The best high school football players in the County Stark area in the first half

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The last five weeks have provided players across the region with a stage where they can show off their talents.

There were a lot of players who took advantage of this opportunity. The Stark County region was blessed with a sensational performance just in the first half of the season.

However, the consistent performance of some players stood out even more than others. While there is still plenty of football to play, the midpoint of the regular season is a good time to watch who stands out in 2021.

And so, here’s a look at who the top 20 players in the Stark Zone have been over the first five weeks.

1. Austin Brawley, WR / DB, Massillon

Brawley has been, in many ways, the Tigers’ jack of all trades. Name a game this season, and there’s a good chance he made some sort of game that left fans speechless. A week is a big hit or an interception return for a touchdown. Another week, it’s a touchdown on a kickoff or a punt return. And last week he added a diving touchdown while carrying a St. Edward defensive back on his back. His 124 receiving yards are the team’s second, as he averages 34.7 yards on a kickoff return and 18.5 yards on a punt return. He also blocked three kicks, forced a fumble and leads the Tigers in tackles.

2. Harold Fannin Jr., WR / DB, McKinley

Fannin has been the Bulldogs’ most consistent and explosive player this season. He became McKinley’s go-to receiver on offense, while continuing to play at a high-level defensive level. He was also a threat in special teams when teams kicked him. In five games, he caught 19 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one, as he was third in total tackles.

3. Willtrell Hartson, RB, Massillon

An injury took him early in the Tigers’ Week 5 loss to St. Edward. When Hartson is on the pitch, however, he’s a special talent. In five games, he racked up 741 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. He’s had running nights of over 200 straight yards, including one against Reynoldsburg with Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford in the stadium watching him.

4. Trevor Van Horn, QB, green

The trigger for the Bulldogs’ high octane offense. Van Horn can obviously throw him in the yard, but he’s also that plus-1 that no one likes to see: a quarterback who can run too. In five games, he completed 85 of 138 passes for 1,070 yards with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He added 384 rushing yards and seven scores in 68 carries.

5. Brenden Craig, RB, Jackson

You better get your hands on him or he’s gone when he gets his hands on the ball. Craig abused opposing defenses’ rushing yards per game average with his performances. That includes a 295-yard, six TD performance in Week 5 against Perry. For the season, Craig is sitting at 765 yards and 10 touchdowns on 100 carries.

6. Hunter Geissinger, QB, Jackson

The other half of the polar bears rushing punch can throw it as well. But make no mistake, the defenses spend a lot of time during the week preparing for Geissinger’s run as much as they do when he dies. In five games, the senior completed 40 of 75 passes for 657 yards with six touchdowns and, most impressively, a zero in the interception column. As for that run, he gained 383 yards and seven touchdowns on 61 carries, averaging 6.3.

7. Logan Brady, LB, Lac

One of the main reasons the Blue Streaks hit midpoint with a zero in the loss column. Brady contributed significantly to the offense, rushing for 169 yards and three touchdowns. However, his biggest impact has been on the defensive end. He’s the top tackle, at 33, on a Lake defensive unit that has yet to allow more than seven points per game. He also has five tackles for a loss, a sack and a blocked kick.

8. Drew Logan, DL, Hoover

The great defensive lineman anchored a defense for the Vikings that helped him recover from a 1-2 start to win his last two games. With Logan exerting pressure along the line of scrimmage, Hoover shut out each of his last two opponents, Louisville and GlenOak. He managed to reach the quarterback with pressure, registering six sacks this season, while getting his hands on a pass from the quarterback, also intercepting a pass.

9. Hunter Campbell, RB, Fairless

Arguably Campbell has fully recovered from the knee injury that hampered his junior season. It has been evident from the Falcons’ 5-0 start that the senior running back has been one of the most dynamic players on the pitch. Campbell has run for 646 yards and 10 touchdowns on 90 carries this season. But that’s not all. He also returned three kicks for an average of 50 yards, taking two of them for scores.

10. Jack “Poochie” Snyder, QB, Canton Sud

The sophomore has made huge strides since taking the reins in first year a year ago. It wasn’t just the raw numbers, which were spectacular with over 1,000 passing yards and double-digit touchdown totals. This is how Snyder was able to play with his legs, and not just straight running games. His ability to keep games alive has allowed him to retain potential overtaking chances as well, which he has capitalized on well.

