positive member of society, the school community and leader on the athletic field.
Sincerely, Scott J. Mallien, Head Football Coach
Green Bay Southwest High School, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Coach Wyatt, We just finished our regular season at 7-3 for the best record in the school's history. We now have to play in a District tiebreaker tomorrow to move onto the playoffs.
I wanted to submit our selection for the 2004 BLACK LION Award so here goes
Steven Hehir is our Black Lion for the 2004 season. Steve is a senior and has been a starter at Offensive & Defensive Line for the past 3 years. During that time he has become know around the county as one of the best small school linemen in South Florida. In addition to his football accolades, Steve is also an outstanding student with many college scholarship offers just for academics. He is also a natural leader both on the field and in the classroom, but these are not the reasons he is our BLACK LION.
Since I took over as Head Football Coach at this school 4 years ago, Steve has been "on board" with what we have been trying to teach. We only have a few rules on our team, namely
Do Your Job... Be a Physical Player... Always Give 100%... Do What Is Right!
Steve has been the personification of our rules since his first day as a freshman. He has always been the hardest worker (maybe not the best during his early days, but always the hardest) and he has always been the best example of putting the team first. As he has matured into the dominating young man we know now, he has always strived to help and encourage all of his team-mates to give their all for Crusader Football.
Even when he will bury a second teamer on a scout team, Steve always helps him up, tells him "Great Job!' and will even give him pointers on how to do better next time. You can see the reaction in the other kid that there is a high level of respect as well as love for Big Steve. Steve is also one of our spiritual leaders, being co-chair of our FCA group on campus and helping minister to the needs of our team.
Last year, we were fortunate enough to have General Shelton come to our school and present the Black Lion Award. During his speech, he mentioned that the award was really about love. Our previous winners have all been very deserving of the Black Lion each year, but I can think of no one since I have been head coach that represents the themes of love, dedication, sacrifice, and courage better than Steven Hehir does for Coral Springs Christian Academy.
Please feel free to email me if you have any additional questions. If possible, our FALL Awards Program is Thursday, November 18th at 7:00 PM. We would appreciate it greatly if we could have the certificate by then.
I want to thank you for everything you have done to create and continue this great program. It is truly a huge part of our team here at CSCA
Stay Faithful and Finish Strong
Dr. Jake von Scherrer, AD / HFC
Coral Springs Christian Academy, Coral Springs, Florida
Coach, I am extremely proud to be able to present my Black Lions award nominee: Steven Caldwell.
Steven is an incredible young man. From day one at practice he has been a motivational force that most coaches can only dream of. Although only fifteen-years-old and only in his second year of football, he certainly understands the principles of sacrifice and commitment.
Steven did not miss one practice all season. In fact, he was early to every one. Both of his parents indicated to me, numerous times throughout the season, how important the team was to him. His mother said that he actually cried when she threatened to take away a night of practice because of substandard performance in school.
Although not a team captain, Steven initiated practice every day. He was constantly out front imploring his teammates to get fired up. Steven understood the importance of "perfect practice."
Steven started for us on defense as a safety and actually started at wingback earlier in the year. As the season progressed we identified a young man who just fit the bill better at wingback. We made the switch and I pulled Steven aside to explain what we had done. The young man caught me off guard when he said, "Coach, if you think that he can help us more then I'm fine with it." He never said another word about it and actually helped his replacement at learning the position. The two became good friends and I heard them encouraging one another throughout the season.
Steven is not a big kid but he certainly didn't mind mixing it up with the biggest. He was fearless once those pads were on. He was coachable and had a genuine concern for his teammates and his coaches.
I know you recommended against including personal stuff about the young men but there is one other thing that I feel is worth mentioning. Steven is bi-polar. He takes a multitude of medication to control his condition. I did not find this out till mid-year and it really connected the dots on a few things. Without getting specific, it is a testament to the young mans character that he brought his "a" game to every practice and every game this year. He did not accept subpar performance from himself or his teammates. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to coach him. I wish I could have a team of Steven Caldwells.
Very Respectfully, Glen T. Page, Draper, Utah
Coach, I would like to nominate Jordan Yaggie for the Black Lion Award. Jordan was our Starting Quarterback and a tremendous leader. One example of this was in our opening round State Playoff game. We were down 32-28 with 1:50 remaining and had to go 80 yards for the win. Jordan took total control of the game and made the kids believe we would win. On the Drive he was 5-6 passing for 65 yards, including the game winning TD pass with 9 sec. remaining. His only incompletion was an intentional ground to stop the clock. He had the kids lining up to spike it before we could tell him.
The Sacrifices Jordan made were mostly in his personal stats. We ran the double wing or modifications of it all year. In this offense we did not throw a lot. Jordan could have thrown the Ball 25 times a game in a lot of offenses and been successful. Never once did he complain about this. He continued to toss the ball, block, and make the kids believe we would get it done. I overheard one student ask him about his lack of passes and yards, his reply was "It didn't matter, The team made it to the State Quarterfinals."
When we did pass in a game he made the most of it. If protection broke down he improvised and sometimes got hit hard. Never once did he say anything negative in the huddle or off he field. If a kid missed a block and he got hit, He would encourage the kid and tell him it will be OK.
I feel Jordan is an excellent candidate for this award and very deserving of it. Without his leadership, sacrifices and devotion to his team, we might have missed the Playoffs.
Thanks for your consideration.
Mike McCall, Wahpeton HS, Wahpeton, North Dakota
Coach, Please consider Elmwood/Brimfield senior Clayton Powers for the Black Lion Award. Clayton has been in a major factor in the development of our program over the last four years, and during that time he has demonstrated attributes that I feel make him worthy of the Black Lion Award.
Clayton was forced into a starting position at linebacker and fullback on the varsity for us mid-way through his sophomore year due to ineligibility of an upper classman. While not quite "ready," he accepted the challenge, and performed admirably. Through continued hard work Clayton continued to improve, becoming a mainstay for us on both sides of the ball ever since. A good athlete, Clayton made himself even better through his willingness to be coached and to carry out his assignments as instructed. There was never any question as to whether Clayton would do exactly what he was supposed to do. He did not take the easy way out or freelance. He played every down with a high degree of intensity, enthusiasm, and consistency.
