The Jim Leonhard Award is given annually to the top senior defensive back as part of the WSN Senior Football Awards. The award is named after former Flambeau High School and University of Wisconsin athlete Jim Leonhard, who has gone on to great success in the NFL with the Bills, Ravens, Jets, Broncos, and Saints.
The pre-season watch list was trimmed down to 15 semi-finalists, and six finalists for the award have now been selected. Winners are announced the week of the state finals.
Jim Leonhard Award Finalists:
Michael Crowley, Marquette – Crowley leads the Marquette defense in tackles with 113, recording 2 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 5 interceptions, and 15 passes defended this season. He is equally adept at dropping into coverage and breaking on the ball, or getting downhill in the run game. “For a guy that played 7-10 yards off the ball he sure wreaked a lot of havoc for offenses in our conference!” head coach Jeff Mazurczak said.
Jim Hoesley, Arcadia – Hoesley was a First Team All-Conference and WFCA Honorable Mention All-State pick as a junior and should be in line for even more postseason awards this year. The team's leading receiver for a second straight year and used in the run game and returns, Jim made the move defensively from cornerback to safety this year, though he still plays man-to-man against top receivers or in key situations. Most teams did not put the ball in the air in his direction. Still, in 8 regular season games he recorded 17 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
Kobe Knaak, Franklin – Knaak is a versatile defender for the unbeaten Sabers, lining up all over the field the last three years for one of the best defensive units in Division 1. As a senior, he has 82 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 2 interceptions for head coach Louis Brown. He's an aggressive tackler from any position and is very good at driving on the ball in front of him.
Matthew Lechner, Catholic Memorial – Playing in one of the toughest conferences in the state, Catholic Memorial has allowed less than 9 points per game so far this season, with a defense that is anchored on the back end by Lechner. An aggressive safety, he fills well, as evidenced by his 50 tackles, including 14 for loss and 3 sacks.
Amaziah McCall, Amherst – McCall is a true shutdown corner at the high school level, with many teams choosing simply not to challenge him. He had 21 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 fumble recoveries this year for the undefeated Falcons, rarely playing in the second half of games. “He takes the #1 receiver every week from the opposing team and is put on an island,” said coach Mark Lusic. “Doesnt have the flashy numbers, but is a heck of a player. Makes it a lot easier for us to game plan and sleep at night knowing that Amaziah is going to lock down the opposing teams best perimeter player.”
Jake Walgenbach, Fond du Lac – A two-time First Team All-Conference choice in the VFA-South, Walgenbach is a rangy defensive back that uses his size and skill to always be around the ball. As a senior, he has 37 tackles and 2 interceptions in the first 10 games of the year. “He has 10 interceptions the last two seasons and has not missed a play,” said head coach Mike Gnewuch. “He is probably the best pure tackler on the team. He's rangy and smart and always seems to be in position.”