Simon Holcomb’s fantastic senior season a year ago earned the North Forsyth wide receiver FCN Offensive Player of the Year, but it did more than that.
The award had been stuck on the south half of the county for a while. South Forsyth had produced back-to-back winners in quarterback Davis Shanley and running back Tyler LaFlamme. Before that, West Forsyth had dominated the award, producing winners in Hampton McConnell, AJ Erdely and Jake Wieczorek in consecutive seasons.
The last player from North to win the award was Joey Vicary in 2010.
And it’s possible the Raiders could start a streak of offensive award-winners of their own.
Arguably no one returns as much offensive talent this upcoming season as North in quarterback Ben Bales, tight end Clayton Bardall, wide receivers Nicky Dalmolin and Charlie Aiken and running back Bryson Trigg. Plus, they have one of the county’s top offensive lineman in Jeremy James.
But Bales and company will have no shortage of contenders to deal with this upcoming season.
Here are five players I think could contend for Offensive Player of the Year this season:
Ben Bales, North Forsyth
The rising senior rewrote much of the school’s passing records last season when he threw for 2,005 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first season as a varsity starter. He proved he’s not afraid of the big moment either – example: his game-winning touchdown pass last season against Pickens County with 16.7 seconds left. With so much returning talent surrounding Bales and another year in head coach Robert Craft’s offensive system, expect his yards and touchdowns to go up.
Ben Bresnahan, West Forsyth
The rising senior tight end is no stranger to opponents after catching 88 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns the past two seasons. And the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder gained even more notoriety after verbally committing to Vanderbilt over the summer. He’s the most physical pass-catcher in the county with great hands. Maybe there’s some transition as the Wolverines switch offensive gears under first-year head coach Shawn Cahill, but Bresnahan is figures to be a focus of the system and is good enough to produce regardless.
Justin Bruno, Lambert
The rising senior running back was one of last season’s breakout stars when he provided the Longhorns with some much-needed stability in the backfield. Bruno led the team in all-purpose yards with 968 rushing and 151 receiving with 11 total touchdowns. His ability to contribute in the passing game makes him one of the more dangerous offensive threats in the county, and colleges are starting to take notice; Bruno is up to 22 scholarship offers at last count.
Jared Honey, South Forsyth
The War Eagles went through a nice stretch from 2013-15 of producing productive feature running backs, from Isaiah Williams to Tyler LaFlamme to Sam Outlaw. Last season saw more of a running back by committee method from South, and Honey contributed 413 yards and seven touchdowns along 251 receiving yards. At 6-feet and 215-pounds, Honey is a bowling ball of a runner who is scary to encounter in open space. My guess is he seizes the starting role and sees his production soar for the War Eagles.
Ryan Pontrelli, South Forsyth
Here was another of the county’s breakout stars last season. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound wide receiver was the War Eagles’ most dependable pass-catcher a year ago with 60 receptions for 775 yards and five touchdowns, and he produced no matter who was South’s quarterback – whether it was Shanley or sophomore Drew Morris after a back injury ended Shanley’s season early. Pontrelli might have another new quarterback throwing to him again this season in Drew’s older brother, Cal, but that shouldn’t stop Pontrelli from having another big season.
Others to watch: Clayton Bardall, North Forsyth; Ze’Vian Capers, South Forsyth; Mark Heard, Forsyth Central; Bryce Jones, West Forsyth; Bryson Trigg, North Forsyth
Brian Paglia is sports editor at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 770-205-8976 or follow him on Twitter at @BrianPaglia.