After winning a silver helmet as the Offensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2011, Sequoyah running back Blake Ingleton took home the gold helmet as the overall Player of the Year.
The senior set his sights on the gold helmet after last season’s banquet.
“It’s a blessing,” Ingleton said after Monday’s ceremony at First Baptist Church of Canton. “Last year, I didn’t know if I would get anything, and I got the gray helmet last year. This year, I was just striving for the best. I wanted to get the gold.”
During the season, Ingleton set 19 team records, including touchdowns in a game (six), rushing yards in a career (3,518) and career touchdowns (49). He also set the county record for rushing yards in a season (2,193).
Ingleton said winning the trophy felt even better because he knew how much he had helped Sequoyah throughout the season, as the Chiefs reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2008. It was also the first time Ingleton, who has played football since the fourth grade, was a part of a winning team.
“I had never, ever been part of a winning team,” he said. “It was really a big accomplishment.”
Ingleton said it will be hard to leave his teammates, and he wishes they could have accomplished even more together.
“I’ve been playing with most of these guys since fourth grade — my first year playing football,” said Ingleton, who is undecided on his college plans. “I just hope (the team) does its best and takes that 7-3 (record) and goes out and actually wins state, something I was never able to do.”
Creekview quarterback Hayden Hall was named the Offensive Player of the Year, while Co-Defensive Players of the Year were named — Etowah’s Michael McCauley and Woodstock’s Trey Alexander, who announced his commitment to Air Force at the banquet.
McCauley was also named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Retiring Creekview coach Al Morrell, who coached the Grizzlies since their inception in 2005, took home the Coach of the Year honors.
Receiving the special teams Player of the Year awards were Etowah kicker Ryan Hopper, River Ridge punter Austin Bennett and Woodstock returner Max Keeton.
Also receiving offensive Player of the Year awards were linemen Shawn Smith (River Ridge) and Curtis Collins (Sequoyah), receiver Hunter Udall (Creekview), quarterback Spencer Ashley (Cherokee) and offensive back Stuart Glassic (Sequoyah).
Receiving defensive Player of the Year awards were linemen Tunde Ayinla (Cherokee) and Austin Weaver (Creekview), linebacker Ray Stephenson (River Ridge) and defensive backs Chris Robinson (River Ridge) and Ben Rowell (Etowah).
After hearing from keynote speaker David Dean, the football coach NCAA Division II champion at Valdosta State, and witnessing the induction of six new members into the Gridiron Club’s hall of fame, the awards presentation began by recognizing the county’s top academic team, comprised entirely of seniors.
Ayinla and Nick Ragsdale were named from Cherokee. Hall, Xander Ping and Jonathon Russell represented Creekview, while Austin Franzen and Brain Clark were honored from Etowah. Michael Agar and Will Redding from River Ridge were honored along with Sequoyah’s Logan Honea and Dalton Anderson. Trey Alexander and Matt Johnson were the honorees from Woodstock.
The top academic prize — the Glynda O’Brien Academic Scholarship, named after the wife of former Woodstock coach Mike O’Brien — was presented to McCauley, who came away with a Kindle in addition to a trophy and scholarship.
Gridiron Club officials said it was the first time in the banquet’s nine-year history that a player of the year was also named the scholar of the year.
The all-county teams, as voted on by the coaches, were also announced.
On offense were quarterbacks Lex Lauletta (Sequoyah) and Alex Motsinger (Woodstock); running backs Brandon Engle (Etowah), Chandler Wold (Creekview) and E.J. Ellis (River Ridge); wide receivers Armony Parker (Cherokee), Frank Ibar (Sequoyah) and Connor Dulmage (Creekview); tight ends Trey Peppers (Creekview) and Bryce Coroi (Etowah); and linemen Austin Brown (Sequoyah), Alex Miroshkin (River Ridge), Blake Jacobs (Woodstock), Jakob Hassan (Etowah), Nick Searcy (Etowah) and Michael Shaw (Creekview).
Making the all-county team for the defense were linemen Colin Dozier (Sequoyah), Ragsdale and Maverick Rechsteiner (Etowah); linebackers Christopher Riddle (Sequoyah), Peter Rohan (Sequoyah), Talley Redmond (Cherokee), Trent Gilleland (Creekview), Zach Henson (Creekview), Nick Falco (Sequoyah) and Michael Bean (Cherokee); defensive backs Joey Noll (Creekview), Chris Mowery (Woodstock), Ayden Bonilla (Etowah), Steven Spears (River Ridge) and Brady Sandercock (Cherokee); and athlete Vince Njoku (River Ridge).
Iron Will (comeback player of the year) and Iron Man (top performing player in workouts) award winners were named from each team. The Iron Will players were Redmond, Brandon Wright (Creekview), John Oliver (Etowah), Tyler Keeney (River Ridge), Trenton Dorner (Sequoyah) and Foster Green (Woodstock). The Iron Man players were Ayinla, Weaver, Stanlee Logue (Etowah), Terrell, Ingleton and Keeton.
An assistant coach from each team was also honored. Those recognized as Ray Face Coaches of the Year were Stephen Jackson (Cherokee), Jeff Nelson (Creekview), Rodney Hunter (Etowah), Keith Manus (River Ridge), Jeremy Law (Sequoyah) and Cory Nix (Woodstock).
Face, who died of liver cancer in 2008, was an assistant to former Sequoyah coach Sid Maxwell.
All of the evening’s award-winners were given $500 scholarships to use toward attending Reinhardt University.