When area football fans recall the 2009 high school season, their memories may linger on the many big plays and exciting performances by several top-tier running backs.
While seven running backs earned spots on the Associated Press Northeast Lakes All-District first teams, two were given the top honor in their divisions — Avon Lake senior Mike Mansnerus was named the Division II offensive player of the year, and Clearview senior Anthony Hitchens was named the Division IV offensive co-player of the year.
Earning the player of the year distinction also will land the duo on the All-Ohio first team.
“I didn’t say anything to anybody before the season because I didn’t want to overdo it, but that was my main goal this year,” Hitchens said. “Not many players get to be an All-Ohio first-teamer two years in a row, and that’s something I really wanted to do.”
For Mansnerus, it was simply the desire to upgrade.
“I made it my goal to get on the All-Ohio first team this season because I was on the second team last year,” he said. “So this definitely means a lot.”
The other area running backs that earned district first-team selections were Midview’s Josiah Holt in Division II, Firelands’ Nick Deichler in Division III, Elyria Catholic’s Alex Alicea, Keystone’s Corry Sprouse in Division IV and Oberlin’s Aaron James in Division V.
Hitchens put together one of the best two-season runs in Lorain County history. He followed up his blockbuster junior year by rushing 207 times for 1,428 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns this season. He also had 12 catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns, passed for a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a score.
“We have a lot of good players and coaches that helped push me to be great,” said Hitchens, who was also the Clippers’ top defender. “Winning this award has a lot to do with them, and it also makes me feel proud of the work I’ve done during my career.”
It’s a career that’s far from over. Hitchens has been noticed nationally by some of the top college football programs, and said he’s trimmed his list down to three — Indiana, Iowa and Kansas.
“I will probably go on my official visits sometime this month,” he said. “It’s going to be very exciting playing in front of so many people. I love this game, and I want to play for as long as I can.”
Mansnerus hasn’t even decided whether he’ll play football on the next level, and plans to use the next two weeks to think about his future.
Mansnerus certainly put up numbers that should have some college coaches looking his way. He rushed for 1,487 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, bringing his career total to 3,200 yards — the bulk of which were earned the past two seasons.
A pair of teammates will play college ball — tackle Christian Pace is headed to Michigan, and tight end Dan Schneider is going to Pitt — and were among seven Shoremen that landed on the all-district list. It wasn’t surprising, as Avon Lake was one of two area schools to qualify for the playoffs, and the only one to win a postseason game.
“It just goes to show that our success wasn’t just about one or two players,” Mansnerus said. “My teammates have helped a lot in me earning the player of the year award, and it’s nice to see many of them getting recognition for that.
“These awards also help ease the disappointment of our season getting cut shorter than we had hoped.”
Several other notable area athletes earned district first-team selections.
In Division I, Elyria tackle Isaiah Byler (who will play at Bowling Green) and North Olmsted tackle Matt Rotheram (Pitt) were first-teamers. Center Alex Lovasz — from North Ridgeville, the other area team that made it to the playoffs, was picked in Division II, and Elyria Catholic’s Josh Russ (Cincinnati) was named in Division IV.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.