Local football players, coaches in the running for annual sports awards

Florida Dairy Farmers have distributed ballots to the media to vote for the 2020 Mr. Football and the Coach of the Year awards. First-round voting will recognize the top player and top coach in each of the eight school classifications, as well as the independent winners. Then, a second round of media voting will determine the two overall winners.

According to the FDF website, “Since 1992, the Florida Dairy Farmers High School Sports Awards program, which recognizes all 30 FHSAA-sanctioned and recognized sports, has honored more than 5,000 of the state’s top student-athletes and coaches. Past winners have gone on to star at the collegiate and professional levels, and some have even represented their country in the Olympic Games.”

Area players who were nominated include Quan Smith and Quan Lee of Buchholz in Class 7A, Ryan Nolan of Gainesville in Class 6A, Bailin Strickland of Santa Fe in Class 4A, and Makai Johnson of Newberry, Jailen Ruth of Hawthorne, Sam Cannon of Dixie County, and Xavier Guyton of Bronson in Class 1A.

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Smith, a senior, rushed for 1,315 yards this season for Buchholz (8-2). Lee, a junior, had more than 1,000 yards receiving, including a season-high 220 yards on seven catches and four TDs in the finale against Niceville in the region semifinals.

Guyton rushed for 1,306 yards and 17 touchdowns to help lead the Eagles to their first playoff win in school history. The senior averaged 8.1 yards per carry. He also had six 100-yard games.

Johnson, a senior, threw and ran for a combined 1,600 yards with 24 touchdowns, while Cannon, a senior, earned nomination after passing for 10 touchdowns and only one interception for the Bears.

Hawthorne’s Ruth is also in the mix for 1A Player of the Year. The sophomore recorded nine tackles in the state championship game against Baker to give him 131 tackles on the season. He led the Hornets with 27.5 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks.

Several area coaches received nominations for Coach of the Year. Those included Buchholz’s Mark Whittemore in Class 7A, after he led the Bobcats to two playoff wins, and Columbia (Lake City) coach Brian Allen, who led the Tigers to a region final appearance in 6A.

Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram is among those nominated for 1A Coach of the Year. Ingram led the Hornets to their first state championship game appearance in school history. Hawthorne finished 10-3 and state runner-up.

Andrew Thomas, who led Union County to a couple of wins in the state playoffs in his first season as coach, is also among the nominees. The Tigers won eight games and were regional finalists under Thomas, who won two state titles at Trenton.

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