It's that time of year. Now that all our 11-man football teams are done competing, the off-season awards are starting flow in.
We will be announcing our All-Area MVP, Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, etc., in the coming weeks, but until then you guys will get a chance to make your selection known.
Here, you will vote for the Area Player of the Year, a special honor chosen by our readers.
This season there were, quite honestly, a lot of potential candidates. I've done my best to whittle this list down to the elite 11 players I thought most represented the honor, providing the most value to their team. (Yes, there are some teams with multiple players here, but sometimes it can be difficult to decide which player did the most for their team).
VOTE HERE: Who gets your vote for Player of the Year?
Below is the list of candidates, and a brief synopsis from me on what the player did for their team, on and off the field.
Adan Solis, Righetti, SR., RB: 252 carries, 1,781 yards, 26 rushing touchdowns, 2 receiving touchdowns.
Solis certainly isn't a rah-rah, in-your-face type of player. I rarely heard him say anything on the field or the sidelines. One of those prototypical guys who just goes about his business, but has incredible production on the field. I wouldn't say Solis was a leader on this Righetti team, but he didn't really need to be. Just hand him the ball and let him work. That's what coach Tony Payne needed from Solis and that's what he provided, at a really, really high level.
Caleb Thomas, Righetti, SR., DL-OG: 63 total tackles (42 solo/21 assists), 14 sacks, 16 TFLs, 1 INT.
Now, I think Thomas also provided subtle leadership. He's low-key, but the way he plays just provides so much energy to his teammates. Any time he stuffed a run or chased a QB, his team fed off that. It was really tangible. And you can tell that his coaches and teammates understand that. He's been voted league MVP two years in a row now, last year in the PAC 5 League (on a third-place team) and this year sharing the honors with St. Joe QB Chase Artopoeus in the Mountain League.
He doubled his sack totals from a year ago while facing double and triple teams and also starting at guard on the O-line.
Chase Artopoeus, St. Joseph, SR., QB: 156 for 251 passing (62 percent), 2,610 yards, 26 touchdowns, 1 INT; 61 carries, 226 yards, 5 TDs.
Artopoeus is a sharp-minded, cold-blooded QB. He threw just one pick this season while tossing 26 touchdowns. When I saw him, he was never too low or too high as far as energy level. All good traits for a QB.
But the growth this kid displayed from his freshman season where he was thrust into the fire at Righetti, playing at three schools in three seasons and handling everything like a professional.
It was really impressive and I can definitely see this kid playing on Saturdays at a four-year level.
Trevor Cole, St. Joseph, SR., WR-DB: 56 catches, 1,054 yards, 16 touchdown catches.
Fun fact: Cole might have been my favorite player this season. (Him and Thomas are neck-and-neck).
He's totally selfless, but a through-and-through playmaker. Cole played all over during his time at St. Joseph, even focusing mostly at DB as a junior, but he showed his skills as a wideout this year, setting the school record for TD catches in a season with 16.
He's also a solid DB and I think could eventually play at the FCS level like his older brother CJ, who's at Cal Poly.
Someone needs to make sure this kid is playing on Saturdays next year.
Leondre Coleman, Lompoc, JR., RB-LB: 144 carries, 980 yards, 11 TDs; 12 catches, 316 yards, 5 TDs; 60 total tackles (42 solo), 14 TFLs, 9.5 sacks.
Coleman may be the best football recruit in the area behind Thomas. If he isn't playing major college football right out of high school, I'll be shocked.
He's definitely got the MVP pedigree, just look at the numbers he put up. He's two or three All-League players in one body. His defensive play could land him Defensive Player of the Year honors (which it did in the Channel League) and his offensive stats could make him Area Offensive Player of the Year. He's got it all.
Now, hopefully soon, everything will come together and he'll start receiving Power Five interest.
Jasper Kadlec, Santa Ynez, SR., WR-DB: 28 catches, 564 yards, 10 TDs; 16 carries, 154 yards, 3 TDs; 11 kick returns, 337 yards, 85-yard TD; 32 total tackles (20 solo), 1 INT.
Kadlec certainly has that Utility Player of the Year resume. He caught 10 TD passes, he ran the ball when needed, he returned kicks, he played defense and special teams.
And he did it when Santa Ynez really needed that senior presence to step up. The Pirates lost a ton of depth and talent from the 2017 team, but Kadlec stuck with it and did what he could to help the Pirates get to the postseason.
The team success isn't quite there, but I'm not sure there's an argument for a Most Valuable Pirate other than Kadlec.
Michael Bourbon, Pioneer Valley, SR., RB-DB: 103 carries, 892 yards, 10 TDs. Receiving, 25 catches for 388 yards, 1 TD.
Bourbon landed a share of the Ocean League MVP award, splitting it with two Nipomo players. I'm really happy for the season he put together. Bourbon is an immensely talented player who wasn't always able to get the ball in his hands, but this season the Panthers used him wisely and the offense really hummed with Bourbon handling the ball.
Pioneer Valley likely doesn't contend for an Ocean League title and make the playoffs with this kid on their team in 2018.
Ricky Iniguez, Nipomo, SR., RB-DB: 119 carries, 738 yards, 11 TDs; 8 catches, 88 yards, TD; 25 solo tackles, 10 assists, 4 INTs, 97 return yards, blocked punt.
Iniguez and teammate Carmelo Hernandez ended up splitting the Ocean League MVP award with Bourbon and it's easy to see why Iniguez got that recognition.
Eleven rushing TDs; 4 INTs on defense, a touchdown catch and some big special teams plays.
Iniguez put together quite the senior season, leading the Titans to a 5-0 Ocean League record and a league title.
James Gilmet, Arroyo Grande, SR., RB-LB: 123 carries, 868 yards, 13 rushing TDs; 6 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs; 338 kick return yards, 1 TD; 43 total tackles (11 solo), 3 sacks, INT, forced fumble, blocked field goal.
What a gutsy season from Gilmet. He missed time with a foot injury, wasn't the centerpiece of the AG offense and was tasked with playing more defense.
All Gilmet did was turn in the most complete season of his illustrious prep career.
Coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons, Gilmet was slowed early in the season with the injury, but still racked up 868 yards rushing and 13 TDs. He also caught two TD passes and returned a kick for a touchdown while recording three sacks and a pick on defense.
Cameron Iribarren, Lompoc, JR., QB: 46 for 104 passing (44 percent), 841 yards, 13 TDs, 2 INTs; 130 carries, 974 yards, 14 TDs.
Man, Iribarren had to win the starting job throughout the early part of the season and really found his groove leading the Lompoc offense midway through to land a spot on this list.
Iribarren didn't have a good completion percentage, but did a terrific job avoiding interceptions with a 13:2 interception-to-touchdown ration. The junior also rushed for 14 TDs and nearly 1,000 yards.
The future is bright for Iribarren.
Emilio Corona, San Luis Obispo, JR., QB: 117 for 228 (51 percent), 1,877 yards, 18 TD passes, 11 INTs; 84 carries, 800 rushing yards, 10 TDs.
Corona had a big hand in leading SLO to a turnaround season in 2018 and a lot of his value comes from pure talent.
Corona is a big-time baseball recruit who's committed to Washington. But he showed out on the gridiron in 2018, helping the Tigers make the postseason and win a playoff game this year.
I don't think any of that happens without Corona at QB.