Offensive Player of the Year: Zach Abey, Archbishop Spalding (click for video interview)

In the area’s toughest league, no player meant more to his team than Abey. The senior quarterback is Varsity Sports Network’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Abey rushed for 1,663 yards and 19 touchdowns on 238 carries, and threw for another 874 yards and 10 touchdowns. The No. 3 Cavaliers finished third in the MIAA A Conference behind undefeated and No. 1 McDonogh School and second-ranked Gilman School, which was ranked No. 2 in the state media poll for most of the 2013 season.

“It was the best year of my life, football-wise,” said Abey, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. “The whole team came together. We surprised a lot of people.”

The Cavaliers lost by only a total of 19 points to Gilman (29-21) and McDonogh (23-12) as Abey accounted for 426 yards and two touchdowns. During the season, Abey had 50 tackles and six interceptions as a free safety.

“Zach Abey is just a great football player. He could’ve play linebacker, he could’ve play fullback, he could’ve play wide receiver,” said Spalding first-year coach Kyle Schmitt. “He works at everything. He’s tough, smart and loves to play.”

Schmitt, who’s known Abey for several years through the Quarterback Factory in Anne Arundel County, underestimated his running ability. Abey ran behind a line featuring Melvin Gowl, Jack Shugars, Alex Plotkin, Zack Hill and Brendan Simpkins.

“A lot of his yards were inside the tackles. We ran power and counters with him as much as we ran outside plays or zone reads,” said Schmitt. “The thing you couldn’t get read with Zach is until you saw the film was how tough he ran.”

A two-time All-MIAA A pick, Abey was selected and played in the Baltimore Touchdown Club and Crab Bowl senior all-star football contests. He’s a two-time MIAA championship wrestler.

Abey, who’s not wrestling this winter, plans to sign a football scholarship with the University of Buffalo in February.

cookDefensive Player of the Year: Wyatt Cook, McDonogh School (click for video interview)

In Baltimore, where Ray Lewis set the standard for middle linebacker, Cook was the conduit for the area’s top high school defensive unit this past fall. The junior linebacker is Varsity Sports Network’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Cook, 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, recorded 86 tackles (12 for loss) for the Owings Mills school, which won its first outright MIAA A Conference championship and finished No. 1 in the area. The Eagles capped their historic season with a 37-6 dismantling of then-No. 1 and two-time defending league champ Gilman.

“We had another year to grow, it was kind of like a rec league team, you start out in sixth grade and by you’re an eighth grader, you’re beating up on everybody,” said Cook, whose team went 3-8 in 2012. “The journey was long and hard, but in the end, we did well.”

Cook became a complete linebacker, displaying the strength to shed blockers between the tackles and sideline-to-sideline speed to bring down running backs and receivers. McDonogh coach Dom Damico said he saw Cook’s potential as an eighth-grader.

“His preparation and process improved week-to-week, he was basically a coach on the field,” said Damico. “He studies film all the time and know opponents’ tendencies, formation, groupings. He’s basically the quarterback of the defense.”

The Eagles allowed an area-best 85 points, the fewest by a MIAA A Conference champion since Loyola Blakefield (76) in 2008. McDonogh finished No. 2 in the state media poll and recently entered Student Sports’ FAB 50 national rankings at No. 48.

Cook, who recently received his first scholarship offer from the University of Maryland, is the first underclassmen to be selected VSN’s Football Player of the Year.

damicoCoach of the Year: Dom Damico, McDonogh School (click for video interview)

The dean of MIAA coaches, Damico orchestrated one of most impressive campaign in league history. Damico is Varsity Sports Network’s Football Coach of the Year.

McDonogh had its first unbeaten season (11-0) since 2000 and claimed the MIAA A Conference championship. The Owings Mills school capped its season with a resounding 37-6 decision over then-defending champ and then-No. 1 ranked Gilman School.

The win completed a year journey that began at Archbishop Spalding where the Eagles took the Greyhounds into the fourth quarter in the league semifinals before falling. McDonogh went 3-8 in 2012.

“We knew we were close,” said Damico. “We build on it and got over the hump.”

With 14 starters back including a massive offensive line and a fast and athletic defense, McDonogh trailed only once (7-0 vs. St. Frances Academy) all season. The Eagles won their 11 decisions by an average margin of 28.5 points.

McDonogh allowed an area-best 85 points, the fewest by a MIAA A champ since Loyola Blakefield in 2008. The Eagles are first MIAA A to go undefeated since Loyola’s historic 2008 season.

Damico, who’s been coaching for 25 seasons, said his 2013 edition is the best. He spent five seasons at Cardinal Dougherty in Philadelphia before coming to McDonogh in 1994.

“Our kids believed in what we were doing and got it rolling,” said Damico, who was assisted by Tim Brandau, Mike Damico, Spencer Folau, Tony Lott, Matt MacMullan and Hakeem Sule. “The more the kids get confident and the more yo win, the easier it becomes but there was a will to this team that made them different. They did all the little things.”

Damico, a 1986 Temple University grad who played football under current Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, has guided the Eagles to seven MIAA championships (three A and four B titles). He’s 128-65 in 20 seasons at McDonogh.