As a two-year selection as team captain, Clayton embraced the additional responsibilities of that position and became a true leader. For instance, Clayton received significantly fewer carries his senior year than he did as a junior. While some would have complained, Clayton never did, and in doing so demonstrated that individual success can and should be measured as a function of the success of the team. The development and future success of the program was important to him, and Clayton set worked hard on and off the field to aid in that development.
Clayton Powers has been a key component in the turnaround of our football program. While he will be sorely missed, his actions, leadership, and influence while he was an active member of the team will provide a blueprint for success for others to follow. Thank you,
Todd Hollis, Head Football Coach
Elmwood-Brimfield HS Coop, Elmwood, Illinois
Ataefiok Etukeren is a senior and was a two year starter on our team. He was the team's first choice to serve as team captain for the 2004 season (we elect one captain at the end of one season so we will have a captain in place during the off-season. Ataefiok was elected captain at the end of the 2003 season). At 6' 3" 215 lbs Ataefiok is an impact football player and arguably the best athlete I've coached in 23 years at Lawrenceville. His natural position is OLB, but we asked Ataefiok to play DE for us during his junior season because we felt that was where he could help the team the most. Ataefiok never questioned our decision, and he played very well (1st team All State - prep schools). This year, Ataefiok played at his natural position - and played very well, indeed.
Ataefiok is also a leader off the field. He was elected by the students to serve as Vice President for Discipline to the Student Council. This position sometimes puts Ataefiok at odds with his fellow students and/or the faculty, yet Ataefiok has served remarkably well in the position and has garnered the respect of both the students and adults at Lawrenceville.
Ataefiok's talent and commitment to community aside, I would like to share one anecdote with you that, by itself, would make Ataefiok a deserving recipient of the BLACK LION AWARD. Ataefiok also serves as a summer camp counselor for The Lawrenceville School Camp. The camp is actually legally owned by "The Students of The Lawrenceville School". The camp serves underprivileged children from New York City, Philadelphia and Trenton and provides an opportunity for young students to spend time in a rural setting. Ataefiok has been a counselor for several summers. Since the camp is in New Jersey and Ataefiok's home is in Arizona, he has sacrificed a good deal of his summer vacation and his own money to serve at the School Camp. After Ataefiok's junior football season, he garnered significant interest from Division I football coaches. All the coaches encouraged Ataefiok to attend their camps so they could better evaluate him. Attending camps was particularly important for Ataefiok since he played "out of position" during his junior year. As it turned out, most of the football camps conflicted with the sessions of Lawrenceville's School Camp. Despite significant pressure from college coaches, Ataefiok maintained his commitment to the School Camp. Ataefiok made the decision without hesitation. He never said something like, "Let me see if I can work something out", or "Let me see if I can change sessions". He simply said to the coaches," My first priority this summer is the commitment I made to the School Camp". At the time, it was clear to me and clear to Ataefiok that not attending camps would very likely impact his ability to earn scholarships. I am convinced this has been the case. Despite another fantastic season on the field, most of the top schools to which Ataefiok aspires have not offered him scholarships. I am convinced had they had the chance to see Ataefiok in person, he would have earned scholarships from these schools. Despite this fact, Ataefiok has not expressed one word of regret for attending the Lawrenceville School Camp rather than football camp.
Ken Mills, Head Coach of Football
The Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Dear Coach Wyatt. I would like to recommend our young player Corey Beck. On our first day of practice, we noticed we had ourselves a leader.
Corey would jump to play in any position, say 'yes sir, no sir' and strongly encourage his new teammates. Young Mr Beck played anywhere we asked him to, and with three weeks left in the season, earned a starting spot on defense. He always helped me take my equipment to my vehicle after practice, never complained and had only good things to say about people. He was always ready to give of himself, and here is the kicker. Corey is 8. Yes 8. I asked him to play a key role on the team and although he wasn't too excited about it he agreed to try it. He accepted that challenge in an instant and it worked out well.
I find myself a good judge of character and was proven correct. Corey never gave up, ever. He worked hard and didn't act like he was any different or any better than anyone else. He truly lead his team in many respects. During practice he would jump in when a tough drill partner came up and he gave it his all. He took some tough hits and DIDN'T ask to be taken out of drills or games.
The most inspiring thing was when I asked him to play on the line. He jumped in there with his eyes smiling and did his duty. This made the rest of the linemen rise up and accept every challenge I offered them as well. My team has many players just like Corey Beck and I can only honor one with this nomination. I hereby nominate Corey Beck of the Manzano Pee Wee Football Team, in New Mexico Young America Football League.
Sincerely, Dan Wilkinson, Head Coach
Manzano Pee Wee's, Albuquerque, New Mexico
(I was introduced to Blacklion Award by Marvin Garcia, and Head Coach Bill Bouma. We all coach in the Manzano district in New Mexico Young American Football League, in Albuquerque NM, I believe in the program and will follow the integrity of the award. I am also the President of the league, and registered the league in the BLACK LION program, and have asked other coaches to look into this program for recognizing their special players.)
Elgin 2nd Division Black Team: Christian Gardner, Running back, Quarterback/Linebacker
This football program was developed to teach our kids that football is more than just a game. We strive to teach our players that football develops character traits like teamwork, leadership and dedication. The Black Lion Award lends legitimacy to our vision. Over the past four seasons, we have been fortunate to enjoy huge successes in three of those seasons. This year we have not been as fortunate. It became clear that you learn more about the character of an individual during times of adversity than during times of prosperity.
Our nominee to be the Black Lion recipient is Christian Gardner. Christian has consistently impressed me as an enthusiastic, highly motivated player who inspires other players with his courage and effort. Christian is no stranger to success, he has been one of the top running backs in this league for three seasons. He is a definite playmaker with an unparalleled desire to win.
With one win and four consecutive losses at midseason, it became apparent the we needed a change. Without a backup quarterback, our decision to completely change our offense created a dilemma that compounded the adversity of the losses. Our only quarterback was injured during a practice and we were left with no one to run the offense. Christian stepped up and said that he would fill in if we need him. We never considered using our best running back as a quarterback. Christian took over the offense and never looked back. He identified missed blocking assignments to players without causing further embarrassment, he helped the back field and receivers to understand their assignments in our new offense. His knowledge of the game and desire to excel motivated every player on this team to player their best and expend 100% effort on every play.
The player that we selected as our Most Improved Player gave the credit for his success, as a first year player, to Christian. This player brought to our attention that Christian took time after practice to explain things that he didn't understand and was too embarrassed to ask the coaches about. Christian distinguished himself through resourcefulness, outstanding leadership, physical ability and is the kind of player the emulates the traits of leadership, courage, devotion to duty, selfless service and an unselfish concern for the team ahead of himself.
