Player of the Year: Joe Benson, McDonogh
The 6-5, 210-pound Benson had a breakout season, being effective as quarterback, place-kicker and punter, as well as a hard-hitting defensive back for the Eagles. On offense, the junior right-hander was 85-for-130 passing (65 percent) for 1,790 yards and 18 touchdowns, and rushed for four scores on 350 yards. Benson, who earned second-team All-City/County honors last fall for his kicking abilities, was 1-for-2 on field goals with a 33-yarder, 36-for-38 on extra points, and averaged 42 yards per punt. Benson, who intercepted three passes on defense, didn't always look smooth while executing. But he has an improvisational skill that at times was uncanny. Benson's numbers aren't gaudy, but the damage he caused the opposition was always great. In McDonogh's season-opening, 34-24 win at Chambersburg, Pa., Benson was 10-for-12 passing for three touchdowns in the first half alone, and finishing with 197 passing yards and 36 yards rushing. He was efficient in a 42-12 rout of Mount St. Joseph, going 4-for-7 for 110 yards and a touchdown. But Benson's crowning achievement was his 73 passing yards and 34 rushing against Gilman, when he threw the game-winning score and kicked the extra point for a 7-0 victory. Facing third-and-9, third-and-14 and second-and-13 versus Gilman, Benson passed for 12 yards, ran for 15 and ran for 16 - all for clock-killing first downs. "I'd have to say he's the best quarterback I've had here," coach Dom Damico said of Benson, a basketball rebounder and high-scoring lacrosse player. "As a general athlete, he's tough. A gamer. He shows up for the big games."
Coach of the Year: Dom Damico, McDonogh
The 36-year-old Damico returned only three starters from the previous season, and his team was ranked as low as No. 11 during the preseason by The Sun. But Damico molded his team into a winner, capturing his fourth straight MIAA B Conference title and, along the way, mowing down then-No. 3 Mount St. Joseph and No. 1-ranked Gilman -- two members of the A Conference. The Eagles finished the season ranked No. 1 in The Sun with a 10-0 record. The No. 1 rating is believed to be McDonogh's second in football history at the school, and its first since starting out that way in 1994, with a 10-0 record. And the Eagles did it not only with a first-year quarterback, but with more size among the linemen than in previous years. Damico has placed seven players in Division I schools during his seven years at McDonogh, and looks to have at least an eighth in 6-4, 260-pound two-way lineman Kellen Williams. Damico's 49-16 record at McDonogh includes 28 consecutive victories against the B Conference. Damico's program moves into the A Conference next season, but he has been successful anyway against that conference's champs. Damico is 3-1 against St. Mary's, a team that won the A Conference in 1996, and is 2-1 against Loyola and Mount St. Joseph, each a past champ. McDonogh snapped a three-game losing streak against Gilman, winner of its third A Conference crown this year.
Antoine Colvin, Dunbar
A solid Division I prospect, Colvin was agile and immovable as a two-way lineman. The four-year starter, who is 6-4 and 310 pounds, put in the work required to make himself a star lineman. Colvin slimmed down from the 330 he weighed during the preseason, and the nearly 350 he tipped the scales at as a freshman and sophomore. Colvin often cleared the way for running back Darnell Baylor's 1,855 yards and 19 TDs. He was invited to the preseason Nike football training camp, where he showed his athleticism, clocking a 5.46-second 40-yard dash, more than respectable speed for his size. Colvin's powerful legs also defied gravity to the tune of a 21-inch vertical leap. Of the 10 or so 300-pound-plus players at the camp, only one other - who weighed 305 and leaped 20 inches - was close to Colvin. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Maryland are among the schools Colvin, a solid student, is considering.
Aaron Dennis, Calvert Hall
Although unheralded prior to the season, Dennis proved to be a force to be reckoned with and, at his best, uncoverable. Dennis led Calvert Hall to an 8-1 season after going 2-8, a runner-up finish in the MIAA A Conference, and helped his team snap an 11-game losing streak to rival Loyola. He had 950 receiving yards on 50 receptions and eight touchdowns. The 6-foot, 170-pounder, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, had a momentum-swinging, 52-yard punt return in a come-from-behind win over then No. 5 Mount St. Joseph. In a loss to Gilman, Dennis had seven receptions for 99 yards, including a 27-yard scoring reception when he out-leaped his defender in the back of the end zone. The catch made Calvert Hall only the second team this fall, and the first in the area, to score against then No. 1 Gilman. A B-average student with a 1,050 SAT, Dennis is considering Villanova, William & Mary, Towson, Bucknell, New Hampshire and UMass.
