D10 High School Football Awards
By Rob Massey
The Gryphons honoured the best in the Guelph-based District 10 high school football league with their annual luncheon at the Gryphon Football Pavilion.
First-time league champion St. James Lions had three players receive major awards with Tanner Nelmes getting the Fitzy, the Nick FitzGibbon Award which is presented annually to the most outstanding player in the local high school football league, Pawel Szymanski .
“I’ve worked a long time for this,” said Nelmes, who was the offensive MVP in 2017. “This is five years. I was expecting it last year, but getting it this year is even sweeter with the championship. It means a lot to me.”
The Fitzy is named after Nick FitzGibbon, a standout with the Gryphons who was also a standout in D10 football. He went on to play in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and was at the luncheon to hand out the trophy.
For Nelmes, who also played linebacker on defence, he got a bigger kick out of throwing TD passes than scoring rushing TDs.
“I kept track of (my touchdowns), for sure, but I liked it better when other guys scored, too – when I was able to throw a touchdown to Pawel (Szymanski) or my friend Nick Bertolo,” Nelmes said. “That was even sweeter to me than getting five touchdowns per game, per se.”
Szymanski was named the defensive player of the year. Late in the season he also took the field as a receiver on offence and a returner on special teams.
“The award means a lot, especially bringing it home to St. James for a second year,” Szymanski said. “This year, it was just a nice feeling bringing it back to St. James.”
Brody Nelmes, Tanner’s older brother, was the defensive player of the year in 2017.
The offensive player of the year for 2018 was quarterback Daniel Brown of the Centennial Spartans.
“I wouldn’t say (I was) surpised, but I’m definitely grateful,” he said of winning the award. “I wouldn’t say I’m easily offensive MVP, but I think I did earn the spot, for sure.”
A Grade 11 student, Brown helped guide the Spartans into the D10 final. Like many of the top players in the league, he was a two-way player who saw plenty of time in the defensive backfield.
Offensive lineman Josh Mencfeld of St. James was named the lineman of the year.
“It means a lot,” he said of the award. “There were a lot of good linemen in the league and I’m just happy that I was recognized for what I did.”
Mencfeld was the winner although it was his first season on the offensive line.
“This was probably my fifth position in five years, so I’ve been moved around a lot,” he said. “At first I wasn’t super psyched about going to O line, but I just worked with what I had and I really appreciate the position. I had a lot of great coaches helping me along the way.”
Winner of the rookie-of-the-year award was receiver Keyon Robinson of the Guelph CVI Green Gaels. He has the same tall, slender build and big hair of his older brother, Gryphon defensive lineman Tavius Robinson who was the 2017 recipient of the Fitzy.
“It’s an honour to win the award, especially at the junior level,” Keyon said. “My coaches have helped me a lot. Not a lot of rookies played so I’m glad I got the chance to play and show what I could do.”
Despite both Robinsons being high school football standouts, they didn’t get the chance to play together at GCVI.
“I was just a few weeks short,” Keyon said. “My birthday’s in January, so if I’d been born a few weeks earlier I would’ve been able to play with him.”
However, he received plenty of advice from older brother Tavius.
“(He told me to) work hard, don’t give up, respect everyone, don’t show off and listen to my coaches because they know best,” Keyon said.
All of the winners have special memories of the 2018 high school football season.
“I feel like our team was just really well put together and we were all firing together,” Nelmes said. “There was a chemistry component to it in that we just all felt like family and that just helped us out to get the championship.”
“Definitely winning the championship with all my boys, this specific group of guys,” answered Szymanski. “It just means a lot, especially with all my best friends coming back for a fifth year and taking home the trophy.”
“Obviously winning the D10 championship for the first time because I think all of us understood how much it meant to the school and how much it meant to our coaches and everything,” Mencfeld said. “I’m just happy we went out there and we did it.”
“That’s a hard one,” Brown said. “I’d just say our offence stands out the most. We had some good guys and we didn’t really have any holes. Every position was filled with a solid player.”