Coach Bill Hogg, Lawton, Oklahoma
Dear Coach Wyatt: I am writing to recommend Steven Schortman for the Black Lion Award. Having read extensively about Don Holleder and what the Black Lion Award represents, our football staff here at Rockville High School unanimously selected Steve as someone who clearly has the five main characteristics of a Black Lion: Leadership, Courage, Devotion, Self Sacrifice, and Unselfish Concern for the Team.
In many ways, Steven has been the leader of our program for four years, not just one, and off of the field as well as on it. Called upon to start the final varsity game of his freshmen year, Steven demonstrated an uncanny ability to motivate and rally his teammates (all of whom were upper classmen) with his intensity and his passion for the game - a characteristic that has only grown stronger over the past three seasons. As a student and citizen at Rockville High School, Steve is someone who we point out to our younger players. He is polite and respectful to adults and peers alike. In the classroom, Steve is a self-motivated honor roll student. As a result of his leadership abilities, Steven was elected by his peers to be the captain of the football team for both his junior and senior seasons.
On the field Steve Schortman plays the game of football with courage and heart. As an undersized middle linebacker and fullback, he is constantly taking on larger opponents. Whether it's kicking out an end on superpower or shedding a block from a guard, Steve is often outweighed by fifty pounds or more. Despite being undersized, Steve has earned All-Conference status as a sophomore, junior, and senior.
For over three seasons, Steve has been devoted to his team and the program here at RHS. He never missed a 6:00am off season workout. He never missed a practice. He has played through injury and pain. He has spent countless hours studying film of himself and of opponents in an attempt to give our team a better chance of succeeding.
There is one clear example of how Steve has sacrificed to play the game of football. As an ninth grade student Steve made the decision to leave his home town and all of the comforts that go with it in order to play the game of football. His hometown is small and the school system does not have a football program. In order for him to play the game Steve had to join the Vo-Ag program at RHS and commute from his home town to Rockville every day.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Steven's unselfish concern for his team. As you well know, the fullback in our double wing offense is not often the marquee player. There have been several games throughout his career when Steven has carried the ball fewer than five times, yet he has never once complained about his role as a blocker. As far as he is concerned, the only headline that has ever mattered is the one that declares another Rockville victory, not one that has his name in it.
It is without reservation that I nominate Steven Schortman for the Black Lion Award. In my opinion and the opinion of the rest of our staff we feel he is someone who embodies all of the fine qualities that Major Don Holleder displayed throughout his life as a player and as a human being.
Yours in football, Patrick A. Cox
Rockville High School, Vernon, Connecticut
Coach Wyatt, I would like to nominate our Quarterback, Caleb Sabatino, for this years Black Lion Award. To start off, Caleb's character is impeccable. Caleb is a Christian who practices what he preaches. He does not swear or curse, he never talks back and always seems to do what is right. Though not outspoken, Caleb is a strong leader. He leads by example rather than words, though he is certainly in command of the huddle. When Caleb does speak, others listen and respect what he says. One example of this occurred this summer when he and our other captains (including last years Black Lion Brad Mills) decided to continue practice another 20 minutes after we ended, because we were having trouble with a few plays. Caleb definitely displayed devotion to duty. He has a strong work ethic and came in 3 times a week all summer working out and running plays on air to improve. Sometimes I would see him arrive early and run the track on his own before our team workouts. He certainly demonstrated self-sacrifice and an unselfish concern for the team. He performed the duties of a double wing QB without complaining. He had a few pancake blocks and began to take pride in his role as a blocker. We threw maybe 60 passes this year (5 per game) and he never complained or asked for more. As a matter of fact, once in a while I would tell him that we would try to work on a few passes and if we didn't get to them I'd tell him, "sorry * we'll get to it next time." His response was always, "don't worry coach, whatever is best for the team." What sticks in my mind most was how Caleb set about improving his game to make our team better. Last year Caleb struggled learning the Double Wing and thus we were not able to pass very effectively. We made it to the sectional finals, but I knew we needed to be able to pass in order to get into states. He worked tirelessly in the summer and throughout the season, focusing on learning to throw on the run and on making the correct reads and decisions. He also made it a priority to improve his lead blocking on Superpower. As a result of his hard work we were able to throw for over 400 yards this year with near 60% completion percentage and most importantly 7 TD's and only 1 INT. Caleb really came through for us this year when a lot of people doubted him. I respect him for his heart, his leadership, and his work ethic. I strongly recommend Caleb Sabatino as our Black Lion award winner for the 2004 football season.
Coach John Dowd
Oakfield-Alabama HS Hornets Football, Caledonia New York
Coach Wyatt, Please accept my selection of Joseph Thornton Jr. ("Joe-Joe") for the 2004 Black Lion Award. This particular player takes the game very seriously as well as his role on the team and in his community. He is one of those players that leadership is a natural trait. By no means is he the most talented that is on the team but he is arguable one of the most loyal and dedicated players on the team. To give you an example, he was asked to compete for the Quarterback position in which he did a fine job. During one of the games, a game official made a special effort to inform me that in all of his experience at the youth level, he has never come across a young man (12 yrs old) that has that type of command presence of a team!
Though he never did earn the starting quarterback job, he was always willing to do whatever was required of him. Around the fourth game of the season, our team suffered an injury to our starting left end. I asked Joe if he would be interested in playing that position until the player returned from injury. Within the course of a week he learned the position and started there for the rest of the year. On the defensive side of the ball, he played virtually everywhere. Initially, he began as linebacker, but through the course of the season he was moved to Strong Safety then again back to linebacker. Basically he played anywhere he was asked to do or was capable of playing.
One special thing about this player is that he's a student of the game. Somewhere along the line, he picked up the knack for teaching and several times on his own effort I would see him working with the new players on the team. Joe has picked up the system both offensively and defensively well enough that he's able to assist at practices. In one instance, I inserted a first year player into the game and I asked Joe to make sure the player knew what to do on each play. After the game, the parent of the new player thanked me for helping his son - I would have loved to take credit, but the credit goes to Joe. I only instruct but it's the kids who retain. Every coach should be treated to a player like Joe Thornton. In my three years of selecting Black Lion Award recipients - this is by far my favorite selection. With all the distractions that a 12-year old has today, this player truly exemplifies the student-athlete in so many ways it's unbelievable. Joe not only excels on the gridiron, but also is an Honor Roll student. He conducts himself as a very confident, respectful young man. He serves as a role model too many of his peers through is actions and is very impressionable among younger children. His parents have every right and should be proud of him.
