THE WILLIAMS FILE
Parents: Michelle and Cosmo
Favorite non-football sport: Track
Favorite pregame meal: Chicken
Favorite music: Doesn’t listen to music much
Favorite school subject: Economics
By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — High school football is about more than just playing a sport.
It’s also about the lessons learned on and off the field.
For Charlotte’s Maleek Williams, one of the most important lessons football taught him came in his junior year.
Williams, who committed to play for the University of Arkansas this summer, wasn’t the starting running back last year because another Division-I bound player, Elijah Mack, was ahead of him on the depth chart. Instead letting it discourage him, Williams learned how patience is a virtue, and took the season in stride.
“It doesn’t happen often,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said of having multiple Division-I running backs on the same team.
“It was a great feeling. Sometimes it’s hard to handle. You wanted to get the kid more carries than he got as a junior. It was tough. We had a great quarterback, and some great wideouts. It’s a great problem to have, though.”
Williams spent his junior year learning from Mack, as the two backs bonded, and while waiting for his time as a running back, Williams made the all area team as a linebacker.
“That was definitely something I’m glad happened,” Williams said. “At time I was frustrated, but it’s going to be like that in college, and you just have to keep grinding and when your time comes you have to make the best out of it.”
His time came this year, as his area-best 1,294 yards and 24 touchdowns led the Tarpons to their first state semifinal appearance since 2002. For that, Williams isn’t just on the All-Area team this year, but he’s The Sun’s football player of the year.
The senior learned more than just patience during his time as a backup, but also all the little things that go into being a good running back. He was new to the position at the time – and really still is – and learned that he can’t go for the 70-yard touchdown on every play, that the five and six yards runs are just as important to the game.
As a 6-foot-1, 225-pound speed and power back, Williams showed his capability of getting those small chunk yards to keep the chains moving, and also running for those 20, 30 and 40-yard touchdowns.
Even though his season was good enough for player of the year, Williams still wasn’t satisfied with the way things finished. He pulled his hamstring during the spring, and it bothered him for a majority of the season. At the end of the regular season, he tweaked his ankle, which effected his productivity for the playoffs.
Those injuries were another lesson for Williams.
“My speed is my ‘it’ factor. That’s what makes me special,” Williams said. “I couldn’t get to my extra gear. I had to learn how to cope with it. You just have to learn how to play with it. A lot of the dudes in NFL and college have some kind of injury. It’s just part of playing football.”
Then of course, there’s the 39-0 loss to Miami Carol City in the state semifinals.
“It leaves high school with a sour taste in your mouth,” Williams said. “I didn’t want it to end that way.”
Most players on the football team will still have a few more months of high school to cope with the loss, but for Williams that time has passed. He’ll be graduating early from Charlotte, and will enroll at Arkansas on Jan. 13, in time for Razorback spring practices.
Williams doesn’t know what he’s going to major in yet, and says he’s going to take his time to find the right one. But that major is also a plan B for Williams, as the reason he chose Arkansas, which plays in the SEC, is to prepare him to play in the NFL.
But before he gets there, football will still have plenty of lessons to offer the young running back.
ALL AREA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: RB – Maleek Williams, Charlotte RB Sr.
Williams had about as productive of a senior season as one could have. His 24 touchdowns weren’t even close to being matched by anybody else in the area, and neither were his 1,295 rushing yards. He had five 100-plus-yard games throughout the year, and also had seven games where he scored mutliple touchdowns.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dee Hicks, Charlotte QB
QB – Dee Hicks, Charlotte Sr.
Hicks made the switch from DB to QB this year and had instant success. He finished the year with 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns – both area bests – and just two interceptions. But it’s what he did with his legs which made him so dynamic. He also rushed for 507 yards and eight touchdowns, which put him in the top-6 for the area as a rusher.
RB – Brayden Curry, Lemon Bay Sr.
It was a slow start to the season for Curry, but by the end of the year he finished No. 2 in the area in rushing with 937 yards. He also found the end zone 11 times on the ground, which was second best in the area. Curry ended his career as the second all-time leading rusher in Lemon Bay history.
WR – C.K. Poulos, North Port Jr.
Poulos was the No. 1 receiver in the area in 2016. He was a big target for QB Devon Allen, as he brought down an area-best 40 receptions. He also led everyone with 587 receiving yards and his five touchdown catches were tops. He put his talents on display in Week 9 with eight receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown.
OL – Austin Van Camp, North Port Sr.
Van Camp was a two-year starter on the offensive line for the Bobcats, and was one of few seniors on the roster this year. He helped block for a talented duo in Javon Howell and Octavious Cummings.
G – Justin Hinck, Lemon Bay Jr.
Lemon Bay’s best offensive lineman in 2016 was Hinck. Runners behind his line rushed for nearly 2,000 yards on the season.
C – Jack Fining, Charlotte Sr.
Was generally considered the best center in the area. His offensive line helped blocked for a team which rushed for more than 3,100 yards and 46 touchdowns on the ground.
G – Jaden Hunter, Port Charlotte Sr.
