Player of the Year: Joe Benson, McDonogh
There was plenty of pressure on Benson and lots of questions to be answered - all because of what he did as a first-year starting quarterback last fall. Last season, he led the Eagles through an unbeaten season, its fourth Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference crown and the football program's first No. 1 ranking in the Baltimore area.
Benson earned All-Metro Player of the Year for those efforts, and some asked if he could do it again. Benson made believers of many, leading the Eagles to a share of their fifth championship, this time in the A Conference, and repeating as All-Metro Offensive Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound senior completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,398 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 916 yards and seven scores to lead McDonogh to a share of the MIAA A Conference title with four-time champ Gilman.
On display were his natural skills and leadership abilities as well as his toughness and inner desire to will his team to victory. His numbers were consistent with last season's, when he completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,790 yards and 18 scores and rushed for 350 yards and four touchdowns.
McDonogh was 19-1 with the versatile Benson as quarterback. He also averaged 42 yards a punt and, as a place-kicker, went 31-for-32 on extra-point kicks and 4-for-7 on field goals. A hard-hitting defensive back who rarely came off the field, Benson was highly recruited for football, but his first love is lacrosse. An All-Metro lacrosse player who also plays basketball at McDonogh, Benson will play only lacrosse at Johns Hopkins.
Coach of the Year: Steve Turnbaugh, Hereford
The seventh-year coach became the first in Baltimore County to win two state titles at the same school. He added this year's 43-15 Class 2A championship victory over Joppatowne to the 1A version his Bulls captured with an identical 13-0 mark in 1997. With a 73-10 career record, Turnbaugh has surpassed 70 wins faster than any other coach in state history. But he credits hard-working players and assistants Gary Hesselbein, John Walter, Ed Pfaff, Mike Blizzard, Scott Mathena, Mike Graf, Rick Powers and Chuck Harmon. The Bulls' offense was the state's first to score more than 500 points (503) over a 10-game regular-season schedule, outscoring its opposition by an average of 50-3. Harmon, also the team statistician and game announcer, worked with sophomore John Dinkins, who kicked a field goal in each of the Bulls' three playoff games. Blizzard incorporated a defensive scheme Turnbaugh borrowed from four-time state champion Urbana. As a result, Hereford forced six turnovers in the 2A title game against Joppatowne, five of which led to touchdowns. On the year, the Bulls allowed only five touchdowns rushing and five passing. Only one rusher gained more than 100 yards against the Bulls. Hereford had 44 sacks, recovered 21 fumbles and intercepted 18 passes, allowing 7.3 points with five shutouts in 13 games.
Nathaniel Clayton, City
Clayton, a B average student, turned down Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Michigan and Penn State in committing early to a full football scholarship to Maryland. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound lineman then committed himself to leading the Knights through a 10-0 regular season, a Class 2A state playoff berth and a 20-6 first-round victory over Prince George's County power Potomac. The four-year veteran was the man behind whom City rushed for 2,800 yards. His agility and excellent foot movement were perfect for the Knights' wing-T offense. He also had three sacks as a defensive tackle, clogging holes and making big tackles.
Billy Farmer, Eastern Tech
A solid player on both sides of the ball, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound lineman anchored an offensive line that enabled the Mavericks to gain "around 2,000 of our 3,300 rushing yards," said coach Bruce Strunk, whose Mavericks (9-2) lost twice to 2A state champ Hereford. Farmer is used to success. An accomplished wrestler, he helped that Mavericks team win last winter's Baltimore County title. The senior's leadership and agility made him an effective drive or pass blocker who also was an effective run-stopper on the defensive line. Farmer bench-presses 315 pounds, runs a 5.0-second 40-yard dash and is getting looks from Army, Richmond and Western Maryland.
E.J. Hamilton, McDonogh
The hammering style, durability and low center of gravity of this 5-foot-7, 215-pound wrecking ball allowed him to rush for 1,251 yards for 12 touchdowns the hard way. Among his favorite efforts this season was a victory over Mount St. Joseph, where he ran for 255 yards and scored a touchdown that capped the game-clinching 95-yard drive. The senior, who maintained a 3.0 average in the classroom, has attracted offers from Lehigh, Lafayette and Fordham, among others. He also has wrestled for McDonogh, helping that team to win consecutive MIAA dual-meet championships.
