Thursday, December 29th, 2005 at 7:00 am in Prep Sports.
The selection process for the 2005 Times football players of the year was about as tough as it’s ever been.
In the offensive explosion that was 2004, Campolindo’s all-world quarterback Nick Graziano all but took the POY decision out of our hands, and Pittsburg running back Derrick Blanche was an undeniable selection as the Offensive POY. And after talking to a bunch of coaches, Amador Valley’s Corey Dehl was the obvious pick as the Defensive POY.
But this year, with the return of stingy defense across the board and the absence of any breakaway standout on either side of the ball, things were tricky. Alhambra running back Brandon Rutley made such a strong case for himself during the year, and area coaches were so impressed with him, that he was the easiest of the three selections as the OPOY. But even so, Salesian wide receiver Andre Wells put up numbers so gaudy that he gave us pause.
The overall player of the year discussion encompassed three very worthy candidates, all three of whom are two-way first team All Times selections, which doesn’t happen all that often. De La Salle’s undersized center and nose tackle Tony Vasta, Las Lomas’ big-hitting linebacker and offensive guard Jason Swisher and Monte Vista’s monster offensive guard and defensive tackle Mike Costanzo all had fantastic seasons. As a direct result of their prowess, so did their teams. Each was a two-way all-league selection. Each was heaped with accolades by area coaches.
So what to do?
In the end, the reaction of local coaches to Vasta, to his toughness, his grit and determination, and the fact that he essentially pulled together a young, inexperienced Spartans squad over the course of a rigorous season tipped the scales in his favor. It’s not all that often that a team looks to a lineman for leadership, but with a sophomore quarterback and running back by committee, Vasta was the man with the plan.
Swisher’s Knights ended up winning the NCS 3A East Bay title almost exclusively thanks to the stinginess of the defense, and he was the key figure in that equation. With an anemic offense, Swisher and Co. knew that, game in and game out, they were going to be the difference between a W and an L. They got it done at every turn, and Swisher drew such rave reviews from coaches at linebacker that he earned the DPOY spot.
None of which mitigates the impact that Costanzo had on the region. Literally. The guy is a beast. We just ran out of awards. But first team, both ways is nothing to sneeze at. And don’t be surprised if Costanzo ends up raking in awards at Cal in the coming years. San Ramon Valley linebacker Kyle Kirst and Ygnacio Valley defensive end Garry Graffort could not be ignored on the defensive side, either.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our all-Times teams. Post a comment.