In closing, I would like to add that I know it's not everyday that we as coaches get to coach players like Joe. It would make our job easier if we did. Once Joe moves on to High School, I will surely miss coaching him. I do know that one day down the road, I will proud to say that I had the opportunity to coach him! If by chance you were ever able to meet Joe Thornton Jr. I'm sure you would agree that he meets and exceeds the requirements for the Black Lion Award.
Sincerely, R. Jason Clarke
Millersville Wolverines, Glen Burnie, Maryland
Coach, Congratulations on such a great season with Madison. It had to be a real thrill to see a group come together like they must have done. Job well done.
I wanted to let you know about our Black Lion Award Winner. His name is Robbie Brown, a junior running back, who had a real nice spring for us. He was one of our wing backs and did really well in our spring intrasuad scrimmage and in our spring classic. It looked like he would be about the 4th guy on our depth chart going into fall camp. After our second game we were getting pretty thin on the offensive line and were looking for backup offensive linemen. Robbie had not had much playing time in the first two games except for special teams, and we asked him about trying to fill in at guard to give us some much needed depth. He said sure and went to work to be the best guard he could be. After about three weeks he was starting for us and finished the season that way. I never heard a word from him about playing wing back, and the offensive line coach was very pleased with his performance and attitude. When it came time to vote for the Black Lion Award he was the first name mentioned and was a unanimous choice. The nicest thing about it is he will be a senior next year and get to wear the patch on his jersen for the whole season. This is the first time we have had a junior winner that could wear the patch during his senior season. We are very proud of him and certainly feel he was the right choice this year.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and it sounded like your trip to West Point was wonderful. Doc Hinger emailed me a copy of General Shelton's letter about that weekend and it sounded great. It was a fitting tribute to you and Doc and the many other Black Lions who have been involved with this wonderful tribute.
Take care and stay in touch.
Umatilla HS, Umatilla, Florida
Coach, I would like to nominate Justin Aichele as our Black Lion Award winner. I have only worked with Justin for one season but I have to say he is one of the most outstanding young men I have ever met. Justin's always wanted to attend West Point, he got his letter from our state Congressman but was turned down because of asthma on his medical record. Instead of being upset Justin has looked at other colleges Citadel, Miami of Ohio and several others. I feel some kids would have been shattered but he just went on with his other options.
Justin is ranked number one in the Senior class, he also is my assistant weight room supervisor, working with the young kids in the program on proper form and lifting habits, he has helped the junior high team after some of our practices and also has helped the youth program. He also runs his own lawn cutting business and works part time at the local gas station. Justin did not miss a single lifting session, except when he was at football camp in Columbus, he also did not miss a single practice this season. To top off this he never missed a single snap this season. He played every play in all ten of our games.
Justin is an outstanding leader. He is always positive even when the chips are down. I feel he will go on in life and be a fine leader in what ever field he chooses. I think he exemplifies what a Black Lion should be. That is why I nominate Justin Aichele for this award.
Coach Michael Schlosser, Miller High School
Howdy Coach, from Chesterfield, Virginia and the Clover Hill Bulldogs. We just wrapped up our season today. We finished 11-1. Lost in the County Championship game. Hey, 32 teams in our league. My second loss in a row in the big one. Nevertheless, the double wing got me there. I had no speed in the backfield and only 21 kids this year but they executed beautifully and we won some nail biters simply by controlling the ball.
I would now like to nominate Hunter Cox for the Black Lion Award. Hunter started at fullback and at outside linebacker for us this year. In a 6-2 formation he was often asked to get in the trenches at NT. Hunter only weighs 100 pounds on a good day. This kid gives everything he has on the field and off the field. He has played in our association since he was 5. He is 14 now. Never late for practice, always at the front of the pack in everything we do. A great student. A leader in the best way, by example. Every play we run requires a sacrifice block by him. The thing that impressed me most is the way he took two first year football players and made them feel like they were a part of the family. In our last game he was running a fever and had been sick for several days. He came in and ran the ball with heart against a skilled team that had twice the talent we did. Never complained. He sacrificed for the team. Sure we have other kids with more talent, but none that sacrifice the way Hunter has. To me, the Black Lion Award is one of sacrifice pure and simple. I pray every day for our troops and remind our players the reason we are able to worship, the reason they can attend school, and........the reason we can line up and play God's greatest game of football is because of the sacrifice this award stands for. Thank you, Coach Wyatt for all that you have done for not only football but what you have done to bring about the awareness of "sacrifice". I know these awards start going out mid-November. We will probably have our award ceremony in two weeks. If there is any way we can get by then it would be nice.
