As for his coach, Keith Register — who is departing the school to take over as head coach at Hayden — there’s no question which player is better.
“He’s the best ball player in the state, in my opinion,” Register said. “He does so much more everywhere — offense, defense, kicking game. He plays against 2A competition. But in our minds, he’s always number one.”
Stewart has verbally committed to play at Alabama, while Johnson has committed to Auburn. That might lead to a little rivalry when a certain ball game rolls around late each season.
Stewart was selected Back of the Year for the second straight year. And in Class 5A, Pinson Valley senior linebacker Zach Cunningham was chosen Lineman of the Year.
Cunningham came on strong later in the season, and flew under the radar for a while, so much so that he didn’t really start getting serious recruiting attention until October.
“I was very excited that I was nominated for the award,” Cunningham said. “My recruiting didn’t really begin until Week 9 of the season, so I wasn’t getting much attention until then.”
Cunningham is still very much undecided about his college choice, and is just now taking official visits to several schools. He just visited Auburn, with Oregon coming up this week and Vanderbilt next week, followed by Tennessee. More visits are in store for February, but Cunningham said he isn’t sure where those will be.
Cunningham’s Pinson teammate, receiver Earnest Robinson, has already committed to Auburn. Does that affect Cunningham’s decision?
“He’s got me thinking about it a lot. I think he’s pretty set in going there,” Cunningham said. “I went with him on the visit, and he’s trying to get me to go with him.”
Cunningham also made the Super 12 team, and finished in 10th place in the Mr. Football balloting. He and Stewart were the only two players from metro Birmingham to make the Super 12 team. They were among four players from the metro area to be named back or lineman of the year in their classification; Courtney Foy and Torradine Harris, both of Midfield, won the back and lineman honors, respectively, in Class 3A.
Stewart was bidding to become the second player from north Jefferson County to be named Mr. Football. Gardendale’s Roderick Green won the award in its third year, in the 1984 season.
Disclosure: NJN Sports Editor Robert Carter is a member of the ASWA Prep Sports Committee, which selected the winners for these awards.