As part of the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Awards program, the Palm Beach County Sports Commission assembles a panel of Palm Beach County High School football coaches and select members of the local media to select the winners of three awards given out for excellence in Palm Beach County high school football:
Near the end of the season, ESPN West Palm, who’s broadcast team covers the local football program all season, provides the nominees for each award. At the annual Lou Groza Awards banquet in December the top three finalists in each category are recognized and the winner is announced.
The Palm Beach County Player of the Year Award is given out annually to the top prep football player in Palm Beach County. The award is open to players of all grade levels and school classifications.
2015 PALM BEACH COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNER
The only player in Palm Beach County selected as a U.S. Army All-American, Ahmmon Richards has become one of the nation’s most-heralded players. Coming off a junior year in which he caught 53 passes for more than 1,300 yards and 23 touchdowns, Richards not only had a lot to live up to; he also had the added pressure of knowing every opponent was game-planning against him. None of it mattered. In his senior season, the Wellington receiver hauled in even more catches for even more yards’ this time amassing 73 receptions for 1,442 yards, an average of nearly 20 yards per catch. Though his 6-foot, 2-inch frame makes him an easy red zone target, Richards showed off his speed more often, scoring long touchdowns week after week. He caught a 35 yard score against Atlantic and a short pass that turned into an 85 yard touchdown against Royal Palm Beach. He grabbed a 75 yard touchdown catch on the opening drive to set the tone in Wellington’s win over Seminole Ridge. Against Jupiter, he opened the game with a 61 yard touchdown and ended it with a 65 yard score. His longest touchdown of the year wasn’t a reception, but a kickoff return that he took back 96 yards against Boca, though he added 177 receiving yards for good measure. Against the vaunted Dwyer defense, Richards made eight receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns, including long scores of 55 and 72 yards. After dominating opposing defenses again and again, the next stop for Richards is the U.S. Army All-America Bowl and then the national spotlight on college football Saturdays.
Palm Beach County Place Kicker of the Year
The Palm Beach County Place-Kicker of the Year Award is given out annually to the top prep football place-kicker in Palm Beach County. The award is open to players of all grade levels and school classifications
2015 PALM BEACH COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL PLACE-KICKER OF THE YEAR WINNER
Ezekiel Hernandez - Pahokee High School
Though he’s only a sophomore, Ezekiel Hernandez showcased one of premier kicking performances, not only in Palm Beach County’s high school football history, but compared to all who ever played the game. Pahokee’s standout kicker booted a record-setting 63-yard field goal in a victory over Village Academy. This 63 yard field goal set the all-time Palm Beach County record and makes Hernandez one of just nine kickers in the history of Florida high school football with a kick from that long - a list that includes Pro Bowler Fuad Reveiz, two-time Groza winner Sebastian Janikowski, and Groza winner Graham Gano. With a leg that strong, it’s no surprise that 92% of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. Beyond the power, Hernandez also put together one of the most accurate kicking seasons of the year. He connected on 12 of 14 field goal attempts and scored on all 27 of his extra point attempts. Ezekiel’s performance contributed to Pahokee’s championship season that brought 8 wins and a district title.
Sam Budnyk Coach of the Year
The Sam Budnyk Coach of the Year Award is given out annually to the top prep football coach in Palm Beach County. The award is named in honor of legendary coach Sam Budnyk, head football coach at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, FL.
2015 SAM BUDNYK COACH OF THE YEAR WINNER
T. J. Jackson - Atlantic High School
There are not many ways Atlantic could improve upon last season in which they knocked off perennial football power, Dwyer, for a district title and a surprise run into the playoffs, but T.J. Jackson found a way in a simple word: perfection. During the 2015 football season, Coach T.J. Jackson led the Eagles to an undefeated, 10-0, regular season, which included a District 10-8A crown. Atlantic High School gained national recognition by ending the 2015 season as the #1 ranked 8A team in the entire state of Florida. Jackson’s team was dominant on both sides of the ball, outscoring their opponents by an average score of 4 touchdowns per game. Coach Jackson’s offense spread the ball around between four talented running backs who scored 24 rushing touchdowns between them. His defense shut out their opponents three consecutive times, and kept teams to single-digits in an incredible seven of ten games. In just three years, Jackson not only returned the Atlantic program to prominence; he’s led the Eagles to one of the greatest football seasons in Palm Beach County history.
2015 PALM BEACH COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL TEAM OF THE YEAR WINNER
Atlantic High School
Two years ago, Coach T.J. Jackson took over at Atlantic team that won only 3 games. Last year, the Eagles surprised everyone by ending William T. Dwyer’s 15-year playoff streak and taking the District 13-7A title. During the 2015 season, Atlantic’s accomplishments were unrivaled. The Eagles moved up a class, completed a perfect regular season, and finish the year as the AP’s #1 ranked 8A team in the entire state. As you might expect from a team that went 10-0, it’s hard to decide just where to start when describing Atlantic’s season. The offense averaged 36.1 points per game, scoring at least 21 in all ten contests. The Eagles featured not one, not two, not even three, but four top running backs. Dontavius Monroe, Shawndarius Phillips, Lamar Washington and Jerrod Ferguson all put up big yardage totals and each found the end zone at least five times. When quarterback Zavion Thompson went down with an ankle injury mid-season, Phillips went from taking handoffs to taking snaps, but Coach Jackson’s offense didn’t miss a beat and Phillips would go on to become a finalist for Palm Beach County Player of the Year. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles became county’s stingiest defense. In addition to an unprecedented string of three straight shutouts, Atlantic held opponents to single digits in an astonishing seven games and only allowed an average of 9 points per game. Despite the move up to 8A, Atlantic dominated their district opponents, winning their six district games by a combined score of 210-36. In the final week of the regular season, they faced their old foe Dwyer in a battle of unbeaten teams, and the Eagles remained perfect with a 32-21 road victory to cap one of the most impressive seasons in Palm Beach County history.
Groza Committee Chair, Bill Davis welcomes local awards candidates during 2007 Banquet.