Back to all Experts
Through the Uprights: Mike Lavieri 10/14Photo Credit: Mike Lavieri

There are three constants in life: death, taxes and me writing a “welcome back football” column and a mid-season Simone Award watch list article.

There are a number of players in Kansas worthy of consideration, but three have risen to the top and should be included in the final list come December.

Tank Young, St. Thomas Aquinas
What more can we say about Young that hasn’t been said the past two years? Since his sophomore season, Young has been the best running back in Kansas.

In four games (he missed Raytown in Week 3), Young has rushed for 758 yards and nine touchdowns. If the Saints need a big play, give it to Young. If they need to run some clock, give it to Young. If Aquinas is looking to get back into a game when down by three scores, give it to Young.

There aren’t many players who do what Young does against the level of competition he’s facing week in and week out.

It’s surprising he hasn’t won the Simone yet, but a deep state run and another strong year might be what seals the deal for Young.

Devin Neal, Lawrence
If anybody is going to have anything to say about Young not being the Simone winning, it’s Lawrence’s Devin Neal, who turned in quite the performance last week in front of Young, leading Lawrence to a 39-27 victory at Aquinas, while running for three touchdowns and 149 yards.

On the season, Neal has rushed for 652 yards and 10 touchdowns and has his Chesty Lions in the driver’s seat when it comes to the Class 6A title – they are currently the favorite.

The one hold back on Neal is that Lawrence throws the ball more, and can disappear from the game plan at times, which is no fault of his. On the flip side, his yards per is nearly two yards better than Young: 7.95 yards/carry for Neal versus 6.2 yards/carry for Young.

Ty Black, Shawnee Mission Northwest
When two teams are left standing in Emporia battling it out for the 6A title, Ty Black and Shawnee Mission Northwest very well could be facing off against Neal.

Black is completing 70 percent of his passes – which is among the best in the metro – has thrown for 1,216 yards and has a TD to interception ratio of 6:1. His 12 touchdown passes is among the leaders in Kansas.

The schedule has been kind to Black this season with games against Shawnee Mission North, Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Mission South. In a game against Aquinas, which the Cougars let slip away, Black was excellent as he threw for 225 yards and two scores.

 Black will play a tough Gardner Edgerton squad on Friday and after that it’s up in the air on what’s next – maybe the playoffs? The schedule may be the one black mark in what has been an exceptional season and it’s a black mark Black can’t control in this COVID environment where schedules are changing weekly.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Bowden, Tonganoxie
The Free State transfer has been a human cheat code for Tonganoxie. Through six games, Bowden has rushed for 1,575 yards (averaging 8.3 yards per carry) and 23 touchdowns. He’s scored five scores in a game three times this year including seven against Southern Boone last week.

The fact Tonganoxie is in Class 4A almost automatically eliminates Bowden from the Simone, but if he was at Free State still, his name would definitely be in the running.

But we might as well give him the Fontana because he’s running away with it – literally.