2022 All-Big Bend Boys Football Player of the Year: Ryan Daunt, Maclay
Maclay has been a football hotbed for years and years. The amount of talent and titles it has produced over time has rivaled some of the best programs in the state. This talent pipeline is constantly flowing, inspiring young players in the program to follow those before them.
While at Maclay, senior forward Ryan Daunt played alongside some of the strongest players to come through the program and looked up to them. They’ve been key parts of the Marauders’ deep playoffs and a few state titles.
This year was an opportunity for Daunt to be the guy younger players looked up to. Those before him helped him get to where he was today, and it was his turn to lead Maclay and inspire those behind him.
“They honestly did it all,” Daunt said. “Whether it was freshman year admiring guys like Jordan Pichard, who scored every time he shot, or my junior year with Beacher, Lewis, Alex Guzman and Luke Stockstill. These were the guys who gave the tone for me and for what they wanted Maclay to be. They were captains and molded it. Maclay was less of a program and more of a family.
In a year when Maclay was considered the underdog, dropping from 2A to 3A, Daunt and the Marauders didn’t flinch, winning a district title and nearly eliminating the No. 1 seed in Region 1. Daunt’s balanced performance from attack to defense, scoring 18 goals, complemented by 13 assists and 21 steals, crowned him All-Big Bend Boys Soccer Player of the Year 2022.
“It’s a great feeling,” Daunt said. “It’s a lot of hard work, not just in high school, but your whole life. You don’t necessarily prepare for that award, but in freshman year, when you see that first Big Bend player, he’s a role model, and you want to follow in their footsteps. This award was a milestone and it feels good.”
Daunt’s ability to not only score, but also build defensively came into his upbringing with Maclay. He was never really down on a position throughout his high school career, but played where he was needed.
In his sophomore year, he played a role more focused on creating scoring opportunities, with higher assists, where in his junior and senior years, goals and assists increased at the same rate.
“Freshman year I played black a lot and junior year it was more middle and this year I’m playing middle,” Daunt said. “Just playing in these different positions, and wherever the coach needs me, allows me to have more balance.”
The team Daunt led this year faced a different kind of situation than last: an uphill battle. Playing in 3A, the competition didn’t have high expectations for the Marauders, and in some cases that helped the team. Daunt said it relieved the program and allowed them to show opponents.
Maclay lost four times during the year, and only one of those matches was against a 3A contender. Until the regional semi-final against Bolles, Maclay shut out all of his playoff opponents, including a 4-0 victory over Florida High to win the district title and an 8-0 victory over Trinity Catholic in the semi-finals. regional. Morale may have been low at first, but as the season progressed, the Marauders started to believe it.
“We started really badly, but as the season progressed we realized we had a lot more potential, and if not for this team this year, for future teams,” Daunt said. “A state title wasn’t on my mind at the start of the year. This team wasn’t going to get there, but as we progressed and the team was built, we got to that level… we were really close to Bolles, but in the end it hurts less and you feel like you’ve achieved more as an underdog.”
As graduation nears, Daunt is undecided between two programs on where he wants to play football. He is currently in the process of being appointed to the Air Force Academy, where he has the option of playing football there or plans to play at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina with his brother.
Each program offers something different, but both offer the opportunity to take your career to the next level. Daunt said he wouldn’t be disappointed with his decision anyway.
Concluding this chapter of his life, Daunt said his time at Maclay meant everything to him. He regrets not coming to the program sooner because he made such fond memories with the Marauders.
“I regretted not playing until my freshman year,” Daunt said. “I thought I would be scouted to play at an academy somewhere and I always wondered why I was at Maclay, but I have no regrets without looking back. It’s just a great program. All my best friends are in the team.”
“Coach Warner is an A-licensed national coach, and you won’t get that anywhere else, even at these academies. Most definitely you won’t get that level of camaraderie and brotherhood.”
2022 All-Big Bend Boys Soccer Coach of the Year: Bryan McDonald, Chiles
“Winning with 25”
Those two words and a number propelled the Timberwolves through a historic season, casting them as a heavyweight in the world of Florida high school football. For most of the season, Chiles has been untouchable.
On a few occasions this winter, Chiles moved up to No. 1 in the FHSAA 6A rankings and had lost just one game in the regular season. All season, Chiles had outscored their opposition 71-14 and averaged 3.6 goals per game, almost two goals more than the national average.
After their only loss to Lincoln in the regular season, Chiles won 13 straight before falling to Ponte Vedra in the regional semi-finals. Senior talents of Kyle Otis, Joey Lacombe and Martin Youssef played prominent roles, but emerging talents of sophomore Cade Swart and junior Garrett Elebash also shone.
This winter was historic for the Timberwolves, naming head coach Bryan McDonald the 2022 All-Big Bend Boys Football Coach of the Year.
“What really came down to having a great group of kids who really bought into the messages that we were pushing, and they all believed in each other,” McDonald said. “They all believed in the guy next to them, and the core value of just being a team.”
Chiles have 12 players named to All-Big Bend teams, four to the first team, making them the best team in the region this winter. This isn’t the first time McDonald’s has worked with this group as they have known and trained some of these kids for over a decade. The feeling of similarity played into the success of the Timberwolves.
“I think that really helps,” McDonald said. “You build a relationship between the player and the coach for X years, and you earn that level of trust with them. The message that you deliver, they will realize it and, and it shows. You see the levels of maturity increase and all of them over the years, it’s been fantastic as a coaching staff to watch for sure.”
WATCH: Chilean football reacts to District Championship win
Chile head coach Bryan McDonald, sophomore Cade Swart and junior Garrett Elebash react to Chile’s 3-0 win over Buchholz to win the district title.
Jack Williams, Democrat of Tallahassee
The feeling of familiarity has allowed the Chileans to perform as a whole and not rely heavily on players who may be juniors or seniors. Their top scorer, Swart, is only in his second season in high school, and their second-top scorer, Elebash, still has a year to go.
The Timberwolves have seen production go up and down their roster which has allowed them to dominate the Big Bend football scene. The school year didn’t matter to the Timberwolves once they took the field.
“When you cross that line, if your freshman, sophomore, senior, junior, it doesn’t matter when that whistle blows,” McDonald said. “You are a player on a team that represents your school and your team. We were just lucky to have a group of young guys who have a bit of experience and contributed.”
Chiles are taking a big hit at senior level, getting 13, but a solid foundation has been established this season for the rising class according to McDonald. There was a sour taste in the season-ending loss to the Sharks, but the sweet aftertaste now manifests in the form of motivation for next season.
“It kind of kills the guys who are going to be back for next season because they see what the potential is and they see what the standards have been set,” McDonald said. “The senior group leading us has established a very, very good basis for the groups to come to on how you should conduct yourself in the training sections and in matches.”
Jack Williams covers prep sports for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at [email protected], on Twitter @jackgwilliams.