Danny Dixon, Edmondson
The 6-2, 190-pounder, who clocks a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, has an array of dazzling abilities. Dixon had 44 receptions for 850 yards and nine touchdowns, returned three of seven interceptions for touchdowns and was deadly on punt and kickoff returns with a combined 14 scores. During the playoffs, Dixon was the focus of the opposition's defensive double-coverage, but was still nearly unstoppable, having a 71-yard scoring return disallowed in a semifinal loss to Gwynn Park of Prince George's County. Dixon, however, keyed an amazing semifinal 43-37 comeback win over Northwest of Montgomery County after trailing, 29-14, with 10 minutes to play. Dixon's 61-yard punt return made it 37-37 with 1:09 left, and his 13-yard, button-hook reception in a crowd, followed by his lateral to Carl Byrd, completed a 65-yard pass-and-run play for the win with 56 seconds to play. Dixon is considering Maryland, South Carolina and Georgia Tech.
E.J. Hamilton, McDonogh
The 5-7, 210-pounder hammered out 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns mostly through the heart of the opposition's defensive line. No team had been able to move the ball on the ground against Gilman until Hamilton pounded out 120 yards that allowed the Eagles to milk precious time off the clock. Hamilton had a much easier time in an earlier game against then-No. 5 Mount St. Joseph, rambling for five touchdowns and nearly 150 yards in that game. And in a come-from-behind 15-9 win over MIAA B Conference rival St. Paul's, Hamilton smashed his way to 166 yards and two touchdowns - both scores and 95 yards coming in the final period. Only a junior, Hamilton will return next season.
Seth Keil, Old Mill
The 6-3, 215-pound senior tight end had excellent hands as a receiver, and great mobility as a lineman. Keil caught 14 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns. Keil also was a member of an excellent kicking fraternity, his nine field goals tying the Anne Arundel County mark held by Old Mill's Steve Oliver (1991) and St. Mary's Mark Kiefer (1993) and ranking second in the area behind All-Metro teammate Trevor MacMeekin of Dulaney. Keil was Old Mill's second-leading scorer behind second-team All-Metro running back Kelvin Collins, kicking four field goals of more than 40 yards and missing only twice. He also converted 29 of 31 extra points, averaged 52.5 yards on 57 kickoffs and had 17 touchbacks.
Todd Leitzel, Hereford
The 5-9, 155-pound senior bench presses 280 pounds, has clocked a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, has a 3.54 grade-point average and scored 1,250 on his SAT. Leitzel scored 31 touchdowns, 27 of them on the ground, in only 11 games as he led the Bulls to a No. 6-area ranking and their fifth straight Class 2A state semifinal berth. Leitzel's 1,609 rushing yards this season rank second in Hereford history behind the 1,771 established by Jason Murphy during the Bulls' 13-0 state championship year of 1997. Leitzel returned one of five interceptions for a touchdown this fall, had a punt return for an 86-yard score and a 78-yard kickoff return for another. Leitzel has amassed more than 3,000 career all-purpose yards and scored 39 touchdowns, 29 of them rushing on 1,746 career yards. Leitzel has 301 receiving yards for five scores and, as a defensive back, has returned three of 14 career interceptions for scores.
Trevor MacMeekin, Dulaney
One of the nation's top Division I place-kicking prospects, MacMeekin kicked 11 field goals this season - one shy of the state record - with a long of 47 yards. MacMeekin's career numbers, 17 field goals (in 25 attempts) are two field goals shy of the state record. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound MacMeekin, whose longest kick was a 49-yarder last season, is an excellent athlete, having earned second-team All-Metro honors as a place-kicker last fall and second-team All-Metro accolades as a left-handed pitcher on Dulaney's 4A state runner-up baseball team. Dulaney's football team was 7-3 after being 0-20. MacMeekin, who was 19-for-24 on extra points (four were blocked), carries a 3.8 grade-point average and scored 1,280 on his SAT. Wake Forest, Cornell and Lafayette are highly interested in MacMeekin, and Maryland, Michigan State, Washington State and South Carolina also are in the hunt.
Kion Mackell, Annapolis
The 5-11, 220-pound senior center earned All-Anne Arundel County honors for the second consecutive season, and, as such, was yet again the backbone of one of the Panthers' most potent teams in the school history. A vocal and physical leader for the Panthers, he snapped the ball for an offense that scored 420 points in 11 games last season, and a county-record 445 in 13 games this season as Annapolis finished as Class 3A state runner-up. Mackell used his quickness and fierce blocking to level defenders and to clear the way for first-year running back Eric Venerable to have a record-breaking season. Coach Roy Brown considers Mackell, who is interested in Norfolk, Widener, Bowie and Salisbury, among the best in a long line of superb centers to play for Annapolis.