James H. Reid III, Chesterfield, Virginia
Coach Wyatt, I've enjoyed reading about your team's successes this past season, and I especially enjoyed your recent write-up on your visit to West Point. I spent Easter weekend at West Point this year and you can't help but come away inspired. We had a good season this year. After a rocky start in which I struggled to find the right defensive scheme, we finished 4-4, winning 3 of our last 4 games and playing a tough game against the eventual super bowl winner. This is my second year of giving out the Black Lion award, and I would have to say that my boys from last year picked right up where they left off and tried to live up to the spirit of the award. I've never seen a group of boys support each other like the group that I have. The best compliment I got was from a referee who we happened to have a number of times over the season. He told me that he loved refereeing our games because we had the "best boys." It was astounding the trash talking that went on even in our scrimmages at the beginning of the season. All I had to do was sit out one of our starters for half a scrimmage and the boys got the message. I meant to write to you sooner with my Black Lion winners, but to be honest, I've really been struggling with the decision. We had a number of kids at both levels who could have won the award. I will provide the winners' names at the end of this email, but there were other factors involved with the delay. The president of our board, after getting his ear chewed off by a couple of dads who made it very clear of their dislike of the Double Wing (and who I asked to help me coach, but they refused), really got on my case starting about half way through the season, and especially after I disciplined his kid for being incredibly disruptive during practice. His son was a real behavior problem, but the coaches and I came up with a carrot/stick strategy, and he really turned around after that (and loved all of his coaches by the way). The dye was cast though, and a couple of board members (one was his board member wife) started lobbying to get me removed. They didn't, because I have great support from the vast majority of parents, but it made the season difficult (mind you, I don't have any kids in the program, I just love coaching and giving back to the community). My coaches and I stuck together, put the kids first, and they had a great time and realized a great deal of success over the season. Last year I put together a very nice end-of-season party for the boys at a local health club. They had a pool party for the first hour while the parents had a social hour in the function room. During the second hour, I said something nice about each boy, presented the Black Lion award, and watched the highlight video I made for the team. My wife told me that during the presentation of the Black Lion award (with the help of a local Army veteran who was very active in youth sports), there was hardly a dry eye in the room. This year however, the board decided that they did not want me to have this 'special' party, in addition to the one put on by the program (1 hour in the middle school auditorium). I supported the program's party 100%, and spent a great deal of time talking about each boy and their accomplishments (my coaches pointed out to me that at the end of the hour, the parents stood and cheered for us). The board also told me I couldn't give out the Black Lion award, etc., and told me that they had already decided that if I had the party, that they would vote me out of the program. I thought about it, and the right thing to do was to have the party, a private holiday party hosted by my wife and me, pool party and all. The boys were stopping by my house asking about the pool party, asking about the Black Lion award, and were getting psyched up for it. I couldn't let them down. The parents had a great time last year as well and the vast majority support the award, the party, and my decision to go ahead with it. To top that off, I just found out tonight that Joe Riley, West Point Cadet and football player will help me present the Black Lion award. He lives nearby and when I tracked down his email, he told me that he would be honored to help me present the award. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am for the boys. It will be a memorable night. Last year they sat riveted while the local veteran told stories about his military and football experiences, and I can only imagine how they are going to respond to this year's special guest. Two days after the party, the board will meet and vote me out of the program. Nonetheless, I know that I am doing the right thing, and it will be appreciated by the boys and their parents. After reading about the West Point Black Lion award winner and watching the Army-Navy game, reflecting on the recent incidents in NBA and college football games, and also reflecting on the fact that we are at war, I felt that now more than ever is the time to present the Black Lion award. It is really a shame when a few small-minded individuals make life difficult for a good group of volunteers like my coaches and me. Unfortunately, I think that it is becoming more common than we'd hope, and I'm sure that it's driving good people out of coaching. I apologize for being so long-winded, and as always, thanks again for all that you do to help coaches around the country such as myself, not only with the Double Wing, but also with the Black Lion award.
Rick Davis, Duxbury Youth Football
Coach Wyatt, I would like to nominate Sheldon Mba for the Black Lion Award.
Despite being nervous about being a rookie on a talented, veteran squad, Sheldon's determined efforts not only won him his teammate's respect, he inspired them. He always did what was asked, to the best of his ability and never complained about the formidability of the task at hand. Sheldon simply wanted to do his job to the very best of his ability. He wasn't content to simply "make the team." He wanted to excel; to be his best. Although initially being somewhat overwhelmed by the physical and emotional demands placed on those who wish to become a Fighting Eagle, Sheldon never quit; he only became more determined. By season's end, he was as good as any player on the offensive line.
Sheldon never wants to be responsible for letting down his teammates and took great cause to correct any mistake. He would make a point to ask exactly what he needed to do to improve his performance and eliminate mistakes. He would spend countless repetitions refining his technique until he was exhausted and never once complained. Although not a "loud" leader, or a "rah-rah" guy, Sheldon led by example. If someone else complained that they were tired, or they wanted an opportunity at a more glamourous position, we had only to point out Sheldon's selflessness (he always worked hard and never bartered for a better position) and the complaints stopped.
The players knew what the coaches knew: that Sheldon had less ability and experience than others on the team, yet was always improving, never complaining and always gave 100%. This in turn, inspired other players who would simply look at Sheldon and realize that if Sheldon was capable of working that hard, then so could they. Sheldon always displayed a tremendous desire to win, to play his best, to help his teammates. He is a hero in the sense that when it would have been by far easier to give up and quit (or at least simply to "make" the team), Sheldon didn't merely maintain his course, he became more determined to his cause. A Durham Fighting Eagles Academic Honors recipient, Sheldon Mba represents many qualities of the Black Lions and Don Holleder: courage, devotion to duty, and a concern for his team ahead of himself.
Dave Potter, Head Coach, Durham Fighting Eagles
Durham, North Carolina
Hi Coach - Our Black Lion Award winner for jv is Steven Wright.Steven not only is a great student but in only his second year playing football he met all the qualifications for the Black Lion Award.Steven played on a team that went 0-9. Because of his physical gifts he was asked to play fullback,tight end, lineman, nose tackle, defensive end and defensive tackle. Steven's answer was always "yes sir." In the games, even sometimes when the game was out of reach, Steven was always playing as if it was up to him to give his team a chance to win. With his behavior on and off the field he always represented his team well. In games he always held his head high and in his eyes you could always see "no matter how beaten 'am I will stay out there and give more for my team." He never would slow down or give up on a play no matter what the score was or how bad they were getting beaten, because his team needed him. Against the biggest,strongest,fastest team in league, one that had varsity players in for the first half even though they were playing a team that was 0-8, Steven played the whole fourth quarter with his front tooth broken in half. He did not say anything until the end of the game. He played fullback again in this game and was running the ball behind an offensive line that was literally getting out of the way and yelling "lookout to him". And he played qb. No matter what, Steven would get up, get back in the huddle, and if his number was called again again he would plow forward against what appeared to be unattainable goals. But because his team needed him he still thrust forward.not once complaining the entire season. Steven was probably the main reason why I stayed pumped up during the season. When others seemed to not care on the team I could always look into Steven's eyes and realize that I still had to stay focused and teaching be cause this boy was truly a football player and he deserved it. Proud to submit Steven Wright for Cave Spring High School JV Black Lion Award 2004 Winner.
Regards, Armando Castro
Cave Spring HS, Roanoke, Virginia
As you know, my team is middle school (grade 6-8). Donte Mims is in the 7th grade, and he is one of the smallest kids on my team. However, he is also one of the fastest. In fact, he had been playing youth football for years with younger kids, because of the weight divisions. I had watched him play youth football, and knew that he was the "star" of the youth league, mostly because of his maturity and speed relative to the younger kids in the weight division. I was a bit concerned about what would happen when he was no longer the star. Our starting tailback from last year was ruled ineligible to play, so I was looking for a tailback. I was a bit reluctant to even try Donte because of his size. However, your "Trapper Drill" quickly showed me that his toughness was inversely proportional to his size, as he fearlessly attacked anyone. So, I tried him at tailback in the Stack-I.
