Merry Christmas! It’s the most wonderful time of the year for a plethora of reasons, and you can certainly include the 2018 edition of the BCP Players and Coach of the Year to that list. It doesn’t need to be said that with 13 counties of teams to choose ballers from, distinguishing the cream-of-the-crop is a daunting task—one that was given full attention, and one that saw painstaking breakdowns. We hope you enjoyed the season and the countless young men that gave their best as much as we did. We are honored to present to you these four young men and one quintessential leader of young men, and we are proud to call them the best-of-the-best. Congratulations from all of us at Big County Preps!
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: RB Mike Weston (Sr.), Nature Coast Tech
The new motto ‘round these parts is now: “Death, taxes, and a Sharks rusher going for 3,700+ yards in their career” –and we don’t see any lies detected at this point. More on that momentarily, but first; Weston’s 2018 season was one for the record books, finishing second in the state and 15th nationally with 2,893 yards on 387(!) carries and 34 touchdowns, leading the Sharks to a 11-2 record and regional finals appearance. Those final numbers were good for 7.5 yards per carry and a gaudy 222.5 yards per game for the 6-feet 2-inches and 210-pounds of a bruiser. Weston failed to hit century mark JUST ONCE this season—in a game that the Sharks still won—and scored a minimum of 2TD’s in 11 of his 13 games. Weston rushed for at least 200 yards 7 times and hit 250+ five of those times. His season high was 307 yards on 35 carries and 5TD’s against South Sumter in week 2. For good measure, Weston added 15 tackles and 2 hurries on defense as well. Of note, Weston finished 500+ yards and 33 touchdowns ahead of Florida’s Class 5A Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year, Marcus Crowley from Trinity Christian. Weston finishes his career in Brooksville with 4,906 yards and 61 touchdowns. He joins Tevin Drake (3,802-42), Matt Breida (3,740-37), and Deshawn Smith (5,998-83) in combining for 18,446 yards (or 10.8 MILES) of rushing and 230 touchdowns in less than a decade for the program.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: RB Demarkcus Bowman (Jr.), Lakeland
This 5-11/190-pounds running back is built like a battleship and is coveted by a who’s-who of the power five, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why. Bowman helped the ‘Naughts get back to their rightful place among Florida’s elite with a 15-0 season and and seventh state title posting 2,422 yards on 205 carries and 36 touchdowns. That yardage was good enough for third in the state and 53rd nationally. Bowman averaged 161 yards per game and 11.8 yards per carry this season. He reached the 100+ yard mark 13 of his 15 games this season for Lakeland, and averaged 2TD’s a game. He also rushed for 200+ yards four times in the 2018 campaign. We say all of that to say this, Bowman’s BEST performances of the season came when it mattered the most, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards (942 to be exact) on 82 carries and 11 touchdowns, including a 211 yard performance in the title game versus St. Thomas Aquinas. That was good for a 188.4 average per game and an 11.4 yards per carry as well. Bowman now has 3,558 yards and 46 touchdowns for his career, and could be blowing the doors off of the 6,000 yards threshold when it’s all said and done.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DE/OLB Dylan Ridolph (Jr.), Wiregrass Ranch
There’s nothing more appropriate for our defensive player of the year to be representing a school mascot named the Bulls. Coming off a successful sophomore campaign in 2017 in which he recorded 89 tackles and 23 tackles for loss, Ridolph personified on film in 2018 what a defensive player is precisely supposed to look like and play like when it all comes together. Wherever the ball is, the 6-foot, 210-pound Ridolph is—whether he’s flying from the defensive end spot or the outside linebacker position. Ridolph finishes his 2018 season with 82 tackles, 33 of those for loss and 58 of them solo. The junior posted 10+ tackles in a game four times this season in 11 games for Wiregrass, to go along with 22 sacks, 6 hurries, and a forced fumble. Those sacks totaled in 186 yards lost for opposing teams. He also had two games versus Wesley Chapel and Sickles with four sacks. Much like his junior OPOY from Polk County, Ridolph is working on a very nice legacy for himself. In two seasons of varsity, he’s compiled 171 tackles, 37 sacks, and 15 hurries.
SPECIALIST OF THE YEAR: ATH Cartrell Strong (Sr.), Zephyrhills
There are specialists, then there’s Cartrell Strong. There are five tool players in baseball, then there’s Cartrell Strong with his five tools: rushing, receiving, kick/punt returning, and defensive work. Strong’s impact in Zephyrhills and on that team is nearly unmeasurable, but we’ll try and do him some justice with the numbers that earned him this distinction by a landslide. First, the 5-10/170-pounder scored five different ways this season for the Bulldogs via rushing, receiving, kickoff return, punt return, and interception return. The young man finished his 2018 campaign with 1,709 All-Purpose yards and 21 touchdowns. His official count was 428 yards and 6TD’s rushing, 350 yards and 8TD’s receiving, 402 yards and 2TD’s on kickoffs, and 464 yards and 4TD’s on punt returns. He also finished with 2 interceptions, 9 passes defensed, a fumble recovery, 3 caused fumbles, four blocked field goals, a sack, and 3 QB hurries. For those counting at home, in 3 seasons and 34 games, Strong amassed 2,779 A-P yards, 183 tackles, 24 PD’s, 6 blocked FG’s, 5 INT’s, 4 caused fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 1,350 yards of offense and 1,429 yards in the return game.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Castle, Lakeland
What can we say about this living legend that hasn’t already been said? 432 wins and just 89 losses in 43 seasons. Never a losing season. Seven rings. Countless young men that call him, friend, coach, and father-figure. The masterpiece that this pigskin Picasso painted in Orlando from a strategic standpoint versus Aquinas was just cause for this award, but he earned it all season long taking his team to a 15-0 record and a title. The ‘Naughts never once took their foot off the gas this season and were peaking at the absolute perfect moment. Thanks in-large to the staff that Castle has assembled, but without his guidance, his aura, and his fingerprint on this program, you never know what could have happened—even with the generational talent found on that roster. To hear current and former players, as well as current and former coaches who coached with-and-against him speak, there isn’t a bad thing to be uttered. Getting him to talk about football away from the field is a bigger task than trying to stop his offense or defense. Getting him to talk about family and his dogs and his beloved Dreadnaughts is the easiest thing in this world according to many. That suggests balance, and consistency, and perspective. We salute Coach Castle, a direct link to our past while in the present—representing what will always be the future of the game—which is to be equally a parent and guide for life as they are a guide on the field of play.
All BCP Is a Regional Team covering Citrus, Charlotte, Desoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, Sarasota, Sumter – 132 teams coving 13 counties. We reserve the right to make additions at any time.
OW – Offensive Weapon
UTL – Utility
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