A year ago, Natrona County (Casper, WY) quarterback Jim Shellenberger ran and threw his way to a state championship and the Gatorade Wyoming Football Player of the Year Award. This year, however, it would be an upset if the honor went to anyone but a running back.
Ball carriers Jordan Roberts of Sheridan (Sheridan, WY) and Matt Eddington of Evanston (Evanston, WY) were strong candidates for last year's Gatorade honor and were two of just three underclassmen to earn First Team All-State honors in Class 4A (Eddington's teammate, defensive tackle Austin Wiggins, is the third).
Roberts ran for 1,357 yards for Campbell County (Gillette, WY) in 2010, but transferred to rival Sheridan for his senior season. Eddington picked up 1,229 yards and 13 TDs as a junior. Both have started the 2011 season strong -- but they've already got some imposing company.
Cheyenne East (Cheyenne, WY) senior Jeremy Woods was actually Class 4A's top rusher in 2010 (1,506 yards), and through four games he leads all classes in rushing (128-951-7.4) and all-purpose offense (1,184 yards).
Campbell County's Nick Bazemore ran for over 600 yards playing behind Roberts a year ago and has exploded as the main back this year, rushing for 708 yards on 77 carries, and leading the Camels to a 4-0 start.
Roberts has the highest yards-per-carry average (9.5) of the four backs, picking up 806 yards on 85 carries, and he leads all classes with 12 TDs. Eddington, also a fine defensive player, has run for 674 yards and 10 TDs on 100 attempts.
Dominant running backs aren't only prevalent in the state's largest class. In Class 2A, Troy Pinkerton has led Glenrock (Glenrock, WY) to a 3-0 start with 597 yards on 54 carries (11.1 avg).
A dedicated POY team at ESPNHS manages the Gatorade Player of the Year program selection process and oversees all research, reporting, comparative analysis and criteria-compliance on the award program’s behalf. Candidates are judged upon athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders must also demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Any class year is eligible, senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNU's recruit rankings.
To nominate a student-athlete for Player of the Year honors, contact the POY team at firstname.lastname@example.org.