I was still concerned about his size and durability, but the team seemed to rally around him mainly because they were impreseed with how tough and confident he was. One week before our first game, our tailback from last year was ruled eligible to play, and he returned to the team. He is a pure stud, knew the offense, and after one practice it was pretty obvious that he was already way ahead of Donte as a tailback. At this age, kids are pretty aware of what is going on, and they were waiting to see what I would do, and how Donte would react. At the end of that practice, I told the team that in the best interest of the team, Sean would start, and Donte would move to second team. Having a good idea of what kind of kid I had on my hands, I then asked Donte what he thought. He said it was a no brainer, and he just wanted what was best for the team. Later, he asked if I would consider him for other positions, because he didn't care if he carried the ball, he just wanted to play.
I did move him over to defense; to cornerback. He was the smallest kid out there, but he did not give up a single TD pass, and even more, made every tackle that came his way outside. He forced four fumbles, and had two interceptions, including a very crucial pick in the championship game. He did get a little playing time at running back with the second team, and scored two touchdowns. Almost everyone is bigger than Donte, but no one has a bigger spirit. He inspired the team by his tireless work ethic, his toughness (he saved one touchdown with an open field tackle against a guy who outweighed him by almost 100 pounds), and his passion for the team. His overriding charateristic is his desire to put the best of the team ahead of what he wanted personally. I admired the way he handled losing his tailback position. Even more, I admired the way that he worked hard wherever he played (he ended up playing second tailback, second quarterback, and first cornerback). I used him as an example several times when I had to move kids around (which happens a lot with only 25 players).
Donte is soft spoken, yet very respectful. I never heard him argue or complain about anything. He never gave less than 100 percent, even though for the first time in his football career, he would not be the "star." Thus, in the spirit of the Black Lion Award, I nominate Donte Mims.
Jody Hagins, Summerville, South Carolina
Coach Wyatt, I am pleased to write a recommendation for the 2004 Black Lion Award on behalf of Senior Alex Peterson. Alex has been playing high school football for us now for three years and has always been one of the most dedicated to his endeavors. Alex was the one we knew would be at practice early everyday, in the weight room and supporting those teammates around him. This past summer Alex made a decision that affected him not only now but his future as well. Following his junior year he enlisted early with the New Hampshire National Guard. This commitment meant that he was to spend the later six weeks of his summer down in Georgia for basic training. Due to the timing of this he missed all of preseason for football and had an injury from training that slowed his return. In addition to this he was required to commit to one weekend a month training with the guard, this meant missing several football games. Although this was Alex's last season to play football with his teammates, he never complained, never whined even when he knew his time away from the team would limit greatly his playing time on game days. However, Alex figured out early what it takes most of us a long time, there are more important things in this world, and no one can tell you exactly what those things are. For Alex it was his commitment to his country and his desire to serve it to its fullest upon graduation. As challenging a decision it must have been for Alex to give up all of this, he did so with integrity and the respect of his teammates and coaches. The easy way out would have been to commit to the guard and let football slip away, but that is not Alex. He was still there early for every practice, in the weight room and raising the bar for all those around him. On the field during games or in practice, Alex gave 100% and pushed himself and his teammates. Often we recognize those that score the most, have the most tackles, in this case I would like to award the Black Lions Award to someone that has made a greater sacrifice and still is a John Stark Generals Football Player through and through. To us and the team, Alex is a leader in the truest sense of the word and we are both proud to have him as a member of the team and serving out country.
Sincerely, Bill Raycraft, Head Football Coach
John Stark Regional High School, Weare, New Hampshire
Coach Wyatt, How are you kind sir? Pretty good at this end. Things are still going pretty well as we approach the one of the greatest times of the year - Christmas. Obviously football season is near the top - at least for me. Anyway, I am writing to share with you our selection for the Black Lion Award at Washington High School.
Our winner (Jake Pannbacker) is the consummte team player. This young man is about sacrifice. We returned only three starters this year, and Jake was one of those. He had started at linebacker and tight end for the previous coaching staff. This summer we asked Jake to move to fullback because of the importance of the position in our offense. He did so without hesitation. He ended up being one of the keys to our rushing for over 2,300 yards in nine games. He was a tireless worker, and he really gave us a weapon at fullback.
In five years of running this offense, he was the most explosive B back that I have had. He scored almost 10 touchdowns - mostly on 3 Trap at 2 - and rushed for over 400 yards on a limited number of carries. He had several runs of over 10 yards on trap; mostly, though, he was a devastating blocker. He really opened up our super powers and never complained about having to block. In a day and age when many of our kids are "me" centered, Jake was more concerned with the team and our success. He was a uniquely tough kid as well. I say that because Jake probably was hurt more than any kid I've coached, but never came off the field. He was only hurt before and after plays, but not during. It was quite a sight to see. Between plays he was typically in agonizing pain, and then from snap to whistle, he was ferocious. He was voted all-league at linebacker and has been offered tuition and books at Hutchison Junior College here in Kansas.
The best things about Jake aren't necessarily just football related. He is a gentleman of character, integrity and class. He is involved in every activity and still finds the time to be dedicated to sport. He was a regular in the weightroom and worked tirelessly. He hang cleans 270 pounds, and that is after battling a back injury all summer. The neat thing about that is that many of the kids I've coached have used the back-injury excuse to avoid deep squat or clean, but Jake just backed off on weight and started over and worked his way back up. At the beginning of the summer he could barely do 140 on squat or clean without pain, but by the time the season arrived he was close to his max again. He is a no-excuse young man - a rare find today.
Well, Coach, have a nice Christmas. Good luck and God bless you and your family. Congratulations on an outstanding turnaround at Madison, and again, thank you for everything you have done for me in my coaching career. It sure is good to be a double winger again.
Yours in football, Coach Steven L. Cozad
Washington High School, Washington, Kansas
Coach Wyatt, My team nominee for the 2004 Black Lion Award is Jeff Lisewski.
Jeff was a very valuable and integral part of our undefeated (7-0) middle school team at Frontier Regional this season. Jeff played as a 7TH grade student but did not really stand out. Jeff was able to step up this year and provide us with some much needed offensive line blocking at tackle and some very good defensive line play.
