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Joe Thomas Award Finalists for top senior offensive lineman

11/17/2020, 2:00pm CST
By Travis Wilson

Catholic Memorial offensive lineman Jim Schwaab (#65)

Joe Thomas Award Finalists

The Joe Thomas Award is given annually to the state's top senior offensive lineman as part of the WSN Senior Football Awards. The award is named after former Brookfield Central and University of Wisconsin athlete Joe Thomas, who went on to great success in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. After an All-American career at UW, Thomas was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl each of his first ten years in the league and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

The pre-season watch list was trimmed down to 25 semi-finalists, and six finalists for the award have now been selected. Winners are announced the week of the state finals.

J.P. Benzschawel, Grafton

The latest Benzschawel to go through Grafton, J.P. Benzschawel joins older brothers Beau (Wisconsin and now the Detroit Lions) and Luke (Wisconsin) as Division 1 recruits, and like his older siblings, will head to Wisconsin, giving the Badgers an early commitment. A massive, dominating force up front for the Black Hawks, he has been a four-year varsity performer. "He is by far the most athletic and hardest working offensive lineman I have coached," said Grafton head coach Jim Norris.

Ben Janowski, Menomonee Falls

Ben Janowski was the lone junior First Team All-Conference offensive lineman in the Greater Metro last season and should be in store for more accolades this year, helping the Phoenix to two straight league titles. Playing tackle for head coach Dan Lutz, he excelled in movement situations, whether pulling, angle blocks, or getting to the second level. He’s very strong in his pass set with an excellent foundation. "He was our best offensive lineman and protected our quarterback's blind side," said head coach Dan Lutz.

Evan Ladwig, Plymouth

Plymouth's Evan Ladwig took home unanimous First Team All-Conference recognition to go with WFCA All-Region and Honorable Mention All-State accolades in 2019 and in 2020 was the league Offensive Lineman of the Year for a second straight season. Ladwig is not only very technically sound, he shows a good deal of versatility in moving around the formation, from tackle to guard on either side. "We ran behind him and Austin Zeeveld and teams knew it, but we still managed to always move the ball," said head coach Dan Knaus.

Kyle Mason, Muskego

Kyle Mason is a three-year starter at guard for Muskego, who has not lost a game in his time on varsity. Head coach Kenneth Krause raves about his ability to pull in the team’s Wing-T offense. His quick feet allow him to get out in front of ballcarriers and deliver a knockout blow on defenders. We run all our sweeps behind him," Krause said. "As a team we average over 10 yards a carry. He has never given up a sack all season."

Marcus Mbow, Wauwatosa East

Marcus Mbow of Wauwatosa East was a Second Team All-Conference pick in the very tough Greater Metro Conference last season. Even higher honors should be in store in 2020, as he’s an extremely talented player who is only getting better. Playing at tackle on both the left and right side, he impressed with a desire to dominate defenders all the way to the whistle. He does a nice job getting his hands on opponents and maintaining contact and drive, often finishing with pancakes against some pretty solid competition. He’s got long arms, which helps in engaging guys across from him. He holds more than a dozen Division 1 scholarship offers. "Our offensive production this season far exceeds the past 15 years of Raider football, and Marcus is a major reason," said head coach David Pfeiffer. "He gave up zero sacks and had dozens of pancakes in both the run and pass game."

Jim Schwaab, Catholic Memorial

Jim Schwaab of Catholic Memorial was a key figure up front for the Division 4 state champion Crusaders last season, playing at center in the team’s offense. He was very impressive in tacking on nose tackles and interior defensive linemen, engaging and shielding defenders off. He also pulled from his center position, showing the agility to get out in front and lead the way. Schwaab is an outstanding student who recently committed to Air Force.

About the Author

Travis Wilson serves as the WisSports.net General Manager, Football Editor, and contributing writer for other parts of the site. Wilson was selected as part of the Sports 40 Under 40 list by Coach & AD Magazine and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association for 2019. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association (WFCA) named Travis the 2015 recipient of the Dave McClain Distinguished Service Award. He currently serves on the WFCA Executive Board as the Website and Communications Director and is a member of the Executive Board of the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association. A graduate of Richland Center High School and Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Travis was a three-sport athlete in high school (football, baseball, basketball) and currently resides in Reedsburg. You can follow him on Twitter at @travisWSN.

For the latest and most up to date football news and recruiting information, follow Travis on Twitter @travisWSN. Email story ideas, recruiting info, etc. to Travis at travis(at)wissports.net.

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