Finalists for the Florida Dairy Farmer’s coach of the year and Mr. Football were announced Wednesday across Florida’s eight classifications and independents.
Manatee County saw representation from former Southeast High head coach Rashad West (Class 5A coach of the year), Saint Stephen’s head coach Tod Creneti (independents), Manatee High quarterback/wide receiver Keyon Fordham (Class 8A Mr. Football) and Saint Stephen’s quarterback Fred Billy (independent Mr. Football).
West is one of 18 coaches who are finalists in 5A after going 2-7, though that record is misleading. The Noles forfeited six games – five victories and one loss – for using an academically ineligible player, with the announcement coming just before the regular-season finale against Harmony.
An inspired Southeast squad, led by several seniors, produced a mind-numbing offensive display in a 67-42 win in what turned out to be West’s last game in charge.
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He resigned on Nov. 9.
Now he’s a finalist for 5A coach of the year.
“It’s good for our kids and the other coaches that the stuff they did is not in vain,” West said.
Among the 18 finalists for 5A coach of the year are Plantation American Heritage’s Pat Surtain and Baker County’s Jamie Rodgers, who teams will play for the 5A state title this week in Orlando.
“It means that our kids did a great job and the guys on our staff did a great job of preparing our kids,” West said. “That’s honestly what it means. It’s one of those things that they always have to single out someone, and typically it’s the head coach, but what it really means is the kids did a great job and so did the guys preparing those kids each week.”
Voting for the Mr. Football and coach of the year awards ends Monday.
Meanwhile, Creneti’s Falcons won their second straight Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship, with Billy tallying 26 total touchdowns and more than 1,800 total yards of offense. He ended his four-year career with 115 career touchdowns.
Billy is one of five finalists for Mr. Football, while Creneti is one of seven finalists for coach of the year in the independent class.
Fordham, who spent the second half of the season banged up and missed a few games, returned for Manatee’s playoff game at Kissimmee Osceola. The Hurricanes hung with the Kowboys until late in the third quarter before Osceola pulled away for a 44-16 in the first round of the Class 8A postseason.
Fordham, who finished the season with 787 yards of offense and nine touchdowns, was dynamite throughout the fall.
He’s a finalist in 8A with Sarasota Riverview running back Ali Boyce, Orlando Dr. Phillips’ Devodney Alford and 11 other players.