Falcon flies away with the Simone Award

Dion Clisso/PrepsKC

By PrepsKC staff
Posted: December 6, 2016 - 5:40 PM



The winner of the 34th Annual Thomas A. Simone Memorial Award, given annually to the most outstanding football player in the Kansas City metropolitan area, was Julian Ross of Staley. The three other finalists for the Simone Award were Matthew Dercher of Blue Valley, Chester Graves of Park Hill and Will Schneider of Shawnee Mission North.

After gaining just over 1,000 rushing yards in his career coming into his senior year, Julian Ross ran for more than double that total in a memorable final season at Staley. The Suburban White Conference Offensive Player of the Year, Ross finished with 2,257 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground, both school records, leading the Falcons to the state semifinals in Missouri Class 5.

He added 277 yards and 4 touchdowns on 15 catches. Ross topped the 200-yard rushing mark six times in 13 games, including a season-high 295 in a 28-10 win over the defending Class 4 champion Kearney Bulldogs. Ross finished his junior year with 976 yards and 15 touchdowns and was unanimously chosen first-team all-conference. Over the weekend, he was named First-Team All-State running back in Class 5 by the Missouri Football Coaches Association. Ross plans on continuing his football career in college next year.

Ross is the third Staley Falcon to be named a Simone Award finalist but is the first player in the nine seasons the school has been open to win any of the five Simone Awards. While Ross is the 34th winner of the Simone Award, Staley becomes just the 17th different school to display the trophy for a year.

The winner of the 18th Annual Frank Fontana Award, presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kanas City and given to the most outstanding small class (MO 1-4, KS 1A4A) football player in the metro, was Anthony Pritzel of Kearney. The three other finalists for the Fontana Award were Justin Mitchell of Platte County, Carter Putz of Bishop Miege and Amaun Ryan of Center.

Pritzel completed 150 of 249 passes for 2,457 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first year as the starter at Kearney. He threw just six interceptions in a year the Bulldogs got back to the state championship game after winning the title a season ago. Pritzel also ran for 975 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Suburban Blue Co-Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team Class 4 All-State quarterback, Pritzel set single-game school-records with 23 completions and six touchdowns in a 311-yard performance against Platte County in the district championship game, a high-scoring 58-41 win for the Bulldogs.

Pritzel is the fourth Kearney player to win the Fontana Award and the second Bulldog to win an award today, joining teammate Ethan Luft who had moments earlier taken home the Bobby Bell Award.

The winner of the 25th Annual Buck Buchanan Memorial Award, presented by the Kansas City Chiefs Ambassadors and given to the best lineman/linebacker in Missouri’s and Kansas’ top two classes (MO 5-6, KS 5A-6A), was Chester Graves of Park Hill. The three other finalists for the Buchanan Award were Michael Maffry of Blue Valley, Daniel Parker of Blue Springs and Anthony Payne of Raymore-Peculiar.

 One of the top recruits in the Midwest with over 25 major college football offers, Graves was an impact player for Park Hill his freshman year and consequently finished his career as one of the most decorated players ever in the metro. Two-time Buchanan finalist, two-time conference defensive player of the year, three-time all-state and four-time all-conference, he was also a Simone finalist as a senior.

Graves holds Park Hill single-season and career records for sacks and tackles for loss. He had 126 tackles this year, 82 of them solo, with 25 tackles for loss and six sacks. All despite the fact teams ran away from him whenever possible. He is the second Park Hill Trojan to win the Buchanan Award, joining Bear Hollins in 2007.

The winner of the 17th Annual Bobby Bell Award, presented by Great Western Bank and given to the best lineman/linebacker in Missouri’s and Kansas’ smallest four classes (MO 1-4, KS 1A-4A), was Ethan Lutz of Kearney. The four other finalists (due to a tie for fourth) for the Bell Award were Colin Grunhard of Bishop Miege, Derek Kohler of Platte County, John Taylor of Center and TJ Williams of Basehor-Linwood.

The second-straight Bell Award winner from Kearney, Lutz tallied 172 tackles, including 107 solo stops, for the state finalists. He set a school record with 21 solo tackles in the Class 4 Quarterfinals. Lutz was just named to the 2016 Class 4 First-Team All-State squad after earning second-team honors a year ago. The Suburban Blue Defensive Player of the Year, Lutz joins Mizzou freshman starter Cale Garrett, Joe Windsor and former MU star Brock Christopher as Kearney Bobby Bell Award winners.

The winner of the 10th Annual Otis Taylor Award, presented by C&C Produce and given to the best tight end/wide receiver in the metro area, was Jafar Armstrong of Bishop Miege. The three other finalists for the Taylor Award were Jess Davis of Kearney, Nick Snider of Belton and Harrison Van Dyne of Blue Valley.

Like Buchanan winner Chester Graves, Jafar Armstrong began making a big impact on the success of his team early in his career. He is a three-time all-state performer, a two-time Otis Taylor Award finalist and was a Simone Award semifinalist this year. He had over 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. Armstrong set a new Kansas state record with 45 career receiving touchdowns and graduates as the school record-holder in receiving yards as well with over 3,700.

He finished his senior season with 54 catches for 1,277 yards and 21 TDs, including 8 catches for 222 yards and 3 TDs in Miege’s state title game win. He joins Tre’ Parmalee (2011) as the only Bishop Miege players to win the Otis Taylor Award. Armstrong will be catching passes from 2014 Simone Award winner Drew Lock next year at Missouri.

The Simone Awards were voted on by the member head coaches of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association (GKCFCA) and a 12-member media committee.

The 6th Annual Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award, honoring the memory of the Spring Hill standout football player who died in 2010 after collapsing on the field, was Jordan Martin of Turner. Martin excelled on the field as a senior with over 1,000 receiving yards despite not being able to hear.

The Gordon Docking Media Award, honoring outstanding achievement in high school football reporting, was presented to Karen Kornacki of KMBC Channel 9.