Jack Herzog, Archbishop Curley
The versatile 6-foot-4, 250-pound two-way lineman helped an assortment of running backs accumulate nearly 300 yards a game for Curley, which won the MIAA B Conference title, the school's second straight championship. The senior occasionally lined up as a running back and, defensively, had 65 tackles, five sacks, two fumble recoveries and two fumbles caused. A 3.5 student, Herzog runs a 5.0-second 40-yard dash and favors West Point although William & Mary, Towson, Syracuse, Dartmouth and Boston College have inquired about him.
Rob LaHayne, Glenelg
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound lineman excels at everything he does. Although being recruited primarily as a linebacker -- he has been clocked as fast as 4.8-seconds in the 40-yard dash -- he earned All-Howard County Offensive Player of The Year as an offensive guard for the league's most productive ground attack. Behind the senior, running backs Jay Hamilton and Kevin Ganascioli each gained more than 1,000 yards. LaHayne hit with such speed and power that he often broke the face mask on his helmet. With LaHayne in control, the Gladiators averaged 300 rushing yards a game, were ranked No. 6 in the area with a 10-1 record, and captured the Howard County title.
Keon Lattimore, Mount St. Joseph
Lattimore, brother of Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, wants to make a name for himself apart from his older sibling's. And he's well on his way. While big brother does the job on defense, little brother does most of his in the offensive backfield -- a duty he was called upon to perform when the scheduled starter was limited by an injury. The 6-foot, 200-pound running back used his 4.5-second speed to rush for nine touchdowns and 642 yards. The junior also caught nine touchdown passes, returned three punts and two kickoffs for scores, and, as a defensive back, intercepted two passes. Lattimore had three touchdowns in a 51-0 rout of Class 1A state runner-up Oakland Mills, and three more -- one on a punt return -- in a victory over Washington-area power McNamara of Prince George's County.
Sergio Loynaz, Westminster
After two years of consistency as a starting kicker, the senior made sure that his reliability did not falter in the slightest this season. Loynaz converted seven of nine field goals, including a couple of 43-yarders, and was good on 31 of 32 extra-point kicks to help the Owls to a 7-3 record. Loynaz was critical on kickoffs in foiling speedy return specialists, getting eight touchbacks. For his career, Loynaz was 16-for-20 on field goals and 60-for-68 on extra-point kicks. He is interested in Maryland, Florida State, Hofstra, James Madison and Richmond.
Blake McCoy, Calvert Hall
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman was immovable at times, both as a stationary and mobile lineman for the 11th-ranked Cardinals (7-3). Calvert Hall generated 1,700 rushing yards and passed effectively behind the senior, who is projected as a college offensive guard and has quick feet and pulling ability. McCoy, a tackle for Calvert Hall, is getting looks from Maryland, East Carolina, West Virginia, Wake Forest, William & Mary and Syracuse, among others. "He's a very athletic kid who is extremely quick off the ball," said Calvert Hall coach Jay Robinson.
J.J. Outlaw, Mount St. Joseph
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound receiver broke four state records, ranks second in another and third in a sixth category. Outlaw's 78 receptions are second in the state behind Corey Wright of North County, who had 89 in 1996. Outlaw's 1,428 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns are single-season state records, as are his 41 career scoring receptions and his 167 career receptions. He had 2,839 career receiving yards, third all time in Maryland. He returned three punts for touchdowns, took back two kickoffs for scores, and intercepted four passes as a defensive back. One of the area's top basketball players, Outlaw earned second-team All-Metro in that sport. The senior has been offered a full football scholarship to Villanova, one of many schools interested in him, but he would like to play both football and basketball in college.
George Smith, Joppatowne
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver was a solid two-way player during the Mariners' drive to the Class 2A state title game. As a wide receiver, he was the primary target of second-team All-Metro quarterback Dalys Talley, accounting for more than half of Talley's 1,682 passing yards and more than half of his 24 scoring passes. The junior finished the year with 30 receptions for 907 yards and 15 touchdowns -- the latter ranking second all time on the state's single-season scoring receptions list. Smith, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, dazzled the crowd with his five receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the Mariners' loss to Hereford in the state title game. His first reception, a 75-yarder, gave the Mariners a 7-0 lead and had the Bulls behind for only the second time this year. Smith also had three interceptions as a defensive back.
