‘Tis the time of (post-)season for nominations.
With postseason awards - and controversy - in full swing, the Tribune, too, sticks its proverbial neck out in search of 2011's football player among all football players. In all this subjective glory, we've whittled a cast of hundreds down to a dozen, and, again, faced another unenviable task of finding six to stay standing.
All are worthy, but only one will win.
In alphabetical order, the nominees are ...
Mike Arredondo, Desert Vista, Sr., RB/LB
For two years he's been the heart and soul of the 2011 Division I state champions. This season he ran for 712 yards and 19 touchdowns while splitting carries with five or six teammates, and caught 10 passes for 98 yards and another score. His defense and leadership, however, are the biggest reasons why he's on the this list. His 156 total tackles (11 per game) were fifth in the state, according to MaxPreps.com. He also had three sacks and two forced fumbles. He ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns, and had eight tackles in the title game against Hamilton. The unquestioned leader of this selfless bunch of Thunder this year, he was basically a second coach on the field, he kept the Thunder's locker-room vibe better than its ever been.
Marcus Brantley, Red Mountain, Sr., RB/DB
At least the Lions have a sense of humor as to why it took so long before they moved Brantley from receiver to running back during the season. After being moved to the backfield in late September, Brantley ran for 980 yards (11.5 yards per carry) and five touchdowns, still caught four more touchdown passes (he scored 13 times this season) and averaged 22.6 yards per punt return in limited duty. He was often even better on defense with 65 tackles and four interceptions, and more than one opposing coach this season called Brantley the best defensive back in the state. Brantley was the catalyst for Red Mountain's eight-game winning streak that eventually ended in a narrow playoff loss to Desert Ridge.
Tyler Bruggman, Brophy, Jr., QB
This was one way to return from a fluky broken ankle last year, which curtailed his sophomore season in October after earning the starting job. With a solid supporting cast and dynamic wide receivers in Devon Allen and Frederick Gammage, Bruggman came back in a big way as he threw for 2,497 yards, 37 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and that includes an 8-for-28 passing night in a win against Avondale Westview. Credited for his work ethic and deep understanding of coach Scooter Molander's offense, Bruggman made his own reads and even some of his own audibles at the line of scrimmage. He was voted Arizona's top quarterback by the Arizona Football Coaches Association.
D.J. Foster, Saguaro, Sr., RB
He was a one-man wrecking crew the entire season for the Sabercats. Foster carried the ball 234 times for 3,058 yards and 54 touchdowns. He led the state in rushing yards (nearly 500 more than the nearest running back) and was second to Davonte Neal with a yards-per-carry average of 13.07. Foster added 13 catches for 250 yards and five touchdowns, and his 60 total touchdowns set an Arizona single-season record. He also ran for 508 yards and 10 scores in a first-round playoff win over Peoria Sunrise Mountain, which were both state records. All told, he broke state records for career touchdowns, touchdowns in a game, points in a career, points in a season, points in a game and rushing yards in a game. Foster helped lead the Sabercats to a second consecutive state championship and the program's fifth in the last six years.
Davonte Neal, Chaparral, Sr., WR/DB/KR
The versatile athlete shined again this season, finishing the year with 1,317 rushing yards, 1,113 receiving yards and 35 total touchdowns. He also averaged 19 yards per punt return and 39.4 yards per kick return when teams dared kick the ball his way. Neal was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. He led the state with a 13.17 yards per carry average, and averaged 17.95 yards per catch. Neal was recently named to the Arizona Football Coaches Association's All-Arizona football team as a defensive back, where he is an excellent cover- corner. Neal won state championships in both of his seasons with the Firebirds after transferring over from Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Kendyl Taylor, Hamilton, Sr., WR
While his numbers aren't as gaudy as some others on this list, the Huskies' offense completely revolved around Taylor. Hamilton played arguably the state's toughest schedule, and he still excelled. Taylor led the team in receiving with 87 catches for 1,127 yards with 16 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 65 times for 535 yards and five touchdowns, averaging a team-best 8.23 yards per carry. Taylor was the only returning offensive starter for Hamilton this season and carried the team at times throughout the season. Although the Huskies were upset in the state championship game by Desert Vista, it was no fault of Taylor's, as he finished his career with 11 catches for 123 yards and two scores.
Ryan Bresnahan, Seton Catholic, Jr., QB
Joey Counts, Desert Ridge, Sr., RB
Reggie Daniels, Hamilton, Sr., DB
Jaxon Hood, Hamilton, Sr., DL
T.J. Thomas, Dobson, Sr., RB
Josh Uhlorn, Perry, Sr., QB/DB