By KARLA POMEROY
Burlington Huskies senior Ben Mancuso was honored as the Offensive Player of the Year for the 1A West Conference and for the 1A All-State Team.
Three fellow Huskies were also honored as All-State — seniors Daniel Davidson and Ben Nicholson and junior Preston Wardell. Those four and three others earned All-Conference honors this last week — senior Tyrel Henderson, sophomore Trevor Wardell and junior James Davidson. Nick Carrizales, Dexter Jones and Landon George earned honorable mention honors.
Burlington Coach Mike Aagard said, “Ben is a phenomenal athlete. You look at his stats and it’s obvious why he’s the Player of the Year.” Mancuso led Class 1A in rushing this season with 1,450 yards on 148 carries. He averaged 145 yards per game and 9.8 yards per carry. He scored 18 rushing touchdowns this season.
Mancuso was first in the state in all-purpose yards with 1,765, but second in average per game at 176.5 yards behind Riverside’s Royce Mercer with 183.9 yards per game average. He had 20 total TDs.
All-purpose yards include rushing, passing, receiving, punt and kick returns.
“He did a great job, even when teams were keying on him,” Aagard said. “We’re definitely going to miss him on offense and defense.”
Defensively, Mancuso averaged 19 defensive points per game with about nine tackles per game. He had four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
“It’s a great honor to be Player of the Year. They are generally looking for someone from the title game,” Aagard said.
Davidson played full back for three years for the Huskies but handled more running back duties this year, Aagard said.
He had 438 yards this season on 87 carries, two TDs and averaged nearly 44 yards per game.
“He was a phenomenal defensive player at linebacker averaging 16 points per game, seven tackles per game, four tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries.
He also handled some kicking duties for the Huskies.
“He’s a quiet person but he speaks by his actions,” Aagard said.
Nicholson has started at center for the Huskies for four years. Aagard said there’s not a lot of statistics for a lineman but “he’s a tough, tough kid. He always gets the snaps, even the long snaps,” Aagard said.
On defense, Nicholson played a variety of positions, mainly at defensive end and nose tackle. He averaged eight tackles per game.
Wardell, the quarterback for the team, improved a lot from his sophomore year, the coach said. “He’s a great asset. He can do a lot of different things,” Aagard said.
He had 566 yards passing with a 44 percent completion rate, seven TDs and eight interceptions. He had 324 yards rushing on 50 carries and eight TDs and was second in the team in all-purpose yards with 915 including punt returns.
Defensively, he led the team with an average of 19.3 points per game, eight tackles per game average, six tackles for loss, six passes broken up and four turnovers.
For the All-Conference players, Aagard said, Henderson on the offensive line was mismatched in size but still created a lot of holes for the backs. “He’s the symbol for Huskies football, not the biggest but works hard.”
Aagard said for a sophomore like Wardell to earn the award is “a big honor.” He said the receiver had great hands and was the person they liked to go to on converting third downs. He had 156 yards receiving averaging 15.6 yards per game.
At cornerback, Wardell had an average of 11 defensive points per game and led the team with nine passes broken up.
Davidson exemplifies a great blocker both on the offensive and defensive lines, Aagard said. “He’s the type of player you love to have out there. He was able to stop runners from getting to the outside.”
For those earning honorable mention, Aagard said Carrizales and Jones were strongest on defense. George took over for Davidson as the team’s fullback.
“It’s been a fun year for the Huskies and I appreciate my assistants,” Aagard said.
The Huskies were 7-3 with a first-round playoff win, falling in the semifinals to Lusk.