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Photo by Jon Barash
Photo by Jon Barash

The first year of the Score 44 has been a pleasure to compile every week as we’ve honored the best 44 seniors in the state. I tried to take into consideration performance on the field as well as potential at the next level when putting together each week’s list. Before the season, the entire list was based on potential with some information gathered from and as well as other media that I’ve read/watched AND information I collected myself from interviews I’ve conducted through Score Atlanta and 790 The Zone and games I’ve watched them play in. As the season progressed, we were able to really sort through which players have truly deserved the honor.

I realize that with a fluid list and being limited to just 44 players, many players, parents and fans would be upset over the omissions. Seemingly every week we heard from fans clamoring for their favorite players to be included, and I also received emails from a few coaches wondering why their player was taken off the list. It seems crazy, but sometimes even 44 isn’t enough. I tried to reward folks that played their way onto the team, but I couldn’t leave off some players who are just at that next level and deserved permanent inclusion on the list.

An example of a player that is just next-level would be Carver’s Isaiah Crowell. He missed several games this season due to a variety of injuries, but you could just tell by watching this back run that he deserved to be on the list regardless of whether he played that week or not. The list would have lost credibility if he had not been on it.

I also though chose to reward players that likely won’t go to an SEC or ACC school, but still put up eye-popping numbers and were leaders on the field and in the classroom. Taylor Heinicke has only received an offer from Old Dominion with Richmond and Valdosta State showing interest, but you could just look at his performance week in and week out to know that he was one of the best QBs in the state. Kent Rollins of South Gwinnett was in the same boat as Heinicke in that he was constantly putting up large numbers but was without a big-time offer like CJ Uzomah of North Gwinnett boasted from Auburn. Both players (Rollins and Uzomah) were permanent fixtures on the list because both deserved it through their play.

I also never “punished” members by dropping them just because he fumbled twice or threw three interceptions. I would only take a name off to reward another deserving senior. If there was not a deserving member to be included then someone that “struggled” would be taken off, but kept in mind to return to the list. Sadly several players suffered injuries during the season and that led to them being replaced.

Once the playoffs arrived, I ended the regular season list and locked it into place. I decided to emphasize playoff performance into the last four rounds of the Score 44 and most folks that lost early in the playoffs or failed to make the playoffs at all were bounced from the list. The playoffs really gave some names a chance at the list that came close but never made it in the regular season. Those players really showed their worth and potential in the playoffs and were thusly rewarded. One player that comes to mind is Cameron Lynch of Brookwood. Lynch certainly played well throughout the season, but in the playoffs, Lynch really stepped up and showed he is the heart and soul of the Bronco defense that won the state title. Timmy Byerly of Chattahoochee also showed that size doesn’t matter during the Cougars’ undefeated state championship run and he might have earned himself a BCS-level scholarship.

Without question, the best part of compiling this list was telling players that they made it. Hearing the excitement in their voices and seeing it on their faces reminded me that, at the end of the day and after all of the awards, rewards, honors and lists, these players are just kids. Kids get excited over recognition and I was proud that they were taking pride in my list. This list has been a labor of love all season long and I cannot wait to get it started for basketball!!!