Cougars sweep the top Skyline awards
A lacerated liver forced Larry Ragsdale out of action for half of his junior season.
But the Illinois Valley senior came back strong for his senior year and capped off a monster rushing campaign by being named the offensive player of the year in Skyline Conference football.
Ragsdale's teammate Lance Tausaga was named defensive player of the year in voting by the league's coaches, while Bob Thornhill was tabbed coach of the year after guiding the fourth-ranked Cougars to a 10-0 mark in the regular season.
The 5-foot-8, 140-pound Ragsdale churned out 1,621 yards on only 122 carries to pace the Cougars.
"He is flat-out fast," said Thornhill, whose team was eliminated from the state playoffs in the second round Friday. "He's a two-time 100-meter champion in track, and I swear if you put the kid in football gear he is faster."
Illinois Valley (10-0) had three first-teamers on the offensive side of the ball and four representatives on defense.
Ragsdale was joined on the first-team offense by teammate Eric McConico (senior running back) and Tausaga (guard).
Tausaga spearheaded a defense that gave up just 9.6 points per game. The junior linebacker amassed a team-best 154 tackles, forced five fumbles and recovered three and had two sacks.
"That young man, at his age and where he's at, is the best football player — and especially linebacker — I've seen," said Thornhill. "He goes sideline to sideline and packs a huge hit with him."
Senior tackle Bobby Parsons, senior outside linebacker Steven Paul and senior defensive back Jesse Swift also made the defensive first team for the Cougars.
Phoenix had two first-team competitors in junior defensive end Ben Crichton and senior defensive back Korey Locken