11. Mason Tucci, WR / DB, Sandy Valley

One thing Tucci is really, really good at is getting your hands on football. It doesn’t matter which side of football he plays on. When he’s wide receiver, Tucci is tracked down by his quarterback at nearly 30 receptions and over 500 yards with nine touchdowns. However, it’s when he’s on defense that his hands are especially important. He had his fifth assist of the season in the Cardinals’ Week 5 win over Tusky Central Catholic, while also recovering a fumble.

12. Trey Martin, WR, green

If you’ve got a great quarterback with big numbers, he has to have someone to catch his passes. Law? This is where Martin comes in for the Bulldogs. Martin has caught 22 passes for 441 yards and nine touchdowns this season. On top of that, he averaged 29.8 yards on four kickoff returns, one of which he mistook for a score.

13. Brody Pumneo, WR, Fairless

If it hadn’t been for Hunter Campbell, Pumneo might just be the Falcons’ most explosive player. Even with his talented teammate still in the picture, senior wide receiver Fairless has provided more than his share of big plays. He leads the team with 27 catches for 446 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 194 yards and three scores in just 12 carries. A 22-yard average on two kickoff returns and a 24-yard punt return show why teams don’t want to kick him either.

14. Zander Bugara, WR, Hoover

Bugara was the spark for the Vikings, whether on offense or as a special team. Although he had to introduce a new starting quarterback literally on game night, Hoover was able to count on Bugara to be there to provide him with safety cover. He’s caught 16 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns this season, which is 44% of the Vikings’ catches. Bugara also sheltered two kickoff returns averaging 34.8 yards on the eights he returned.

15. Ty Miller, WR / DB, Lac

A little of this, a little of that and a lot of success for his team. That pretty much sums up what Miller has done for the Blue Streaks this year. Offensively, he leads the team with 14 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, he is tied for the team lead with two interceptions while recovering a fumble. On special teams, he averaged 48 yards on two kickoff returns, including a touchdown, while averaging 5.3 yards on three punt returns.

16. Jack Talkington, QB, Central Catholic

Talkington has done his part to try and help the Crusaders win football games this season. Whether it was throwing the ball or running with it, he tried to put the attack on the back. For the season, Talkington completed 86 passes for 144 for 974 yards with six touchdowns and, perhaps the only negative statistic, seven interceptions. He also leads the ground team with 580 yards and eight touchdowns on 98 carries.

17. Stefan Monahan, OL, McKinley

There have been a lot of ups and downs over the past few months for the Bulldogs. One constant, however, once the season started was Monahan’s play. The first game of the season, he had to hold out against Brenan Vernon, hired by Mentor at Notre Dame. He has since done the same against all the other challengers. In doing so, he helped McKinley win his last three games to go 3-2 this season.

18. Marcus Moore, DL, Massillon

Statistics can’t tell the full story of the impact Moore had in defending the Tigers. In every game he has been in the center of the line of scrimmage and has often found his way into the attacking backfield as the game ends. He recorded a record of six tackles for a loss and a sack. Oh, he also managed to play a pass defense, breaking one pass and defending another.

19. Ben Holzopfel, LB, Jackson

A year ago Holzopfel was just a sophomore getting used to playing on Friday nights. Now it’s a fully trained polar bear demolition machine. Holzopfel has been all over football as part of a defense that helped Jackson start the season 5-0. No better example of this than the numbers he posted in the Polar Bears’ Week 5 win over Perry, where he recorded 11 tackles.

20. Samuel Thompson, RB / LB, Perry

The first half of the season has been difficult for the Panthers. Thompson, however, was one of the bright spots in Perry’s 1-4 start. He was strong and healthy on defense, including an interception and a fumble recovery. Meanwhile, on offense, he ran for 132 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries, while catching two passes for 23 yards and one scoring. He also averaged 34.8 yards on four kickoff returns.

Contact Chris at [email protected]

On Twitter: @ceasterlingINDE

Learn more about Stark County High School football by listening to our FridayNightOhio podcast


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