Defense Player of the Year
Monte Graves, St. Mary's, senior LB (6-2, 240): "I always tried to make the first big hit of the game, or I would start off by pounding the other team's center early," said Graves, who possesses at least 4.7 speed for 40 yards and set the tempo in each game for the top-ranked Saints (8-2). Graves, the first St. Mary's athlete ever named one of The Sun's football Players of the Year, asked to be on the kicking and punting teams this season so he could deal some extracurricular punishment. He made a team-high 62 solo tackles (114 overall), and had an interception, a blocked punt and eight sacks. Graves was the main reason the Saints limited Mount St. Joseph's Aaron Thompson to minus two yards in the second half of a 36-27 victory -- this after he gained 146 yards for two scores in the first quarter. "He's the best linebacker I've coached," said coach Brad Best. Boston College, West Point, Navy, West Virginia and Virginia are all recruiting Graves, also a superb blocking guard in the Saints' offense.
First team -- defense
Jason Boyce, Dunbar, senior, LB (5-8, 190): Boyce, a second-team All- City/County pick last year, solidified the Poets' defense quietly, making 95 tackles (39 solos), 18 sacks, six fumble recoveries and four interceptions. He also rushed for 554 yards and three touchdowns as a running back to help the Poets to their fourth state semifinal in as many seasons.
Karim Cross, City, senior, LB (5-10, 200): Potomac coach Eric Knight, whose team lost, 26-22, to the Knights in last weekend's first-round Class 2A playoff, called Cross "a tough player." Cross, a third-year starter, led the Knights with nine sacks and two interceptions, one of which led to the game-winning touchdown against Mount St. Joseph. With a team-high 95 tackles (42 solos), Cross was a big reason City, a state semifinalist, allowed just 14 points in its first five games.
Chris Field, Severna Park, senior, L (6-4, 240): A two-way tackle who rarely came off the field, he led the defense in unassisted tackles (51). Quick feet and brute strength made Field practically immovable. "Chris is one of the best linemen we've had," said coach Andy Borland. Field is the leading candidate for the Annapolis Touchdown Club's Al Laramore Trophy, which goes to Anne Arundel County's top lineman. He's being recruited by Maryland and other Division I schools.
Robert Gross, Lake Clifton, senior, DL (5-9, 190): Gross was the nose-guard and a four-year starter on one of the area's best defenses. He earned All-Baltimore City/County Defensive Player
of the Year honors for helping the Lakers to their first Class 4A state playoff semifinal, including a 58-30 rout of Anne Arundel County power North County, the 1994 state champ. He had 15 sacks and 101 tackles (47 solo) for the state semifinalist Lakers, who allowed 4.9 points during the regular-season, with four shutouts (7.1 points over 11 games).
Carl Hebron, City, senior, L (6-2, 290): Despite the demands of being a two-way player, Hebron, with 33 tackles, was the Knights' second-leading tackler among linemen on a defense that allowed just 9.5 points a game. When the Knights were on offense, the three-year starter also was the team's center.
Rob Hoffman, St. Mary's, junior, DL (6-1, 205): A nasty hitter and a key member of the Saints' hard-pounding defense, Hoffman was in on 80 tackles (42 solos). He also had a team-high nine sacks, blocked three punts, had one interception and recovered two fumbles. Opponents often ran away from his side.
Tony Jackson, Wilde Lake, senior, DB (6-2, 200): Jackson, who may go high in the amateur baseball draft in June, made 124 tackles (68 solos), with 10 of them going for losses. He also had four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and returned both of his fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Offensively, the four-year starter played tight end, catching 23 passes for 485 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson, who was second-team All-Metro last season and Howard County's Defensive Player of the Year, is being heavily recruited. His father, Rich Jackson, is the school's wrestling coach and assistant football coach.
Devin Jones, Patterson, senior, DB (5-8, 155): Jones made the Clippers go on both sides of the ball. He had 34 tackles, 12 batted passes, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. His best game defensively came in limiting Lake Clifton's Terril Lowery to two receptions for 11 yards. As a quarterback, he rushed for 701 yards and nine touchdowns and passed for 675 yards and four more scores. He also returned one punt and one kickoff for touchdowns.
Mike Levy, Fallston, senior, L (6-1, 255): Levy, a two-time All-Harford County choice and 1996 Defensive Player of the Year, began this season as a defensive lineman but was shifted back after the second game. He finished with 93 tackles. As an offensive lineman, he was a key blocker behind two backs who combined for 1,800 rushing yards. He is prospective collegiate 1-AA recruit.