Jeff was one of those players who went 100% all the time in practice and you knew he would get the job done come game time. His work ethic was an excellent model for the rest of the team - particularly the 7th grade players.
The following anecdote might give a little insight into Jeff:
I was watching our varsity play at a home on a Friday night and was talking to our former principal when Jeff walked up and said hello. I introduced him to the principal and then talked a bit about our middle school game played the previous Tuesday. I commented on what a great game Jeff had and some of the good plays he had made - in particular how fast Jeff had run downfield and covered a punt. In the most sincere and humble way Jeff shrugged replied "it's my job".
It might be difficult to sense the moment (you had to be there type of situation) but Jeff was serious. He didn't think it was anything special, but it was typical of his hard play and the serious attitude with which he approached the game. That attitude influenced many others on the team. With Jeff around they were constantly reminded to do their part for the team. We had a very good season both on offense and defense because we played as a team. Players knew the importance of what they had to do on each play - each snap of the ball - and consequently went hard just about all the time. Jeff was an inspiration to them all.
Jeff also worked hard in the classroom. Last year (grade 7) Jeff was not in a regular math classroom. This year his ed plan called for him to be in a regular math class. He was in my math class and earned a B for the first quarter. It was quite an accomplishment for him. All in all I would say that Jeff is having a pretty good 8th grade year.
Thank you. Don Gordon
Frontier Regional Middle School, South Deerfield, Massachusetts
Coach, The recipient for the 2004 Black Lion Award for the Fremont Football League 49ers is a very fine young man by the name of Cameron Healy. In the past you have asked for a write-up about the recipient so I have included a brief description of what he did and meant to the team.
Cameron came to the 2004 team as a very fast, athletic 12-year old. There were a number of positions that Cameron was suited for including defensive end, offensive end, and wing-back. We tried Cameron at these positions and he did well at all of them. In our offensive and defensive schemes, these are critical positions. For us it was a matter of deciding which position to place him. However, after trying to form a viable offensive line we were unable to find the right player for outside tackle, our most critical offensive line position. We had a very young offensive line with only 1 returnee. We tried Cameron there and he was an immediate success. We asked him to play that position, explaining that this was not a glory position and he would not hear his name on the PA system, but was critical to the success of the offense. Cameron agreed to give the offensive line his best shot. He came through for us with flying colors. The offensive line jelled with his leadership and basic nasty streak.
He played that position until the last two games of the season when injuries required that we move him to defensive end. He then excelled at that position as well, getting 2 sacks and 6 unassisted tackles in 2 playoff games. Cameron would have been an excellent defensive end for us and would have had his name on the PA system and earned a lot more of our helmet stickers. But he understood the importance of the offensive line and was a wall for us. He never questioned his position assignment, never asked to play other positions, knew all of the blocking assignments of his fellow o-linemen and helped them when they had questions, and never let a bad attitude creep into his personality.
Cameron's quiet leadership, he let his blocking do his talking, enabled us to run with confidence to his side of the formation. We knew that Cameron would do what he needed to do to make his block and get his guy out of the play. There were a number of plays where the hole he made was big enough for us old coaches to have run through. He never complained about having to play the o-line, instead helping to install a real sense of pride within the offensive linemen. We will lose Cameron next season, but his legacy will be with us as we will return 6 of the eight players we had on the o-line. They are now a proud, effective unit thanks to his leadership and sacrifice.
Casey Kester, Head Coach, 49ers
Fremont Football League, Fremont, California
Coach Wyatt, Hopefully, my letter is not too late for my nomination of our Black Lions award. Fortunately this year I coached a young man who is very rewarding of this award. Ryan Springfield proved over and over on the football field and now on the basketball court what it means to be a leader who always puts his team first. The best example is that this young man who in football was a good running back sacrificed the many potential yards he could have garnered to be our quarterback this year. At the beginning of the year, he had little confidence in this change, but as the season progressed he showed true character by never complaining or missing a snap.
To me, his willingness to go from being one of the star running backs in Little League to a position he had never played in Middle School, without complaining, at this age shows a lot of character. As for a player who struggled to read, to overcome this obstacle to understand our offense and to help our star running back who is an English as a Second Language student understand was amazing.
He became a very good quarterback at that and now he wants to stay in that position. In my opinion this is the epitome of a leader who is devoted to the success of his team.
Just to watch this young kid mature on and off the field makes you feel good as a coach. I wish I could have him for more than one year. By the way, I put him on defense our last couple of games and he managed an interception and Twelve tackles as Safety
Todd Lomax, Brown Middle School
Thomasville, North Carolina
Dear Sirs: It is my pleasure to strongly recommend Michael Plana for the Black Lion Award. I have been Michael's football coach at Barbara Goleman Senior High School for the past four years. Over that period of time, I have watched Michael grow from a young, inexperienced player to one of the most valuable players on our football team. Aside from being one of the most valuable players on our football team, Michael exemplifies the character of Don Holleder: leadership, courage, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice, and a demonstrated concern for his team ahead of himself.
Michael has been a member of Barbara Goleman Senior High School's football team for the past four years. He has been a starter on varsity for the past three years. This season, Michael overcame numerous obstacles and played a pivotal role in our school's most successful football season to date. Michael helped lead our team to the school's first District Championship. In our homecoming game, Michael broke his foot. As a result, he was not permitted to practice. He had to rest in order to be cleared to play in the remaining games. Rather than missing practice or staying quiet on the sideline, Michael worked with the offensive line and the back-up centers. He wanted to make sure that the team would not miss a beat during his absence. In our final game - a loss to the eventual state champions - Michael started the game in excruciating pain. Despite the pain, Michael remained on the field until half-time, when he was removed by the team physician. Even after being removed, Michael continued to offer support and motivation to his teammates, even though the game was clearly out of hand. His attitude and effort throughout the season inspired his teammates and his coaches.
This year, no player has shown a greater concern for the team or has put the team's interests further ahead of his own than Michael. For these reasons, I am proud to nominate Michael Plana for the Black Lion Award. If I can provide you with any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at (305) 362-0676 ext. 2292 or by e-mail at lnpatrick @ dadeschools.net. Thank you for your consideration.
Leonard N. Patrick, Head Football Coach
Barbara Goleman HS, Miami, Florida
I would like to nominate Chance Palmer, a senior, for the Black Lion Award. His courage and determination typifies the spirit of the Black Lion heritage.
