The way James "Tank" Tunstalle sees it, individual awards are just that. Winning a state championship tends to skew your judgment that way.
Tunstalle is Wyoming East's hulking running back/linebacker. After gaining more than 2,000 yards last season and 1,700 his sophomore year, he figures to have a pretty good shot at the Kennedy Award given to the state's most outstanding high school football player.
But Tunstalle is part of one of AA's most outstanding teams this season. The Warriors won the 1999 Class AA state championship, and Tunstalle and his teammates are wanting one more before they graduate. Anything after that, he says, is just an added bonus.
"The Kennedy Award would be nice, but it's not like lifting that state championship," Tunstalle said. "Once you get that taste of glory, it's always there.
"We've got four guys back from our offensive line, and they worked hard in the summer. We thought we had the team to repeat last year, but I think this could be our year again."
Tunstalle has yet to commit to any college choice. He took a visit to Ohio State, and has received strong interest from Florida State, Notre Dame, Maryland, West Virginia and Marshall among others.
Here's a quick look at some of the state's other top players:
n R.J. Coleman, TE (Robert C. Byrd). Coleman (6-6, 285) caught 13 passes for 375 yards and five TDs (28.8 ypc). He verbally committed to Ohio State in early June.
n Justin Edwards, QB (Wheeling Central). The senior quarterback led the Maroon Knights to the Class A state title last season, throwing for 2,138 yards and 25 TDs.
n Shane Fogerty, QB (Morgantown). While Mark Wigal and Alex Lake got the headlines, Fogerty put together a solid season completing 98 of 162 passes for 1,700 yards and 13 TDs for the Class AAA state champion.
n Marc Kimes, QB (Parkersburg). The Kennedy could come down to a two-way race between Kimes and Tunstalle. This will be the senior's third season as the Big Reds starting quarterback. Last season he threw for 1,457 yards and 11 TDs. Kimes has a 26-2 record under center and has thrown for more than 3,300 yards.
n Rocky Manchin, WR (North Marion). Manchin is considered one of the state's top receivers after catching 56 passes for 818 yards and seven TDs for the Huskies in 2000.
n Scott Mayle, RB (Philip Barbour). The speedy tailback will likely put up Kennedy-like numbers after rushing for 1,241 yards and 15 TDs on 127 carries (9.8 ypr).
n Kirk Monteleone, QB (John Marshall). Monteleone was the Class AAA first-team quarterback last season, throwing for 2,003 yards and 19 touchdowns.
n Lauren Noel, QB (Frankfort). Noel threw for more than 1,200 yards and 10 TDs to lead the Falcons to the Class AA playoffs last season. His brother, Grant, looked to be Michael Vick's successor at QB for Virginia Tech before a knee injury early in summer.
n Blake Patterson, QB (Tyler Consolidated). Patterson helped take the Knights to the Class AA semifinals, throwing for 1,071 yards and 9 TDs.
n Steve Roach, OL/DL (Martinsburg). One of the state's top lineman is back. The 6-3, 305-pound Roach has already verbally committed to Penn State.
n Jared Stephens, QB (Hurricane). The Redskins rebounded with Stephens after the loss of Travis Jones. Stephens threw for 1,981 yards and 13 TDs in 2000.
n Nate Wright, RB (Riverside). Wright transferred to Riverside after gaining 1,666 yards and 28 TDs on 120 carries last season at Fayetteville. His addition makes Riverside a strong AAA state title contender.
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org