Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tarboro's Todd Gurley II named AP NC player of the year

By AARON BEARD AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Todd Gurley II figured he was simply going out on the field to have fun, which would make it easy to perform at a level that would help Tarboro win a third straight state championship. That philosophy also helped him make him this year's Associated Press prep football player of the year for North Carolina.

“I really just go out there and have a lot of fun while I'm playing,” Gurley said. “That's what I feel like: if I have fun doing it, I'll do my best playing in whatever game I'm playing in.”

Gurley ran for nearly 2,600 yards and 36 touchdowns in Tarboro's latest title push. He was the runaway choice for the award, earning 11 of 16 votes from sports writers across the state in results released Thursday. Greensboro Page quarterback James Summers – a North Carolina State recruit – was second with two votes after leading his school to an unbeaten season and the Class 4-AA championship.

Gurley was a Shrine Bowl pick who entered the season ranked No. 1 on The Fayetteville Observer's list of the top 50 college prospects in the state. He's also regarded as an elite sprinter in track who represented the U.S. in international competition last summer.

“What makes him special is he expects to be great,” Tarboro coach Jeff Craddock said. “That's the No. 1 thing. When he steps on that field, in his mind, he expects to be the best player at that time. It doesn't matter if it's the first game of the season, a conference game, the first playoff game, the state championship game, the Shrine Bowl. He has that confidence that when he steps on that field, he believes he's the best.”

Gurley certainly proved that in his final game. He ran for 242 yards and four touchdowns as Tarboro beat Lincolnton 39-36 in the 2-A final, including 197 yards in the second half. He scored the go-ahead 12-yard touchdown with 3:12 left to earn the game's most valuable player award.

Gurley is considering North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson or Georgia.

“He's prepared himself,” Craddock said. “A lot of people think, `Well, Todd Gurley is a great athlete.’ I've coached a lot of great athletes. This kid worked his tail off in the weight room and with speed training and doing things the right way. He put himself in position to be this successful.”

Havelock's Bryant named AP coach of year for NC

By AARON BEARD AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Jim Bob Bryant made sure his Havelock team had plenty of motivation after falling a game short of the state final the past two years. He even hung a big picture in the weight room showing an opponent celebrating after ending Havelock's season the previous year.

His players responded with an unbeaten season that helped make Bryant this year's Associated Press prep football coach of the year for North Carolina.

“We always found something to give a little extra motivation to our kids,” Bryant said. “My assistant coaches worked tirelessly and everything we do is a competition. We compete in practice and we compete in the weight room. My coaches do a great job of making everything a competition so the kids keep that edge and are always fighting to be No. 1 in everything we do.”

Bryant led the school to a 16-0 record and the Class 3-A championship in his fourth season. He earned five of 16 votes from sports writers across the state in results released Wednesday.

Tarboro's Jeff Craddock was second with four votes after leading his school to a third straight state title, while Swain County's Sam Pattillo was third with three votes after leading his team to the 1-AA crown.

Havelock had lost to Eastern Alamance in the state semifinals the past two seasons. Bryant and the coaches had a photo blown up of Eastern Alamance's postgame celebration on Havelock's field last season with the words “Never again” written across the bottom. It had literally hung over Havelock's players in the weight room ever since.

“We kind of used that as our rallying cry: never again would we lose in the eastern finals at Havelock,” Bryant said.

The Rams didn't leave much to chance. With an offense that averaged about 50 points and 470 yards per game on the year, Havelock romped through the state playoffs – the Rams had three straight 60-point performance – to reach the final. Then, facing three-time defending champion West Rowan, Havelock rolled to a 38-6 win for the school's second state title.

Bryant's award comes a day after Havelock became one of two schools to have two players make the 2011 AP all-state team for North Carolina.

AP-WF-12-21-11 2023GMT