National POY Watch: Football contenders

Everybody knows a guy’s gotta win his own state first before he gets a shot at being Gatorade National Football Player of the Year. That said, two elite performers to this point in the season are among those making a bid to be honored as the best of the best once the calendar turns to December. The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. There’s plenty more work to be done, but here are two top candidates who remain in contention to win their own state and could someday call themselves a National POY.

Noah Spence

Senior defensive end/tight end, Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.)

2011 Team record: 7-2

2011 Team standing: Class AAA district tournament scheduled to begin on Nov. 11

2011 Tackles: 50

2011 Sacks: 7

2011 Catches-YDs (avg.)-TDs: 3-30 (10.0)-1

2011 Team carries-YDs (avg.): 288-1,467 (5.1)

2011 Team passes-YDs (avg.): 208-1,887 (9.1)

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

Additional considerations: Anchors a defense that allows just 11.0 points per game and an offense that scores 30.0 points per game. No. 4 ranked recruit in Class of 2012 as ranked by ESPNU. 2012 Under Armour All-America Game selection. 2011 Class AAA First Team All-State selection as named by the Pennsylvania Sportswriters. Led the Crusaders (13-3) to the 2010 Class AAA state championship game. Recorded 101 tackles, 34 tackles for losses, 22 sacks, nine forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries as a junior.

Dorial Green-Beckham

Senior wide receiver, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)

2011 Team record: 10-1

2011 Team standing: Class 4 second round vs. Union (11-0) on Nov. 7

2011 Catches-YDs (avg.)-TDs: 104-2,049 (19.7)-23

2011 Carries-YDs (avg.)-TDs: 3-58 (19.3)-1

Academics: B average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

How he’s played himself into the National POY conversation: Owns national prep career receiving yards record. Ranks No. 7 on the national Top-10 list for receiving yards in a single season. 2010-11 Gatorade Missouri Football Player of the Year. 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection. No. 3 national recruit in Class of 2012 as ranked by ESPNU. Owns state records for single-season receiving yards, career receiving yards and career receiving touchdowns. Led Hornets (7-5) to second round of the 2010 Class 4 state tournament. Two-time Class 4 First Team All-State selection as named by the Missouri Football Coaches Association. 2009-10 Gatorade Missouri Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year races aren’t over yet, and the National POY race has just begun. Here are some other state contenders who’ve also entered the National POY conversation in this 2011 campaign.

Maty Mauk: Kenton (Ohio) senior quarterback

Keith Marshall: Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.) senior running back

Johnathan Gray: Aledo (Texas) senior running back

Jameis Winston: Hueytown (Ala.) senior quarterback

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State or National Player of the Year candidate? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com or Twitter @ESPNHS_GPOY.

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.

The Gatorade Player of the Year Program honors athletes who meet comprehensive and exacting criteria in high school sports. Candidates are judged on athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders also must demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNHS recruit rankings.