The Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch Award is given annually to the state's top senior running back as part of the WSN Senior Football Awards. The award is named after former Wausau High School athlete Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, who went on to play for the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan before starring at end in the NFL for 12 seasons. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the National High School Hall of Fame, and later went on to serve as Wisconsin's athletic director from 1969 to 1987.
The pre-season watch list was trimmed down to 20 semi-finalists, and 12 finalists for the award have now been selected. Winners are announced the week of the state finals.
Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch Award Finalists:
John Chenal, Grantsburg - Chenal has been a monster in every phase this season, especially at running back, where he had 2,287 yards and 35 touchdowns on just 145 carries (11.0 yards per carry). He's added four receiving scores, a punt return touchdown, two defensive scores, 117 tackles, and even punts for the Pirates, despite playing a full game just twice this year due to blowouts. Chenal turned down D1-FCS scholarship offers to commit to Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on.
Javian Dayne, Waunakee - Despite sharing more of the workload with L.O. Johnson and sitting in the second half of many blowouts, Dayne has put up a second straight 1500-yard rushing season, as he has 261 carries for 2,136 yards and 31 touchdowns for the unbeaten Warriors. He averages 8.2 yards per carry, as he is more explosive than ever as a senior.
Justin Evans, Menomonie - Evans has been a workhorse for the Mustangs, who finished 11-1. He carried the ball 295 times for 1,946 yards and 31 touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. "He did not play in the second half of a lot of games during lop-sided scores," said head coach Joe LaBuda. "There was five of our ten games that he did not get a carry in the second half."
Joe Garcia III, Racine Horlick - Garcia was held out of most of the Week 9 win over Kenosha Indian Trail and all of Level 1, but has been one of the most explosive playmakers in the state this season. On just 130 carries, he had 1,319 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging 10.1 yards per carry and 131 yards per game. He also has three punt return touchdowns, a receiving score, and a defensive touchdown this season for the unbeaten Rebels. "I have coached some great athletes, but Joe Garcia is the best I have seen," said head coach Brian Fletcher. "I believe he is hands down the most versatile and naturally gifted athlete in the class of 2018."
Evan Gates, Lancaster - Gates led the state with 2,294 yards last season, earning Honorable Mention All-State recognition from the WFCA. He became one of the few players in state history to go over 2,000 yards in a season twice in their career, finishing 2017 with 2,056 yards and 33 touchdowns on 297 carries.
Henry Geil, Green Bay Preble - An Iowa commit, Geil has pounded away at opponents with great success all season. The bruising 6-1, 215-pounder carried the ball 224 times for 1,479 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Hornets. "Attitude, work ethic, and discipline are what set Henry apart from others," said head coach Tim Larsen.
Colton Kizewski, Stevens Point - Kizewski was recently announced as the VFA-West Offensive Player of the Year, a deserving honor after the senior rushed for 2,001 yards and 22 touchdowns through Level 1, despite missing the opening week of the season. He even caught three touchdown passes and threw a touchdown for the Panthers. "Colton is as dynamic of an offensive weapon as I've coached at SPASH," said head coach Pete McAdams. "He is a strong runner with good vision. His breakaway speed give us a big play threat every time he touches the ball."
Zach Krause, Clinton - Krause was a key part of the Cougars' backfield last season, but has taken over as the horse this year, rushing 216 times for 2,386 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 11 yards per carry. He's also an excellent defensive back for head coach Jeff Spiwak, whose team is unbeaten heading into Level 2.
Peter MacCudden, Waukesha West - MacCudden has been a key part of the Wolverines' offense and defense since his freshman season, when he scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in in the 2014 state title game. Last year he rushed for more than 2,000 yards, and went over that mark again this season, with 2,165 yards and 28 touchdowns through 11 games, averaging 7.6 yards per carry. He's also thrown three touchdowns this year and caught a score, while playing in the defensive secondary as well. He holds a number of Division 1 and Division 2 scholarship offers.
Zayne Rodencal, Fox Valley Lutheran - Rodencal already had 2,480 career rushing yards coming into his senior season, and nearly matched that in 2017. The 5-10, 205-pounder rushed for 2,180 yards and 30 touchdowns on 246 carries, averaging 8.9 yards per carry for the Foxes. For his career he has 4,660 yards with 30 touchdowns.
Brady Schipper, Stoughton - Injuries limited him the last couple years, but Schipper has been healthy in 2017, and it has meant bad news for opposing defenses. Despite facing frequent 8- and 9-man boxes, he's rushed for 1,975 yards and 25 touchdowns on 249 carries (7.9 yards per carry) despite missing a game earlier this season. He also caught a pair of touchdowns.
D.J. Stewart, Kimberly - While Kimberly has seen its share of blowouts this year, the Papermakers have had to grind out a few wins along the way. Stewart came up big in those games. Against Fond du Lac in Week 1, he scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns in a comeback victory, had 248 yards and the go-ahead score against Neenah, and posted 136 yards in a hard-fought victory over Appleton North. In total the North Dakota State recruit has 2,104 yards and 26 touchdowns, after earning WFCA All-State recognition last season when he rushed for 1,857 yards and 32 scores. "DJ is an electric playmaker who can play multiple positions," said head coach Steve Jones. "He can run between the tackles, get to the edge, and stretch the defense by playing wide receiver."
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