The defensive end was awarded the Lorain County Golden Helmet a couple Thursdays ago, partied on the field with the Ohio State Buckeyes — the team he’ll play for next spring — after their big win over Michigan on Saturday and was named one of the top defensive players in Ohio on Monday.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound lineman was named the Division I co-Defensive Player of the Year with Austintown Fitch’s Billy Price and Cincinnati Moeller’s Shane Jones after racking up 103 tackles, 19 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles for the 7-3 Pioneers this season.
Sprinkle is the second Lorain County player to earn an All-Ohio player of the year award after Columbia’s Ryan Severo was named the Division V co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. Elyria Catholic’s Al McKinney was named the state’s Class AA Back of the Year by the Associated Press and United Press International in 1984, years before they reduced the top player awards to two.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Sprinkle, who was an All-Ohio third-team pick last year. “It’s a good accolade for the season I had. I think it puts me out there a little more. I’m not just some random guy going to Ohio State.”
Sprinkle’s headed to the Buckeyes soon. He begins taking his high school finals on Dec. 18, then will enroll in Columbus on Jan. 6.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s just hit me recently that it’s that close, because people keep talking about me going down there. I’m just trying to keep on keeping on.
“I got a little taste this weekend … and that was an amazing experience.”
Sprinkle leads a class of nine local athletes onto the first teams in Divisions I and II. The all-Ohio lists for Divisions III and IV will be released tonight, and the lists for Divisions V and VI — as well as the Mr. Football announcement — will be released Wednesday.
Joining Sprinkle on the Division I first team was Pioneers teammate Connor Kamczyc, Avon Lake’s Jimmy Hessel, St. Ignatius’ Matt Colella, who hails from Amherst, and St. Edward’s Solomon Warfield — a Lorain resident.
Lorain County’s first-teamers in Division II include the Avon trio of Ross Douglas, Ralph Smith and Kevin Skotko, and Midview’s Cody Callaway.
Joining Sprinkle in the Big Ten next year will be Warfield, who will play for Iowa, and Douglas, who will play for Michigan — Ohio State’s top rival.
Douglas is also starting college early. His final day at Avon will be Dec. 21, he’ll enroll in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Jan. 7 and begin attending classes on Jan. 9.
“Coach (Mike) Elder talked to me at the end of last season and asked me to think about my goals for this year,” said Douglas, who rushed for 1,349 yards and 24 touchdowns this year. “Making it on the All-Ohio first team was definitely on that list, and this kind of topped it all (in my high school career) for me individually.”
Kamczyc led the Pioneers with 161 tackles and had nine sacks as a junior, Colella kicked nine field goals — a long of 51 yards — 63 extra points and 54 touchbacks for the Wildcats and Hessel had over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns on offense, and 41 tackles, nine interceptions and 15 pass breakups on defense for the Shoremen.
“It’s a great honor … it’s the highest award you can get as a high school kid,” said Hessel, who also returned kickoffs and punts. “I had no idea what my chances were (of earning the award) and honestly didn’t even think about it before the conference teams were announced and I realized that these postseason awards were going to start rolling in.”
Smith is another first-teamer that will be playing for a Division I college program next season when he suits up at cornerback for Ball State.
“I wouldn’t say it was expected, but (All-Ohio was) definitely something I wanted to achieve,” said Smith, who hauled in 38 catches for 694 yards and seven touchdowns this year. “We didn’t get to the state championship game this year (like we did last year) but this makes everything better. It’s the icing on the cake.”
Douglas, Smith and Skotko, who led the Eagles with over 100 tackles this season, are the second trio of first-teamers from the school — joining Ryan O’Rourke, Alex Tabar and Garrett Gronowski, who were Division III selections in 2008.
“All three kids are well deserving of the recognition,” Elder said. “We kind of view that as a team accomplishment and all three of them would say without their teammates and their team’s success, they wouldn’t be on the first team.”
Callaway jumped from the third team as a sophomore to the first team this year after putting together over 2,000 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns. He’s hoping for an even better senior season.
“The one award I’d like to get next year is the Golden Helmet,” Callaway said. “That’s my main goal next year. I’d like to finish my high school career on a good note.”