Last year, Everett wide receiver Matt Costello was the inaugural recipient of the ESPNBoston Mr. Football Award, annually given to the top high school football player in Massachusetts.
It was a unanimous decision for the Princeton freshman, who also took home the state's Gatorade Player of the Year honors. But with the wealth of quality quarterbacks and running backs this season, this year's field appears to be much more wide open.
Check back with us each Monday leading up to the announcement on December 5, as we track the players in the running across the state. Below is our initial list of 15 players to watch for the award:
(Note: The award is not eligible to players in their fifth year of high school)
PRESTON COOPER, Sr. RB, BC High
The ESPN Boston preseason All-State selection will be looking to lead the Eagles back to the top of the Catholic Conference. Cooper ran for more than 1,500 yards last season.
GEORGE CRAAN, Sr. RB, Concord-Carlisle
The Dual Country League Small 2010 Player of the Year is coming off a 1,914-yard rushing performance. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound back also led Division 2A with 24 touchdowns and will be a major factor in the Patriots’ quest for another Super Bowl appearance this year.
CASEY DeANDRADE, Sr. ATH, East Bridgewater
DeAndrade is a true triple threat for the Vikings at running back, defensive back and kick returner. He racked up over 1,000 offensive yards with 750 rushing yards. DeAndrade scored 23 total touchdowns last season with four defensive touchdowns on his nine interceptions. For his career, DeAndrade has accumulated over 2,000 yards of offense with 14 interceptions.
JONATHAN DiBIASO, Sr. QB, Everett
The coach’s son had a junior year for the ages, throwing for a state-record 43 touchdown passes to just four interceptions and accumulating 2,885 yards. What’s next? With 59 career scoring strikes, another monster season could put him atop the all-time record books (Brockton’s Tom Colombo holds the record at 85).
TIM JOY, Sr. LB, Chelmsford
The Boston College-bound, two-time Merrimack Valley Conference All-Star made a name for himself as one of the state’s best defensive players, racking up 131 tackles from his middle linebacker position, including 13 for losses and adding three interceptions.
NICK LaSPADA, Sr. QB/S, Billerica
In his swan song at Billerica, where he’s assured every school record when all is said and done, LaSpada is looking to lead the Indians back to the playoffs after a 5-6 campaign. The 2009 Mass. Gatorade Player of the Year has over 9,300 yards of offense for his career; last season, he totaled 3,802 yards and 40 scores.
SACOY MALONE, Sr. RB, Springfield Central
The Golden Eagles didn’t have quite enough to knock off perennial power Longmeadow in Western Mass. last season, but Malone was a big reason for the Golden Eagles’ Super Bowl berth. Malone has average over six yards per carry for his career and posted a 1,200-yard rushing performance with 16 touchdowns.
MATT MONTALTO, Sr. QB, Dennis-Yarmouth
In the Dolphins’ historic 2010 campaign, Montalto threw for over 1,300 yards and 22 touchdowns to just four interceptions, while adding 1,123 yards and 15 more scores on the ground. He could be in for an even bigger campaign this fall.
PAUL MROZ, Sr. QB, Brockton
After a junior season that hinted at promise, the 6-foot-1 senior could be in for a big 2011. A season ago, he threw for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns; on the ground, he ran for another eight scores and averaged nearly seven yards per carry.
T.J. NORRIS, Sr. RB, Longmeadow
As the Lancers gun for their 11th Super Bowl title in the last 15 seasons, Norris will again be the feature back in coach Alex Rotsko’s Wing-T offense. Norris eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau despite missing the final two games of the season while racking up 1,148 yards and 14 touchdowns.
ARMANI REEVES, Sr. ATH, Catholic Memorial
The Knights plan on using the Penn-State bound scatback and his 4.4 speed in every conceivable fashion in their quest for the Catholic Conference title. He racked up over 1,250 all-purpose yards and scored 16 touchdowns in four different ways – rushing, receiving and returning both punts and kicks.
NICK SCHLATZ, Sr. RB/LB, Bridgewater-Raynham
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound was an Old Colony League All-Star in both football and track and field and is about as good a two-way player as you’ll find in the state. Schlatz ran for 1,300 yards last season with 18 touchdowns and was a key cog to the Trojans’ defense that led the team to its second straight Eastern Mass Division 1A Super Bowl appearance.
KARL SERY, Sr. RB/CB, Hudson
After leading a rapid turnaround a year ago, the Bryant-bound Sery has the Hawks in Super Bowl conversation again. Last year he ran for 1,430 yards and 18 touchdowns, and added 32 tackles and three interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.
BRANDON WALSH, Sr. QB, North Andover
Walsh’s remarkable interception-free streak came to an end at the most inopportune times, but that shouldn’t tarnish a spectacular junior season. He threw for 1,525 yards and 23 touchdowns while adding another 695 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground while leading the Knights to a Division 2A playoff appearance.
MIKE WALSH, Sr. QB/S, Swampscott
After playing most of last season just on the offensive side of the ball, Walsh, who’s commited to playing safety at Brown, will hold down duties on both sides of the ball this year. The Northeast Conference’s 2010 Offensive MVP combined to put up over 3,000 yards of offense last year.