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.
2014 PALM BEACH COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNER
A finalist for Player of the Year during the 2013 season, Lamar Jackson topped his junior season with an incredible 2014 campaign both through the air and on the ground. The senior quarterback amassed more than 1,000 yards with both his arm and his legs. Despite coming out early in a few lopsided wins, Jackson still managed to throw for 1,358 yards and 18 touchdowns. More incredibly, he virtually matched those totals on the ground, rushing for nearly 1,100 yards and 17 touchdowns. As the season went on and the games became more important, Jackson got even better, scoring a combined 24 touchdowns over the last five games of the regular season. In Boynton Beach’s playoff-clinching 9th win, the Louisville commit put together one of the all-time greatest performances in Palm Beach County history. Jackson completed 14 of 19 passes for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also carrying the ball an incredible 30 times for 150 yards and 5 more touchdowns, including a four-yard goal line leap with six seconds remaining to give the Tigers a 63-58 win. And though Boynton Beach’s bid for a perfect season was thwarted by a last-second field goal in the regular season’s final game, that kick came only after Jackson gave his team a 36-35 lead with two touchdown passes in the final three minutes. It’s no coincidence that the two best seasons in Boynton Beach’s history have come in the two seasons they were led by quarterback Lamar Jackson.
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
2014 PALM BEACH COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL PLACE-KICKER OF THE YEAR WINNER
Alex Ng - Wellington High School
The Wellington Wolverines consistently relied on its senior kicker, Alex Ng, throughout its magical 2014 season. Alex kicked 5 field goals with a long of 42 yards while connecting on 54 extra points after touchdowns. His ability to create additional opportunities for the Wellington’s offense was remarkable. Alex kicked an incredible 9 successful onside kicks throughout the year. During Wellington’s 42 to 15 playoff-clinching win over Seminole Ridge, the Wolverines gained 3 extra offensive possessions by recovering 3 onside kicks. Due to the incredible skills of their kicker, Wellington viewed the onside kick as an offensive weapon rather than an act of desperation. Wellington’s conversion rate for onside kicks was over 50%. This offensive strategy sparked Wellington to its best season in school history and a District 9-8A championship.
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.
2014 SAM BUDNYK COACH OF THE YEAR WINNER
Tom Abel - Wellington High School
In his first two seasons as head coach at Wellington, Tom Abel brought the Wolverines to the doorstep of the playoffs, but on the third try Abel kicked the door down with authority. The Wolverines didn’t just earn their first winning season since 2002; they took the District 9-8A title with a program-best 9-1 campaign. Coach Abel drew up the flight plans for Palm Beach County’s top aerial offense, racking up more than 2,600 passing yards and averaging nearly 40 points per game. His defense kept teams to less than a touchdown in four of ten games, including a pair of shutouts. With a playoff spot on the line, Wellington dominated rival Seminole Ridge with a 42-15 victory. This win represented the first time in Coach Abel’s eight years with the program that the Wolverines topped the Hawks. Two weeks later, Wellington wrapped up their first district title since 2010 and Coach Abel cemented the Wolverines’ best season ever.
2014 PALM BEACH COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL TEAM OF THE YEAR WINNER
Wellington High School
It had been a dozen years since Wellington’s last winning football season, but the Wolverines broke that streak in a big way in 2014, going 9-1 in the regular season and taking the District 9-8A title. After opening the season 1-1, coach Tom Abel’s team ran off an eight-game winning streak to take Wellington to just its fourth ever district title. The success was due in large part to Palm Beach County’s most dynamic offensive duo, quarterback Shannon Patrick and wide receiver Ahmmon Richards. Patrick was the County’s top quarterback, completing 60% of his passes to rack up 2,631 yards and 39 touchdowns. For his part, Richards led all County receivers with 888 yards on just 41 catches. His 15 receiving touchdowns also led Palm Beach County. But it wasn’t just a two-man show, as fellow senior receiver Jean Rene actually led the team in catches with 44, taking his for 735 yards and another 13 touchdowns. In all, the Wellington offense averaged just short of 40 points per game. On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines defense kept opponents under seven points in 4 of their 10 regular season games, including shutouts of West Broward and Jupiter. Their season-defining win came late in the year against district rival Seminole Ridge. After going winless against the Hawks in Coach Abel’s eight years at Wellington, the Wolverines dominated both sides of the ball with a 42-15 win that secured their first playoff spot since 2010.
Groza Committee Chair, Bill Davis welcomes local awards candidates during 2007 Banquet.