RATIONALE: Media folks employ all manner of litmus tests to determining these kind of awards. Some of us pick the most noteworthy name, or the recruit of greatest renown. The historic prestige factor, If you will. Some of us pick the dude with the best numbers. Others tab the best guy on the best team. My method has always been to trust my eyes and hope I am right. Simple question: who is the best football player, period. Regardless of position, hype, team success, what have you. Not that I have always succeeded in honoring this directive. It took me years of doing this (dating back to my Jeff City TV days, honestly) before I finally felt like I had my imaginary bars and hurdles built against which candidates would rise and fall. In that spirit, I can tell you with great conviction that I picked the very best football player I saw this year for this award. Without consult and without public vote. Not that there weren’t other worthy candidates in the mix or that my pick alone is right and all others are wrong. What I can tell you with absolute certainty is that I saw everyone in the mix in person on multiple occasions and in video Lord knows how many times now. And that I can tell you with absolutely not one lick of self-doubt that Peyton Plunkett was the very best kid I saw. I asserted that at the beginning of this season, before the first official snap. And I’ve held that opinion without wavering ever since even as I tried to foment every argument I could to prove myself wrong. For three months. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I asked myself in compare to Peyton but what about (fill-in the blank here) and his wonderful season? I could never find traction. The closest I got was getting to play direct comparo the night Peyton Plunkett and Cole Pennewell waged war head-to-head at Lankford Field. Two All State Linebackers and terrific fullbacks who essentially made that contest a game within a game with the way they attacked each other. And if you love football; old-school, black and blue warrior football, you didn’t see anything better this year than that specific head to head. And even though Monroe City walked off with the victory, I kept fixated on specific post-game thought: as good as he is (and man is he good) Monroe City is still a tremendous football team without Pennewell. There’s a lot of other bar-moving talents on that roster, both sides of the ball. Palmyra minus Plunkett? I can’t even fathom that scenario because he is everything, all the time particularly to that defense. A staggering 146 tackles. An even more staggering 30 stops for loss, more than two dozen more TFL’s than anyone else in Tri-State Football. And don’t think for one moment I don’t hear what you are thinking: come on Duerr, no on puts up those kind of tackle stats. Peyton’s girlfriend must be on the books. Inflated. Watch the kid play and you know that isn’t the case. He’s the most singularly dominant defensive force in Tri-State Football and even the most casual fan knows how often he flashes across the highlights and how often he gets his name called over the PA system. That’s he’s also a near 1500 yard rusher and 18 touchdown scorer in his lesser-football guise? That’s a pretty solid indictment of a kid who brings it every single play, every single night. But let me take this a step even further, vis-à-vis your Clarence Cannon Conference Defensive POY and consensus All-Stater. That night Jarom Alexander blew up as a Tailback and Palmyra swarmed to victory against Centralia? That was the best evening of lead blocking I’ve seen from a Fullback in heaven knows when. Kevin Miles decided he wanted to be an I-Formation team and in the blink of an eye, Peyton Plunkett was suddenly the best battering ram in Tri-State Football in a decade. That piece of film is just so incredibly telling because Centralia’s defense was pretty good. Yet not a one of those kids could get of Plunkett’s blocks. He’s the total package. And to my mind, that means something. You can agree. You can disagree. But the one think you can’t deny is that Peyton Plunkett is one helluva football player and overall athlete. And this year, he’s also your 2017 Football Player of the Year, the highest award we bestow.

Runner Up: COLE PENNEWELL, LB/FB, Monroe City


Past Winners:

2016: Brodie Dunker, Unity/Payson

2015: Matt Frankenbach, Palmyra

2014: Trace Windsor, South Shelby

2013: Jordan Chapel, Quincy Notre Dame

2012: Derrek Schone, Concord Triopia

2011: Chris Jackson, Macomb

2010: Ser Whitaker, Illini West

2009: Michael Lafferty, Illini West

2008: Javis Vineyard, Clark County

2007: James Vandenberg, Keokuk

2006: Andrew Bergeson, Hannibal

2005: Tony Hall, South Shelby

2004: Trevor Frericks, Quincy Notre Dame

2003: Cliff Bumgarner, Concord Triopia

2002: Cody Grotts, Carthage

2001: Jensen Jones, West Prairie/LaHarpe

2000: Wyatt Green, Carthage

1999: Matt Paris, Monroe City

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