Popularity contest: Readers' choice high school football favorites rack up votes
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
12/12/12 at 5:44 AM
Related Story: Athlete of the Week winners
Football is more than a popularity contest, but it sometimes matters who you know - and who wants you to succeed.
Take the 2012 winners in the Tulsa World's balloting for the readers' choice high school athlete of the week award.
None would have been recognized as prominently for their rare athletic achievements without widespread fan support in the online voting.
"Our town just gets behind our players," Adair senior quarterback Brady Bradbury said. "They would have done the same thing if our running back (Zak Woolman) had been nominated. They're good people."
Bradbury won the readers' choice award in successive weeks with huge playoff performances against Okemah and Davis. In those two weeks, he accumulated 6,288 votes, finishing fourth in balloting over the course of the season. What made him so popular?
"Brady does not care who gets the credit," Adair football coach Mark Lippe said. "The most important thing to him is the success of his teammates, more than himself. When you're unselfish like that, it really draws people to you."
Voting was open on the Tulsa World website to anyone who wanted to punch a few keys. There was no limit to the number of times a person could vote, and some apparently voted a lot.
Stilger's Seth Sandlin won the Nov. 14 award and finished second in the 2012 overall tally with 7,614 votes in his two weeks up for the award. That means he received almost three times as many votes as there are people in his Haskell County community (population: 2,685).
"A lot of people were coming up to me and telling me how many times they had voted," the junior running back said. "The whole school helped me out - teachers, students and everybody around the community."
Liberty senior running back Coleton McDonald didn't win the weekly award, but he was nominated three times and finished fifth overall with 5,428 votes.
"He's a pretty popular guy around our school, and I'm sure that had something to do with it," Liberty head coach Earl Tennial said. "This is a small school, and it was big just for him to (receive the recognition)."
Small-school fans, especially those at the Class B (eight-man) level, tend to stick together, Wetumka coach Waylon Potts said. That may partly explain why Potts' junior tailback, Chase Williams, tallied a season-high 7,998 votes while winning readers' choice awards on Oct. 17 and 24.
"I think people from other Class B schools tend to support one another when they see you have a kid up for something like that," Potts said.
Williams broke a state record by scoring 11 touchdowns in a 92-46 win over Bowlegs on Oct. 18.
"A lot of people told me they were gonna vote for me," he said. "I was excited, because I never thought I would win an award like that."
In some cases, fans used the award to show their appreciation for an athlete who battled back from earlier setback to triumph in the end.
Holland Hall linebacker Bridge Craven missed his sophomore and junior seasons with injuries to the same knee, but came back as a senior to help lead the Dutchmen into the Southwest Preparatory Conference playoffs.
"My main motivation was from people telling me I couldn't do it," Craven said. "I rehabbed very hard in order to make the best of it in the year I had left."
Craven finished the year with 115 tackles, including 12 in a 41-40 win over Dallas St. Marks that lifted the Dutchmen into the playoffs. He also returned a key interception for a score.
Holland Hall fans responded with 6,529 votes in his only week up for the award, good enough to finish third in the overall voting.
"I guess my story is attractive to people, because it proves through hard work and dedication, anything is possible," he said.
Tulsa World players of the week: The readers' choice top vote-getters
Junior running back/defensive back set a state record by scoring 11 TDs in a 92-46 win over Bowlegs on Oct. 18. Won the readers' choice awards for Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, totaling more than 400 all-purpose yards each week. Scored 41 TDs in 2012, helping lead Chieftains (11-1) to Class B quarterfinals.
Up for the award twice, junior running back/defensive back won on Nov. 14 after totaling 324 all-purpose yards and three scores in a 55-28 playoff win over Jay. Rushed for 1,188 yards, despite being slowed by a high-ankle sprain for roughly half the season.
Earned all his votes in his only week up for the award, winning on Oct. 31. Totaled 13 tackles and scored on a key interception return in 41-40 win over Dallas Episcopal, lifting the Dutchmen into the Southwest Preparatory Conference playoffs. Tallied 112 tackles in his senior season.
Senior quarterback won the Nov. 21 award after accounting for 318 yards and four TDs in a playoff win over Okemah. Won again the next week by accounting for 487 yards and five TDs in 34-33 quarterfinal loss to Davis. Ran and passed for 40 TDs in 2012, helping lead Warriors to a 12-1 finish.
READERS CHOICE TOP VOTE-GETTERS, 5-10
5. Coleton McDonald
Up for the award three times with huge harvests in Weeks 3, 4 and 6. Biggest game for the senior running back came in a 57-56 loss to Summit Christian when he totaled 560 yards and seven TDs. For the season, he rushed for 2,257 yards and scored 35 TDs.
6. T.K. Francis
Up for the award in Week 9 when he threw for 563 yards and accounted for nine scores in a 70-68 win over Timberlake. Senior quarterback threw for 3,007 yards and 40 TDs, helping Class C Chieftains average 54.9 points per game.
7. Blake Bohner
Switched from fullback to tailback and won in Week 4 after rushing for 388 yards and seven TDs in a 46-38 win over Barsndall. Rushed for 2,297 yards as a senior and tallied 115 tackles in double duty as a linebacker.
8. Carson Smallwood
Senior running back/linebacker was up for the award in Weeks 5 and 6. Had a season-best 382 rushing yards and intercepted a pass in a 44-14 win over Grove. Led the Tigers in rushing (1,456) and total TDs (26) and was second in tackles (67).
9. Calan Crowder
Up for the award in Week 4 when he scored as time expired in a 44-42 win over Enid by somersaulting into the end zone with a short pass. The senior tailback rushed for 211 yards in the same game and totaled 1,503 yards for the season.
10. Cameron Gilbert
Sophomore quarterback won in Week 6 after throwing for 527 yards and six TDs in a 58-51 win over Porter. Also accounted for five 2-point conversions. For the season, threw for 2,609 yards and 30 TDs.
How the process worked
Based on coaches' nominations, a maximum of eight players per week were placed in the running for that week's staff and readers' choice awards.
People were allowed to vote as often as they could manually vote online. The athlete who accumulated the most votes in a given week won that week's readers' choice award. The staff award was chosen from the week's remaining pool of nominees.
Seventy-four athletes were placed in nomination at least once during the season. An athlete accumulated votes each time he was nominated.
Original Print Headline: Popularity contest
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Liberty running back Coleton McDonald (left), pictured in October with running backs coach Courtney Tennial, didn't win the weekly award, but he was nominated three times and finished fifth overall with 5,428 votes. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World file