Westwood senior quarterback Mason Worsham threw for 1,670 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 735 yards and eight touchdowns, and capped off his career as a four-year starter by winning back-to-back state titles and ending with a 26-game winning streak.
ALBANY -- Call it the perfect ending to the perfect season for Mason Worsham, who led Westwood to its second consecutive GISA Class A state title a week ago and then won an even closer battle on the Internet, edging Seminole County star running back Chris Brown to win The Herald's 2nd annual People's Choice Football Player of the Year award Thursday.
"This is great news,'' said Worsham by phone, moments after he walked off a practice field in Macon, where he is getting ready to play in Saturday's GISA All-Star Game. "It's great to win this. It's an honor.''
Worsham, a four-year starter at quarterback for Westwood, finished his career with a 26-game winning streak, winning back-to-back state titles with two perfect 13-0 seasons, and then sat back and watched the fans in Camilla bombard the Internet with votes the way Worsham bombed the end zone.
Worsham led by about 100 votes late Wednesday night, but finished in a flurry with 10,211 votes to beat Brown, who finished with 9,337 votes.
"I just want to thank all the people who voted for me. Thank you very much,'' Worsham said. "People kept coming up to me and telling me they were voting for me. And people kept telling me it was close and it was back-and-forth between me and Chris Brown. I know my mom voted a few times for me, and I know the school was behind me and I guess a lot of people not from the school voted for me.''
Fans could vote more than once, but could vote only once an hour. Both schools and both communities got behind their star players and hit the Internet again and again.
Believe it or not, there was even a national campaign for Brown.
Brown's cousin, Phillip Daniels, a former defensive lineman with the Washington Redskins, is still a fan favorite and has almost 6,000 followers on Twitter. He urged all of his fans and followers to vote for Brown.
He posted on his Twitter account and also on a well-read Redskins website called "ExtremeSkins.com" this plea Wednesday: "Phillip Daniels Needs Your Help!!!"
Then Daniels went on to write: "I'm not getting enough votes for my cousin Chris Brown who is up for Player of the Year. I know that there are thousands for Redskins fans on here so please go and vote for him. I will put the link at the bottom so please go sign in and vote. You can vote once every hour and the deadline is tomorrow at 5 pm. Coming back from a major injury with a chance of never playing again and doing what he did this year, he deserves this award. The only way he will win is for you guys to help me out. My hometown is small and we are a bit outnumbered with other cities. Thanks to all who will help him out. Good kid who will be playing D1 football somewhere next season. I always hate coming on with non Redskins things but I really do want him to win this because he deserves it and the newspaper that is doing this has featured the guy that is winning twice and none of the other guys so you know what's going on there.''
Daniels obviously doesn't read The Albany Herald, which did not write two features on Mason Worsham -- or even one, for that matter. The Herald did, however, write a feature story about the Worsham family, but the focus of the story was on Donna, a mother of two high school football players and the wife of Westwood coach Ross Worsham.
The Herald also wrote an advance story about Westwood playing for the state title, but simultaneously also wrote a lengthy advance the same day about Seminole County playing Eagles Landing Christian Academy in the GHSA Class A state quarterfinals.
The Herald also featured Brown in a 40-inch personal story about the Seminole running back in The Herald's Dynamite Dozen series, which ran the week Seminole played rival Miller County in what was the biggest regular-season game of the year for the Indians.
The campaign for Brown even went a step further Wednesday when the Washington (D.C.) City Newspaper learned of the push Daniels was making for Brown and renowned journalist Dave McKenna even wrote an article about Daniels pushing for his cousin.
In the end, however, Worsham's supporters were simply too bent on seeing their guy win as the Westwood QB pulled away on the final day.
Both schools and communities hit the Internet hard. Westwood's enrollment from K-through-12th grade is just 430 kids, and there are only 102 students in the high school. Seminole County has an enrollment of only 323 students.
Make no mistake: Both stars deserved the support.
Worsham threw for 1,670 yards and 19 touchdowns, and rushed for 735 yards and eight TDs, and also played in the secondary.
Brown led Seminole County, which went 11-2 and advanced to the GHSA Class A Elite 8 round of the playoffs, to its greatest season in history. He rushed for 1,648 yards on only 132 carries (12.48 yards per carry), and 29 touchdowns, and also caught eight passes for 248 yards and two TDs. On defense, Brown made 54 tackles and had five interceptions worth 75 yards in returns.
Worsham and Brown had incredible support from voters, but the other four players who were nominated for the award received almost no support in the two-week voting period.
Monroe quarterback Charles Stafford, who threw for 2,522 yards and 20 touchdowns, and led Monroe to the Sweet 16 round of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs, played for the largest school and yet received only 297 votes. Albany High co-captain and two-way starter Jontavious Morris, who is being recruited by Division I schools as a defensive lineman, garnered just 205 votes.
Deerfield-Windsor's Quentin Heard, who rushed for 1,324 yards and 15 touchdowns and was a star at linebacker for the Knights' GISA Class AAA state semifinalist team, collected just 29 votes, and Westover's Chris Green, one of the most dominate defensive linemen in Southwest Georgia, got only 24 votes.
The Herald sports staff will pick the John Reynolds Player of the Year when the All-Area Football team is announced later this month.
Last year Lee County receiver Sanford Seay won the inaugural People's Choice Player of the Year award, while Lee County quarterback Justin Walker won the Herald's John Reynolds Player of the year award.
The John Reynolds Player of the Year is picked each season by The Herald's sports staff, and the winner will be one of the six players nominated for The Herald's People's Choice Player of the Year.