Was a top offensive lineman in the area, grading out to a 93 for the Pirates. He blocked for a team which rushed for more than 2,500 yards in 10 games.
T – Dustyn Hall, Charlotte So.
Hall was one of the best among a talent group of Tarpons. His offensive line helped blocked for a team which rushed for more than 3,100 yards and 46 touchdowns on the ground.
ATH – Ernest Harvey, Port Charlotte Sr.
When Harvey got injured in the Charlotte game, he was No. 2 in the area in receiving, and No. 3 in rushing. He was a dynamic player, who managed to find the end zone at big times. Even though he missed the end of the season, he still finished top five in both rushing (634 yards) and receiving (279 yards). He also totaled eight touchdowns on the year.
ATH – D’Vonte Price, Charlotte Sr.
Price remained on the area leaderboard in both rushing and receiving all season, despite only playing in four games due to injury. Price returned for the playoffs, and could not have had a bigger impact for the Tarpons, scoring all four touchdowns in the regional final win against Fort Myers. He ended the season with 526 rushing yards with six touchdowns, and 379 receiving yards with four more scores.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Devin Leacock, Port Charlotte DL
DL – Devin Leacock, Port Charlotte Jr.
Leacock was a huge reason the Pirates had great success at stopping the run game all season. He led the area with 15 tackles for a loss, and also got to the quarterback for 10.5 sacks. Leacock totaled 45 tackles on the year.
DL – G’Vonte Price, Charlotte Sr.Did a little bit of everything for the Tarpons with 52 tackles, six tackles for a loss, six sacks and forced and recovered a fumble. He even had five pass deflections and an interception.
DL – Thomas Chaney, Lemon Bay Sr.
He led the Manta Rays in both tackles for a loss and sacks, but it was his 11 sacks which were No. 1 in the area, making a big impact in the Lemon Bay pass defense.
DL – Jordan Deackoff, Charlotte Sr.
He was a mainstay in the opposing team’s backfield all season. He made eight tackles for a loss, and grabbed the QB for seven sacks. He also had 49 tackles.
LB – Tiyan “Pop” Bush, Port Charlotte Sr.
Was a big threat in the middle of the field for the Pirate defense. He made 77 tackles, got to the quarterback for eight sacks and had an interception. He also forced five fumbles.
LB – Logan Lydic, Lemon Bay Jr.
Lydic played in just nine games this season, but he not only led his team, but also the area, with 110 tackles. Six of those tackles went for a loss. As a bonus, he caught 16 passes for 163 yards on offense.
LB – Cazea Smith, Charlotte Sr.
Flew around the field all season, leading the Tarpons with 104 tackles. He had four tackles for a loss, caused two fumbles, deflected a pair of passes, blocked a kick and even scored a touchdown.
DB – Savorion Warren, Charlotte Jr.
He was a ballhawk at times, leading the area with eight interception. That total was at one point No. 1 in the state. He also deflected eight passes, but he wasn’t just great in coverage, as he made an impact with 49 tackles and six for a loss.
DB – T.J. Luther, Port Charlotte Jr.
Nobody in the are broke up as many passes as Luther’s 28, and he also caught a few of those passes, finishing the year with three interceptions. Luther totaled 42 tackles on the season.
TWO WAY PLAYERS
ATH – Skylar Razwilavich, North Port Jr.
Razwilavich did it all for the Bobcats, whether it was on defense or offense. He played a little quarterback, but was mostly a receiver who had 22 receptions for 334 yards and two touchdowns – third-best in the area. On defense, he made 33 tackles, had three interceptions and forced and recovered a fumble.
ATH – Victor Mellor, Lemon Bay Sr.Was a two-way starter as a free safety and a slotback. On defense, Mellor made 52 tackles and had three interceptions. On offense, he caught 27 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns, both of which were second-best in the area.
K/P – Devyn McCormick, Port Charlotte Sr.
McCormick is not only the best kicker in the area, he’s one of the best in the nation. He made nine of his 10 field goal attempts, with a long of 47, and only missed one extra points, as he was 41 of 42.
KR/PR – Jacob White, Charlotte Sr.
He averaged 31.5 yards per return on kickoffs, and 22.0 yards on punt returns. He also found the end zone on each kind of return. As a bonus on offense, he caught 19 passes for 399 yards and two touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Port Charlotte: Josh Lindstrom, D’Andre Lewis, Marc Jean Louis, Joseph Lopez, Shawn Campbell, Davon Keyes, Luidson Jeanty, Caden Marcum, Kyle Wheeler, Josh Hobbs, Will Furlow; North Port: Vitally Margitich, Devon Allen, Javon Howell, Octavious Cummings, Andrew Bosma, Ryan Stahler, Dane Ballsinger, Phillip Osipov; Charlotte: Travon McClary, Malik Gainer, Tommy Zozus, Daniel Frederique, Ny Harvey, Lavell Cudjo, Kenny Scribner, Jack Andreu, Jayden Grant, Nathan McCann; Lemon Bay: Hayden Wolff, Brenden Shuman, Hunter Numen, Seth Widgeon, Rob Cerami.