Derrick McKinnon, Lake Clifton
The 6-5, 320-pounder earned the nickname "Condominium" from Sherwood of Montgomery County coach Bob Milloy because "he's as big as a house." Because of his size, McKinnon had a penchant for occupying opposing defensive linemen, either simply clearing the way for the Lakers' two speedy, 1,000-yard rushers, Alan Carr and Vincent Yates, or creating opportunities for them to choose another path. Milloy called one of the Lakers' plays "Condo-right" as McKinnon played a mighty role in Lake Clifton's averaging more than 40 points in its victories en route to a share of the city's East Division title with Mervo. McKinnon also was a force on the defensive side of the ball. A 3.0 student, McKinnon is showing interest in Miami, Maryland and Michigan.
J.T. Rembert, Oakland Mills
This versatile impact player earned Howard County Offensive Player of the Year honors for playing quarterback, running back and defensive back, dominating from all three positions. The 6-2, 195-pounder rushed for 1,489 yards and 24 touchdowns, completed 45 of 84 passes for 821 yards and five touchdowns, and, defensively, made 44 solo tackles, 29 assists and recovered six fumbles and had two interceptions as the Scorpions went 9-0 in county play and 9-2 overall. "As he goes, so goes our team," said coach Ken Hovet, who was never more right than in the county champion Scorpions' 14-7, 1A quarterfinal loss to Glenelg - a team Oakland Mills defeated, 28-6, during the regular season. Rembert was hobbled with an ankle injury in the loss to Glenelg. "Probably his biggest contribution was that he was a team player, outstanding captain and had a modest personality," said Hovet.
Robbie Ruch, Liberty
The senior tight end earned All- Carroll County honors for the second straight season, leading the Lions to an 8-2 record, the county title and a near berth in the Class 3A state playoffs. A 6-4, 210-pounder, who also will play basketball this winter for the Lions, was an appealing target for quarterback Tony Scirica. Scirica completed a county-best 44 of his 112 passes to Ruch for 457 of his 1,528 passing yards and seven of the Lions' 18 passing touchdowns. Ruch's 61 career receptions were a school record. Ruch also punted for the Lions, was a team captain and was selected to the Central Maryland Conference first team, which includes three-time Class 2A state champion Urbana.
Malcolm Ruff, Gilman
The 6-2, 215-pounder who is an MIAA 400-meter dash champion made the successful transition from being a flashy, speed back last fall to being the featured, big, powerful running back with speed this fall. Like his name, Malcolm was rough on opponents. He bulled his way for 112 yards in a season-opening, 14-0 shutout of national power DeMatha, the Washington area's No. 1-ranked team, and did the same in rushing for nearly 170 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-34 rout of Mount St. Joseph. But Ruff, with his starting quarterback ailing, shouldered the burden in a 21-14 overtime loss at State College, Pa., rushing for nearly 270 yards and two scores on a state-record 53 carries.
Eric Venerable, Annapolis
The 6-1, 185-pounder ran with 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash, and also with power. The junior, who was academically ineligible the first two seasons, broke the major single-season records established by two-time All-Metro and two-time Anne Arundel County Offensive Player of the Year Rayvon Johnson, also of Annapolis, in 1998 and 1999. Venerable, the county's 2000 Offensive Player of the Year, led the area in rushing yards (2,346), rushing touchdowns (30), total touchdowns (32) and total points (198). Venerable also returned two interceptions for touchdowns, kicked six of eight extra-point attempts, had four 200-yard games, scored at least a touchdown in every game and two or more touchdowns in nine straight games for the 3A state runner-up.
Dominique Williams, Patterson
An excellent drive blocker and surprisingly agile for his size, the 6-2, 301-pound Williams has starred for four seasons in the multi-faceted offense of 27th-year coach Roger Wrenn. Williams displays great foot movement, and fires off the ball for numerous pancake blocks. Behind him, and 6-5, 330-pound teammate Matt Williams, sophomore running back Antwoine Clayborn was able to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Williams, also a ferocious tackler on defense, has a 3.5 grade-point average and is showing interest in likes Maryland, Boston College, Illinois and East Carolina, among others.
Kellen Williams, McDonogh
A Division I recruit all the way, the 6-4, 260-pound Williams was a mainstay on the Eagles' powerful offensive line, along with 6-5, 280-pound teammate Jared Goldberg. The fourth-year starter, one of the few veterans from the fall of 1999, played the entire game against Gilman with a broken foot and a sprained knee. He has heart and, as one of the state's top heavyweight wrestlers, abilities to match. Williams scored 1,300 on his SAT, and carries a 3.8 GPA. He likes Maryland, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina.