IRONTON — To almost anybody paying attention, Ironton two-way standout Reid Carrico —going so far back as even the end of last season —was this season’s prohibitive favorite for the prestigious Ohio Mr. Football award.
But that path, apparently, when it came down to the actual vote by the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association (OPSWA) panel, took a wrong turn just right before.
Carrico, likely to the surprise of most and definitely to the shock and disappointment of all of Ironton and the Southeast District, didn’t win the 34th annual Mr. Football —but instead running back Corey Kiner of Cincinnati Roger Bacon did.
Carrico — a six-foot three-inch 235-pound senior linebacker and running back who will officially sign to play college football for Ohio State University on Wednesday — captured runner-up honors, as this season’s vote for the Buckeye State’s top player is believed to be the closest in its three-and-a-half decade-old history.
For the past four seasons, OPSWA —which also selects ALL seven all-district football teams AND all seven divisions of all-Ohio — has selected Mr. Football.
This was formerly a project by the Associated Press, which has since stopped such selection processes.
The Mr. Football picking process begins at the district level, as districts may nominate a player —or sometimes players — to be voted upon.
This season, there were 11 OPSWA voters deciding upon nine nominees — as three players are selected for by each voter, with those players receiving 12 points for first place, eight points for second, and four points for third.
When the original vote was completed and the points added up, both Carrico and Kiner —the Division V Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year respectively —collected 68 apiece.
However, Carrico was left completely off the top three on three ballots, including two from the Southwest District —Kiner’s home base.
Had Carrico received even the minimum four third-place points from one of those ballots, he would have won the award.
Instead, there were no tiebreaker protocols in place ahead of the original vote — as the panel voted via majority to re-vote straight up on Carrico and Kiner.
In the re-vote, Kiner claimed six votes and Carrico five — meaning Kiner captured 2020’s Mr. Football.
Paul Boggs, sports reporter for The Portsmouth Daily Times and the Southeast District chairman of the OPSWA panel, voted Carrico first, Lorenzo Styles of Pickerington Central second and Kiner third —then chose Carrico again on the re-vote.
The statewide story announcing Kiner as the winner appeared in last Friday’s edition of The Portsmouth Daily Times, and to Carrico’s credit, he came right out on Thursday and offered an immediate reaction.
On his Twitter account, Carrico wrote “You won’t see me laying around pouting. #GoBucks”
Of course, as expected, there was an outcry along social media and Internet message boards —from members of Ironton’s coaching staff to Fighting Tiger and Southeast Ohio fans.
Especially since Ironton defeated Roger Bacon 22-19 in the Division V state semifinals, in which Carrico kept tracking down Kiner on several of his carries.
Kiner carried 23 times for 102 yards and a touchdown run, while Carrico went off for 191 yards and two touchdowns on 27 rushes, including an eye-opening 78-yard sprint early in the game.
Late in the game, and with the Fighting Tigers trailing 19-13, Carrico caught the game-winning 23-yard touchdown pass on a wheel route —lifting Ironton into its second consecutive Division V state championship tilt.
For the second straight season, Carrico —highly regarded at the district level as the best player on both sides of the football regardless of division —did win back-to-back (Ohio Division V) Defensive Player of the Year.
He did not see as many snaps this year due to multiple lopsided Ironton victories and the coronavirus-shortened season, but still had 50 tackles with 25 solo and 15 tackles for loss with three quarterback sacks.
Offensively, the speedster rushed 164 times for 1,544 yards and 25 touchdowns —a 9.4 yards per carry average.
He also caught 12 passes for 170 yards and two TDs, including his aforementioned reception against Roger Bacon.
As a junior, he rushed 191 times for 1,590 yards and 28 touchdowns, including seven postseason scores.
That full 15-game defensive schedule saw him amass 168 tackles including three sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two defensive touchdowns and one interception.
In a career of firsts, he was the first player in the history of the Southeast District all-district teams to win both Defensive AND Offensive Player of the Year in the same year —and became the first Ironton player ever to be selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game.
That All-American extravaganza won’t take place this season with the coronavirus threat, although Carrico was one of 37 players from Ohio to be named to the Sports Illustrated All-American Football Team watch list.
He is a two-time Southeast District Division V Defensive Player of the Year, and is regarded as one of the top linebackers and college recruits in general by any accredited national scouting service — having received numerous offers from major Football Bowl Subdivision programs, prior to signing on Wednesday (Dec. 16) with Ohio State.
Kiner — an LSU commit — ran for 1,866 yards, averaged 13.8 yards per carry, had 37 touchdowns and amassed 2,133 all-purpose yards as Roger Bacon went 10-1 in 2020.
Of the 34 winners of Mr. Football, the only one hailing from a Southeast District program is Joe Burrow — the 2014 winner out of Athens.
Between Burrow and Carrico, Tanner Holden of Wheelersburg was a Mr. Football finalist in 2017 —the Pirates’ Division V state championship year.
Before Burrow, Logan quarterback Patrick Angle was a Mr. Football finalist in 2009 —the Chieftains’ most recent playoff campaign.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved