The second half of the high school football season is officially underway and there will be no hiding contenders and pretenders.
As teams jockey for position in sectional races in the coming weeks, the Greater Niagara Newspapers player of the year race will become more apparent. The player of the year is judged not only on individual performance, but value to the team. We are not so much looking for players who perform well in big games, but who perform well against the toughest opponents on the schedule.
Through Week 4, quarterbacks are still leading the pack, but several skill players are beginning to creep into the race and can make a move in the back half of the year.
• Tyler Baker, Sr., Canisius: Baker did not have to put up the same video game numbers he did against McKeesport the week prior, but he was efficient in the Crusaders’ 66-0 dismantling of rival St. Joe's. The Lockport-born quarterback went 11 of 12 for 151 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a quarterback rating of 170.1. Baker has now completed 74.1% of his passes and is averaging 17 yards per completion. He also has eight touchdowns and one interception, and while he did not record a rush last week, Baker is also averaging 18.2 yards per carry on 10 attempts. Baker and Canisius put up their 3-0 record with a trip to Boston to face a winless Boston College High School team this week.
• Xander Payne, Sr., Medina: COVID-19 issues at Akron robbed Payne of a chance to face his stiffest test to date against an unbeaten Tiger squad, but he will have plenty of chances the remainder of the year. The Mustangs travel to Cleveland Hill this week and Wilson next week, with a potential makeup contest with Akron and a non-league contest with Albion still to come. Payne has been cerebral, completing 60.7% of his passes, tossing nine touchdowns and one interception in 61 pass attempts.
• Justin Horvath, Sr., Grand Island: Horvath ranks fifth in Western New York with 863 passing yards and has tossed 10 touchdowns, compared to one interception. But he had his most prolific game to date, facing little resistance in a 55-6 win over Kenmore East last week. Horvath went 9 of 11 for 161 yards and four touchdowns, as the Vikings put up 27 points in the first quarter. The senior will face imposing tests in the coming weeks, starting tonight with unbeaten Starpoint and Lockport on Thursday in two games that could decide the Class A North champion.
• Jason Green, Jr., Lockport: Green may be the hottest quarterback of the group and Lockport’s performance has matched the last two weeks. The Lions have put up 94 points in two games and Green has scored five touchdowns in each contest. His perfect 8-for-8 game was impossible to follow, but Green still went 18 of 28 for 175 and three touchdowns, while running for two more in a 42-0 win over previously undefeated Sweet Home. Green’s 771 yards and 11 touchdowns are both sixth in Western New York. If Green continues this pace, Lockport will be a nightmare in Class A.
• Carson Marcus, Sr., Starpoint: Marcus only had three completions for 60 yards last week, but his arm wasn’t needed in Starpoint’s 33-6 win over North Tonawanda. It is unlikely the Spartans will be able to knock off Grand Island today without Marcus throwing more than seven times, however. Even with last week’s game, Marcus is still seventh in Western New York with 10 touchdown passes, but the Viking defense will easily be the toughest Starpoint has faced this season. Grand Island has eight sacks and seven interceptions, but if Marcus navigates Starpoint to a win, he’ll move up the list.
Climbing the ladder
• Stefaan Fearon, Sr., Lockport: This is no offensive award and a defensive lineman that leads his team in tackles deserves to be on the list. Fearon has a team-high 32 tackles, including 29 solo stops for Lockport. He also has four tackles for a loss and has made two sacks this season. Fearon’s ability to make tackles even on plays to the opposite side of the field makes him a hassle for blockers. His energy also sparks a defense that has recorded 13 sacks in four games.
• Evan Floss, So., Starpoint: Floss has emerged as a serious offensive weapon for Starpoint in a short period of time. Floss broke loose for four touchdowns against Kenmore East two weeks ago, but his ability to make explosive plays at a variety of positions brings versatility to the Spartan offense. Floss has 189 yards on 13 receptions and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile, his background as a quarterback forces teams into a quandary when he lines up for direct snaps.
• Chris Dispenza, Sr., Wilson: Dispenza has 11 receptions this season and has scored on nearly half of them. His five touchdown catches are tied for fourth in Western New York and he has accumulated 20.9 yards on each reception this season. Dispenza’s 230 yards account for 48.1% of Wilson's passing yards this season and easily make him the team’s most dangerous receiver. He is also a valuable piece on defense for the Lakemen, recording 14 tackles.
Nick Sabato can be reached via email at email@example.com or Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.