Brad Stonesifer, Francis Scott Key
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back completed his second straight 1,000-yard season, covering 1,593 yards and scoring a county record 33 touchdowns to earn Offensive Player of the Year in Carroll County. The senior had 25 rushing touchdowns, four receiving and two on fumble recoveries. He rushed for 1,200 yards and 11 scores last fall. In a victory over Williamsport, Stonesifer scored a league-record six touchdowns, including runs of 33, 43 and 57 yards and an 84-yard reception. An All-Carroll County shortstop in baseball, Stonesifer has accepted a full scholarship to play that sport at Towson.
Brett Wehnert, Hereford
This 6-foot-1, 275-pound senior is one of the strongest linemen in the state, bench-pressing nearly 400 pounds and using his sound technique to help the Bulls generate an average of 340 rushing yards a game. Wehnert also was effective as a pulling blocker in the Bulls' wing-T offense, and was especially successful when he faced Maryland-bound Nathaniel Clayton of City College. In that game, Hereford gained 279 yards of offense in a 9-0 shutout. An excellent student, Wehnert has several colleges interested in him, including Johns Hopkins, which had a representative watching him when the Bulls won the state title at the University of Maryland.
Keith Williams, Glen Burnie
A three-sport All-Anne Arundel County selection, Williams earned Anne Arundel County's Offensive Player of The Year honors this year for rushing for 1,292 yards and 22 touchdowns and passing for 1,168 yards and 10 touchdowns. The senior helped lead Glen Burnie to a 6-4 record, the Gophers' first winning season since 1994. Williams also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In becoming only the second county quarterback to run for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season, Williams eclipsed the record of Arundel's Louis Carter (2,027), who did it in 1970. His rushing yardage broke the county record for rushing by a quarterback (1,282) by Dennard Melton of Severn in 1992, and his passing yards were the most by a Glen Burnie quarterback since Roger Simonds' 995 in 1987. Williams finishes with 2,300 career passing yards, 2,027 career rushing for a school-record 4,327 combined yards.
Chris Wilson, Catonsville
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound running back has impressed college recruiters with his size, speed and academic excellence. The 3.7 student with a 1,420 SAT score bench-presses 350 pounds. His 4.6-second 40-yard dash gives him closing speed to make the big hit. "Linebackers have the free range of motion to go side-to-side, dish out the punishment," said Wilson, who turned 17 on Nov. 23 and was named Gatorade's Maryland Player of The Year. "It's of no consequence to me where I play in college, linebacker or running back." The senior has rushed for 1,000 yards the past two seasons, this fall finishing with 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has narrowed his college visits to Maryland, Stanford, Penn State, Michigan and Virginia, all of which are offering full scholarships. Other schools that has expressed interest were Duke, Florida, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
Ambrose Wooden, Gilman
Among the most promising players in the area, the senior optioned and passed in a Greyhounds offense that led a run for a share of a fourth straight MIAA A Conference crown and a No. 3 area ranking. This repeat All-City/County performer passed for 1,149 yards and 11 touchdowns and tied for the team lead in rushing with 660 yards and six touchdowns. Last fall, Wooden rushed for more yardage than he passed for, so his throwing skills this year were much improved. Wooden has been clocked as fast as at 4.23 seconds in the 40-yard dash. An A student, Wooden has attracted interest from Stanford, Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Iowa, North Carolina and Boston College.
Name School Class Position
Marcus Frisby Loyola Senior Quarterback
Dalys Talley Joppatowne Senior Quarterback
T.D. Callahan John Carroll Senior Running back
Sheldon Campbell Forest Park Senior Running back
Broderick Maybank Eastern Tech Senior Running back
Malcolm Ruff Gilman Senior Running back
Eric Venerable Annapolis Senior Running back
Walter Hill St. Paul's Senior Wide receiver
John Zabel Mount Hebron Senior Wide receiver
Damond Malloy Pikesville Junior All-purpose
Andrew Croner Oakland Mills Senior Lineman
Ron Darden Glen Burnie Senior Lineman
Antwan Johnson Patterson Senior Lineman
Jarren Matthews Hereford Senior Lineman
Tim Slowik Eastern Tech Senior Lineman
Tilghman Morton Gilman Senior Place-kicker
Note: The All-Metro football offensive teams were selected by Lem Satterfield after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.