Every year, Tournament of Champions (TOC) Sports and Warren Henry Motors of North Miami-Dade come together to recognize a player and coach who have made a major difference during the season.
Past Player of the Year winners include quarterback Daniel Richardson (Miami Booker T. Washington), Jawon Hamilton (South Dade), Hilton Joseph (North Miami), Devonta Freeman (Miami Central) and Dalvin Cook (Miami Central) to name a few.
This year, with so many distractions, the season was certainly one to remember – and coming with the award was one of the toughest decisions yet.
With all the key performances by players and coaches, coming with one who stood out from the rest.
On Friday, with players, coaches, administrators and friends on hand at Warren Henry Range Rover Showroom in Miami Gardens, the decision was one that all agreed with.
For leading his team to a first state title in a decade, Miami Northwestern senior quarterback Chatarius "Tutu" Atwell, who followed in the footsteps of his father – and so many quality performers before him, was named as the TOC/Warren Henry Player of the Year.
After losing six players before the start of the season – and using a number of younger prospects, veteran Miami Monsignor Pace icon, Joe Zaccheo, completely turned his program around, advancing to the state tournament as a No. 2 seed, beating Key West in the opening round of the playoffs. For his hard work, teaching and guidance, Zaccheo was named as this year's TOC/Warren Henry Coach of the Year.
"Every year, we have so many impressive choices to make," said TOC President and Founder, Wesley Frater. "Being in the best area on the country for high school football, the decision is always going to be tough."
ATWELL SEPARATES HIMSELF FROM THE PACK
From the first time he put on a Bulls' uniform – four years ago – it was a given that this 5-9, 155-pounder (yes 155 pounds) would be special. Running, passing and his overall leadership made the difference.
"Individual honors are all team honors," Atwell said. "This is a team sport where you win and lose together, and this year we were very fortunate to come out on top."
Joined by family, friends and head coach Max Edwards, Atwell, a Louisville commit, was a four-year starter for the Bulls, leading his team to a 12-2 after a 21-16 win over Seffner Armwood in the Class 6A championship game.
ZACCHEO'S OLD SCHOOL APPROACH WORKED
The Joe Zaccheo story is one that all coaches w ould want to follow.
The athletic director at the school, he had watched his program decline through the years. When he was urged to take it back, this coaching icon never skipped a beat.
From early morning practices to doing things his way, the Spartans slowly started to turn the corner – and when the 2017 season arrived – the feel of this program was different.
"The young men who bought in and stayed with this program from the start saw the results," Zaccheo said. "It may have been an old school approach to some, but for me and my exceptional coaching staff, it was the only way we knew to get things back on track."
Even during the season, when Zaccheo was ill and had to be hospitalized, the Spartans never looked back. The Spartans finished 8-4 after reaching the Class 4A regional finals.
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