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Eye on POY: Nebraska football

The window on the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year race is closing, and time is running out for student-athletes to state their POY case. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program's selection process.

Tavarius Bender

Senior quarterback, Lincoln Southwest (Lincoln, Neb.)

2011 Team record: 9-2

2011 Team standing: lost Class A state quarterfinal to Papillion-La Vista, 40-34

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 41-79 (51.9)-906

2011 TDs-INTs: 8-5

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 69-564 (8.2)-10

Academics: B-plus average

Collegiate destination: Kansas State University (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Led an offense that scored 36.1 points per game. Averaged 9.9 yards per touch. Booted 18 punts for an average of 41.4 yards. No. 55 ranked QB in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNU. 2010 Class A Honorable Mention All-State selection as named by The Lincoln Journal-Star and Omaha World-Herald.

Drew Ott

Senior tight end/defensive end, Giltner (Neb.)

2011 Team record: 10-1

2011 Team standing: lost Class D2 state quarterfinal to Howells, 26-20

2011 Catches-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 48-881 (18.4)-18 [through 10 games]

2011 Team rushing yards (YDs per carry): 1,503 (7.1)

2011 Team passing yards (YDS per attempt): 2,612 (12.8)

2011 Tackles: 104

2011 Tackles for loss: 16

2011 Sacks: 3

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: University of Iowa (verbal)

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: No. 160 ranked DE in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNU. Averaged 9.3 yards per touch. Led an offense that scored 65.2 points per game. Anchored a defense that allowed just 84.4 passing yards and 67.7 rushing yards per game. 2010 Class D2 First Team All-State selection as named by The Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald. 2009 Class D1 First Team All-State selection as named by The Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Football Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011 campaign.

Mike Shoff: Cambridge (Sutton, Neb.) senior offensive tackle

Isaac Aakre: Millard North (Omaha, Neb.) junior quarterback

Hunter Greer: Burke (Omaha, Neb.) offensive tackle

Derek McGinnis: Crete (Neb.) senior quarterback

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