With a 4.0 GPA, a 29 on the ACT and more than 100 hours of community service, Lee Academy offensive guard Crawford Allen won the 21st annual Ronald “Hoss” Bennett football award at Oakhurst Baptist Church on Thursday night.
Three seniors from each of the four high schools in Coahoma County are nominated. The Clarksdale Exchange Club puts together the award, which was named after Bennett for all of his accomplishments during his years as the Clarksdale High School football coach.
As the overall winner, Allen will receive $1,000 to go toward paying for college and he plans to attend the University of Alabama next year.
“I’m very excited about it,” Allen said after winning the award. “I just feel very humbled to win this award. I’m glad I did.”
Each of the other three schools had one winner and those athletes receive $250 to go toward college.
The winners are determined based on athletic accomplishments, academic accomplishments, school spirit and community involvement.
The coaches from the different high schools had opportunities to speak about each of their athletes.
Lee Academy assistant coach Chad Foster filled in for head coach Rick Johnston, who was unable to attend.
Foster said Allen was the signal caller on defense.
“He was expected to do a lot there,” Foster said.
Allen, like many of his Colts teammates, suffered an injury during the season. His was a knee injury that kept him out a couple of games.
“He made it back at the end of the year and got to play at the end of the year and got to play in the playoff game,” Foster said. “I was proud that he came back.”
Foster said all three of Lee’s nominees – Allen, Rutledge Agostinelli and Hayes Clegg – had a lot of community service.
“All these boys out here are very involved in the community,” Foster said. “They all attend St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. That’s where they get a lot of their hours from that.”
Offensive and defensive tackle Marquise Lewis was the winner for Coahoma Early College High School.
“One thing about Marquise, he came in at the beginning of the season, ‘Coach, can I play that one position, learn that one position?’” said Tigers coach Jeremiah Brassell. “I was like alright, we can do it, but we had a few injuries and I had to go back to him.”
Playing offensive tackle would have been tough for many athletes, but not Lewis.
“If you know one thing about football, offensive line has some of the biggest guys, but I knew that he had the heart to do it and I asked him to change his number,” Brassell said. “He said, ‘Alright, Coach.”
The other Tigers nominees were Norris Holly III and Eric Smiley Jr.
Quarterback Cameron Matthews, who has a 3.5 GPA, scored an 18 on the ACT and is in the National Honor Society, won for the Wildcats.
“Probably one of the most unselfish kids that I know that I had the opportunity to coach,” said Wildcats coach Henry Johnson. “He would play any position that I asked him to. He always had a great attitude, a great leader in school.”
Johnson called Matthews a “phenomenal kid.”
“His mom right there, just very supportive, always at the games, very supportive, asking what we need, things like that,” Johnson said.
Demetric Strong and Marquavius Williams were the other Clarksdale High School nominees.
No one from Coahoma County High School was able to attend the event due to conflicts with a basketball practice.
However, wide receiver and defensive back Jeffery Fisher was the winner for the Red Panthers with a 3.2 GPA and a 15 on the ACT. He is also a member of the National Honor Society.
Rayshamond Brown and Markevius Phillips were the other nominees for Coahoma County.
Jim Herring from the Exchange Club, who oversees the event, had advice for the coaches when helping their athletes fill out applications to be the Ronald “Hoss” Bennett award winner.
“Coaches, if you nominate someone next year, make sure they fill out all those categories,” Herring said. “Remember Marvin Carraway used to preach that.”
Carraway oversaw the event until he died a few years ago.
“Academics and sports, you all work out to be pretty equal,” Herring said. “It’s just that school spirit and community involvement.”
Delta State University baseball coach and athletic director Mike Kinnison was the guest speaker. He coached at Lee Academy from 1979 to 1981 just after graduating from college and still has fond memories of the area.
“This is, in a way, my first home,” Kinnison said. “When I finished my playing days at Delta State, I came straight to Clarksdale again to work here. That was my first coaching and teaching job. In so many ways, a great part of me has stayed here. I actually attended this church right here where we are tonight and have a lot of great friends. I had the opportunity to coach a lot of great athletes and cherish many of the friendships and memories that I have from my days in Clarksdale.”