Chance transferred to us during his junior year after moving from here to Florida and then back here again because of a broken home. Despite incredible home difficulties (As a child he not only was physically abused by his father but also watched his father intentionally break his mother's leg), Chance wanted a better life. He eventually moved out of the home and was taken in by a series of Christian couples and men who offered to help him while also giving him a chance to mature to take on more and more responsibility. In fact, while he played football for us, he also worked at nights to pay rent and utilities. His father left the family and he has no relationship with Chance. His relationship with his mother is difficult, to say the least, because of all the stuff she's been through. I can honestly say that Chance is not the one who is troubled in the family. In fact, he's the only one who's been stable.
Last spring, in his second day of practice, Chance's chinstrap broke on a hard hit, and his facemask was knocked into his nose and mouth, ending his spring drills. He recovered from that in time for summer workouts and made his requisite number of workouts. He continued working all along to pay his bills as well.
Then, before the season, Chance severely turned an ankle doing plyometrics. He was on crutches and was out for weeks, missing some games. When he returned, despite having not played football in a few years, he developed into a steady player for us at noseguard. He gave great effort and played with a high motor. In our region opener, which was one of the biggest games in our school's history because we knew we'd have to beat Whitefield to have a shot a playing Landmark for the region title, Chance sacked the quarterback late in the fourth quarter to help stifle a late threat. We won 14-7. He was named Honorable Mention All-Region.
Chance played through pain all season. Some of it was even physical. And he smiled the whole time and told me he loved me and thanked me profusely for all I had done to help him.
I look at what he's accomplished, and I honestly can't say how I would have responded had I been in his shoes at 17 years old. But I don't think I would have handled it anywhere near as well. He's a wonderful kid who had to become an adult very early. I don't think I've ever had someone more deserving of the Black Lion Award.
Thanks for all you do, God bless,
Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Georgia
Dear Coach Wyatt, Please accept my nomination of Mario Henderson for the 2004 Rockwall Cougars Black Lion Award.
2004 was Mario's rookie season, but he immediately stood out from the rest of the team - not because of his athleticism, but because of his "can do" attitude. Mario made sure his parents got him to practice before anyone else, and would always stay later than the other players in order to ask me questions about football and further work on skills. Mario is committed to excellence, and puts for the extra effort needed to achieve it.
Mario was a leader throughout our season. After only our second practice, Mario stepped in the middle of our circle and asked to lead our warm-ups. This type of leadership is a rare occurrence for a 9 year old, but Mario had remembered each warm-up - in sequence - and was able to lead the team warm-ups from that point forward.
During practice, Mario always put forth "game day" effort. He set the bar high for his team mates, and they responded. Throughout the season, Mario gained the respect of his peers and Coaches with his work ethic in practice.
Mario's work effort carried over into game situations. Mario played numerous positions on his team, both offense and defense, but his primary offensive position was "A" back. Mario wasn't the fastest player on our team, but he would run hard and never quit. I would challenge him by calling Tight Rip 88 Super Power over and over again - and he never hesitated! He would run as hard as he could, as well as where he was told. In addition, he never "asked" for the ball, nor complained when he was asked to play other positions or stand on the sidelines. He is a consummate team player, and a player that I was proud to have on my team.
As you know, I didn't have a player who I felt was worthy of this award last season. However, this year was different - and it was an easy decision. I'm proud to call Mario Henderson our Black Lion!
Scott Barnes, Head Coach, Rockwall Cougars
Finally, it is my turn. I must nominate our Black Lion at Madison High School in Portland, Oregon. I am doing so in the place of our head coach, Tracy Jackson, because on a team full of unselfish overachievers, his son, Andy, was our strongest contender, and I didn't believe Andy should be overlooked.
When Andy came to Madison with his dad as a sophomore, Madison, coming off a 0-9 season, went 1-9. His junior year saw a slight improvement, to 2-7.
But his senior year turned out to be Madison's first winning season in five years, and its best season in recent memory, as the Senators finished the regular season 7-2, and qualified for the state playoffs.
Football is a team game, of course, and the amazing turnabout took a great effort on the part of all the players, but it also took inspirational leadership, and Andy certainly provided that.
His capacity for work in the off-season was impressive, managing as he did to balance summer conditioning with wrestling - he was a state championship contender - and a demanding job, taking time off only to compete in a national wrestling tournament in Fargo, North Dakota. His uncomplaining work in the hardest of sessions on the hottest of days pulled many a teammate through, inspiring them to push themselves past what they thought their limits were.
On the field, he showed unbelievable toughness and heart. With the exception of two games in which we had the luxury of substituting near the end, Andy played every down of every game. As our free safety, he continually maintained our defensive intensity with his crushing tackles and his heads-up pass defense (he had six interceptions), but it was on offense that he really shone.
When it became obvious in our opening game that Andy was going to have to carry the bulk of the load on offense for the rest of the season, being the competitor that he is, he readily accepted the challenge. He wound up carrying the ball 235 times in 10 games, for 1692 yards. Much of that yardage came after the first tackler had a shot at him.
For much of the season, Andy was one of the leading rushers in the state's largest classification, and doing so at a school whose astonishing success was one of the big stories in Portland sports, he received a great deal of media attention. He handled the recognition with great grace and a total lack of conceit, always making sure to give credit to his teammates.
For Andy, individual recognition meant nothing - the team's success was paramount. If our offensive strategy had relegated him to a lesser role, he would have accepted the decision uncomplainingly, and played as hard as ever.
If he ever disagreed with anything he was asked to do, I was never aware of it. Whatever he was asked to do, he did with enthusiasm. If he was ever hurt, I was never aware of that, either. Again, it was the wrestler's mentality- fear no man, and never show your opponent any sign of weakness.
Andy Jackson's mere presence on our team helped elevate the performance of his teammates.
As Colonel Blaik said of Don Holleder, "Good fellows are a dime a dozen, but an aggressive leader is priceless."
For us, Andy Jackson was that aggressive leader.
Hugh Wyatt, Offensive Coordinator
Madison High School, Portland, Oregon
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
MIGHT YOU HAVE A PLAYER LIKE ONE OF THESE ON YOUR TEAM?
SHOULDN'T HE BE RECOGNIZED FOR THE KIND OF YOUNG MAN HE IS?
ENROLL YOUR TEAM(S)* NOW!
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