Nelsonville-York Keegan Wilburn
Nelsonville-York senior Keegan Wilburn (3) scores a touchdown during the Nelsonville-York vs. River Valley game on Sept. 20, 2019. (Abigail Dean/WOUB)

Gridiron Glory Announces Player of the Year Watchlist

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The watchlist for Gridiron Glory’s Player of the Year are here. The athletes are some of the most talented players in the state and they have put their respective teams in positions to succeed.

Our coverage goes across four conferences in southeastern Ohio and each league is recognized with at least one player. The list is not finalized and can change, but at this point in the season, all of these players are balling out for their team and deserve the recognition for their play.


Conner Wright (RB/LB, Senior, Trimble Tomcats)

Wright is one of the most prolific players in our entire coverage. He was a GGPOY candidate last season and after speaking with him earlier in the week about the honor again this season, he said, “I’m coming for revenge.” Wright is the workhorse for the undefeated Trimble squad and loves contact as well as the spotlight. He isn’t afraid of anyone and has his eyes on the state championship. Whether it’s out in space or between the tackles, Wright is looking to run over the defender and walk into the endzone. He scores, and scores, and scores some more for his team and is expected to score more as the regular season wraps up against Southern and Wahama.

  • 116 carries, 1,126 rushing yards, 20 rushing TDs

Sawyer Koons (LB/FB, Senior, Trimble Tomcats)

Koons leads one of the best defenses in Division VI; really the entire state. Koons’ dad and older brothers are former Tomcats, but Sawyer is the most dominant one of the bunch. Last season he won the Division VII Defensive Player of the Year award and this year, he hasn’t slumped. He is the leader of a defense that has allowed just six points this season and are expected to shutout the rest of the teams they play. Koons is the lead blocker for Wright in the backfield and a bully on defense. He has a real chance at winning D-VI Defensive Player of the Year and GGPOY. 

  • 67 tackles, 8 TFLs, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 INTs
  • 9 carries, 74 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 4 receptions, 65 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD

Trey McNickle (RB, Senior, Southern Tornadoes)

McNickle is an electrifying athlete for a Southern team that is a sleeper in the Hocking. The Tornadoes are currently number 10 in Division VII Region 27 according to Joe Eitel, making them two spots out of a playoff spot but with McNickle, they can run the table. He runs faster than the defenders in open space and has a low center of gravity that helps in-between the tackles. Southern’s offense, which averages more than 37 points a game, runs through McNickle.

  • 100 carries, 1,053 rushing yards, 17 rushing TDs, 10 receptions, 250 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs


Rylan Molihan (RB/DB, Senior, Wellston Golden Rockets)

Molihan is the leader on offense and a ball-hawking defender on the TVC-Ohio-leading Golden Rockets. The Golden Rockets were expected to have another 2-8 or 3-7 season with a new head coach and system but after their first week battle with Jackson, Wellston saw the potential to take it to another level. With Molihan at the helm, it was possible. He is an aggressive runner looking to score on every possession. In his last matchup against Nelsonville York, he ran for 257 yards, two rushing touchdowns and one receiving. He is the Wellston offense and he has been dominant on both sides of the ball in TVC-Ohio play this season.

  • 117 carries, 969 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 6 receptions, 72 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD, 4 INTs

Keegan Wilburn (RB/Athlete, Senior, Nelsonville-York Buckeyes)

Wilburn has been projected to be a star since his rise his sophomore season. The division one talent (committed to Ohio University) leads the Buckeye offense with his athleticism and shifty moves. Although Nelsonville-York’s season isn’t what they wanted so far (4-3), they are still in playoff contention and a lot of their offense relies on the play of Wilburn. Because of his role as being the starting running back, he has the ability to take a direct snap to the house but because he is an athlete, he can line out wide and take a screen pass 60 plus-yards to the house. You can’t deny his role for the Buckeyes is massive and if they make the playoffs, he is the reason why. He broke the school record for receiving yards this season as well, although he is listed as a running back. He is an electrifying player in the Ohio.

  • 813 Total Yards and 12 Total TDs (503 rushing yards-7 rushing TDs, 310 receiving yards-5 receiving TDs)

Frontier Athletic Conference

Jayden Spires (RB/OLB, Senior, Jackson)

Spires dominants this conference. On offense, he is a tough-nosed running back that isn’t afraid to run between the tackles. On defense, he hits hard and often. He is the leader of a team that is undefeated and the defense that gives up only 12 points a game. He flies around on the field and has a high IQ in the box with the athleticism to drop back in coverage seamlessly.

  • 107 carries, 805 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs

Eli Lynch (WR/DB/Punter, Senior, Washington Court House Blue Lions)

Lynch is a record breaking wide receiver for the explosive offense of Court House. Because of his size (6’2” – 180 lbs) he is a down field threat that can shake-and-shimmy at the line to get open for the go-route easily. He is great at high-pointing the ball and “Mossing” defenders. Along with his height, he also has speed that makes defenses struggle. He is featured in sweeps for the offense to get him the ball right away for positive gains. Court House sits at 13th in Division IV Region 16 and with Lynch making big plays, they could sneak into a playoff spot. He is also the punter for the Blue Lions and he is averaging 34 yards per punt, giving his defense great field position.

  • 50 receptions, 475 yards, 4 receiving TDs, 25 punts, 857 yards, 34 yards-per-punt

Ethan Rodgers-Wright (QB, Junior, Washington Court House Blue Lions)

But who throws to Lynch? Rodgers-Wright is the starting QB for the high-scoring offense of Court House and to this point, he is putting up similar numbers to last year’s GGPOY for Court House, Gio Thomas. Rodgers-Wright is the young one of the bunch but his play for the Blue Lions is undeniable and in the FAC, he will be the player next year to watch for sure. He’s already surpassed 1,000 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, while also being athletic enough to avoid contact and scramble for extra yards. No other way to put it, Rodgers-Wright has a cannon for an arm and isn’t afraid to throw deep to any of his receivers. 

  • 1,075 passing yards, 15 passing TDs

Muskingum Valley League

Blake Sands (RB, Senior, Tri Valley Scotties)

Sands is impressive in MVL play. He is averaging 7-yards-per-carry and with Tri Valley switching to the heavy-run game, it’s evident that Sands is what makes it go. Sands is one of the best in our coverage on taking the carry, seeing an open hole, and going right through it for the big gain. What he does well is change momentum to the Scotties way and they capitalize often. He leads the team with rushing touchdowns but where he also separates himself is in the passing game. He has excellent hands for a running back.

  • 79 carries, 576 yards, 9 rushing TDs, 6 receiving TDs

Reece Perkins (WR/DB, Senior, John Glenn Little Muskies)

Perkins is the closest we have to a Julio Jones-type player. He is taller than all the DBs he faces but he isn’t afraid to get hands on them as well and drive them back. He has the ability to change the outcome in a game easily. He’s athletic, lanky, strong and aggressive when finding the ball. He leads the MVL in receiving TDs and is a huge part in why John Glenn has the opportunity to win the league this season and make it back into the playoffs.

  • 28 receptions, 435 receiving yards, 8 receiving TDs