Eye on POY: North Carolina 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.

Riley Ferguson

Junior quarterback, Butler (Matthews, N.C.)

2011 Team record: 11-1

2011 Team standing: Class 4A sectional round vs. Page on Friday

2011 COMP-ATT (%)-YDs: 168-246 (68.3)-3,002

2011 TDs-INTs: 45-6

Academics: B average

Collegiate destination: HS Junior

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Leads an offense that averages 47.6 points per game. Averages 12.2 yards per attempt. Owns a 226.29 NCAA Pass Efficiency Rating. Class of 2013 ESPNU 150 Watch List selection. 2011 First Team All-State preseason selection as named by ESPNHS. 2009 and 2010 Class 4AA state champion.

Keith Marshall

Senior running back, Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.)

2011 Team record: 6-6

2011 Team standing: lost Class 4A first round to Wake Forest-Rolesville, 31-0

2011 Carries-YDs (AVG.)-TDs: 245-1,848 (7.5)-24

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: Undecided

How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Averaged 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns per game. No. 6 ranked recruit in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNU. 2012 Under Armour All-America Game selection 2011 First Team All-State selection as named by ESPNHS. 2011 Preseason Player of the Year as named by NCPreps.com.

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.

D.J. Humphries: Mallard Creek (Charlotte, N.C.) senior offensive tackle

Jonathan Bullard: Crest (Shelby, N.C.) senior defensive end

Carlos Watkins: Chase (Forest City, N.C.) senior defensive tackle

Todd Gurley: Tarboro (N.C.) senior athlete

Mark Harrell: Charlotte Catholic (Charlotte, N.C.) senior offensive tackle

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.