With the 2008 Arkansas High School football season now complete, it is time for a little recognition for a few people who stood out in the season. With that being said, we would like to announce the ArkansasVarsity.com Coach of the Year and the ArkansasVarsity.com Player of the Year!
Coach of the Year
The 2008 ArkansasVarsity.com Coach of the Year is none other that Coach Kevin Kelley from Pulaski Academy.
Coach Kelley's offensive philosophy is one that is a bit odd to some people, but it is a philosophy that works, as he led his team to the Class 5A State Championship and to a final record of 13-1.
Coach Kelley explained his philosophy to ArkansasVarsity.com a few nights after winning the State Championship.
"When you decide not to punt on fourth down, it is a philosophy where you have to think about the entire game." said Kelley "When you run this type of offense, it changes your offensive philosophy, but at the same time, it changes the opposing defenses philosophy as well. A lot of times in games, the defense will stop a team on third down, and know they got the ball back, against us, they have to stop us on fourth down as well, so that changes how the defense has to think in the game."
"To us, a 3rd and 7 is like 2nd and 7 to a normal team because we are not worried about getting the first down all in one play." said Kelley "We want to move the ball, and if we get the first down, then great, but if not, we will go for it on fourth down and try to pick it up there. It makes defenses have to prepare differently as well. Plus the mindset it gives your offense after converting on fourth down is almost like when your team creates a turnover, it pumps your team up while deflating the opponent at the same time."
"It also takes pressure off of your offense on third down, and we condition our kids not to be under pressure on fourth down, so it takes a bit off of our players as well by them not having to worry about converting on third down." said Kelley "If we condition our kids to not feel pressure by going for it on fourth down, and they see that they can convert throughout the year, then it takes the pressure off of them, and puts it on the defense when we go for it on fourth down. It changes the defenses thought process, it changes their game plan, and it makes them act a little bit differently, so all of those things go into this philosophy.
For more of the interview with Coach Kelley, Click Here.
Player of the Year
The 2008 ArkansasVarsity.com Player of the Year goes to Darius Winston of the Helena West Helena Cougars.
Winston is a 5 Star prospect who is committed to play for the University of Arkansas, who is 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and runs a 4.4 forty. Winston picked up 47 tackles, 12 blocked punts, 8 interceptions, and 2 touchdowns in his senior season for the Cougars.
Some of Winston's attributes are listed below, courtesy of Rivals.com Recruiting Expert Barton Simmons
"His body stays low in everything he does." said Simmons "He has great instincts. Both times he got his hands on the ball, he had drifted off of the man he was covering. Uses his hands extremely well. Has phenomenal feet and he wants to be challenged. He is not natural catching the ball, though he is recovering from a broken pinkie that may limit his ball skills slightly."
Winston was selected to play in the Army All American bowl as well. He is the first player ever from Helena to receive this honor according to Helena West Helena Coach Kevin Smith, in a article written by HawgSports.com Recruiting Anaylists Otis Kirk.
"This is the first time in school history a player of ours was selected to play in this U.S. Army All-American Game," Smith said. "Darius has made great strides since junior high. He has great coverage skills, great speed and right now he's one of the best players in the nation. That's something to be honored for. I thank God for helping him."
Winston is without a doubt a young man who many Arkansans will be keeping their eyes on over the next 4 years. It is also a name we all should be hearing a lot during that same time period.