A limited number of tickets are on sale now for the 48th Vince Lombardi Down Lineman of the Year Award banquet.
Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at the Wilmington News Journal, Wilmington Auto Center and Clinton County Motorsports.
Payment should be made in cash or check payable to the Clinton County Foundation, with Sports HOF in the memo line. Money raised for this event will help the Lombardi Award program this year and in the future as well as the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame scholarships for the Clinton County Scholar-Athlete Awards at the end of the school year.
The banquet, which honors down linemen from each of Clinton County’s four high school football teams, is 6 p.m. Nov. 27 in the McCoy Room at Kelly Center on the Wilmington College Campus.
Mike Adams, the Wilmington High School graduate who won the 1991 Clinton County Lombardi Award and is currently principal at East Clinton High School, will deliver the keynote address following dinner.
The event is made possible through partnerships with Wilmington College, the athletic booster clubs from Blanchester, Clinton-Massie, East Clinton and Wilmington schools, the News Journal, the Blanchester Schools Foundation, the Clinton County Literacy Foundation, Wilmington Auto Center Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, Liberty Savings Bank, Clinton County Motorsports, the Banned Book Nook and Other Curiosities, Busam Ford, Drayer Physical Therapy, Red Dot Trophy and Uptown Printing.
The seven nominees for the coveted block of granite trophy are Chris Stewart from Wilmington, Tristen Malone and Jude Huston from Blanchester, Elijah Groh and Justin Beekman from Clinton-Massie and Denver Day and Alex Edison from East Clinton.
Edison is a 5-10, 220-pound junior. He played left tackle on offense and tackle on defense.
“Alex was a model of consistency for us this season,” EC coach Steve Olds said. “Tough and dependable, he played every snap on offense at left tackle and split time at defensive tackle as part of a platoon.”
Edison was part of an offensive line that allowed the Astros to rush for nearly 2,000 yards and averaged six yards per carry in 2023. Edison started games at both center and tackle in his EC career. He is a two-year starter and will continue to be an integral part of the Astro line in the future.
Day is a 6-0, 240-pound senior. He played right tackle on offense and tackle on defense. He is a four-year starter along the offensive line.
“He’s a captain and unquestioned leader on our football team,” Olds said. “He led the team in knockdown blocks for the second year in a row.”
Day was first team All-SBAAC this season and second team All-Southwest District. He has started games at center, guard and tackle during his career, excelling at all three, Olds said.
“Denver is tough, smart and takes pride in playing on the offensive line,” Olds said. “He’s the kind of player you build your team around and an example for others to follow.”
Groh is a 6-2, 220-pound senior for the Falcons. ”Eli was a very strong and athletic player,” CM coach Dan McSurley said.
Groh played defensive tackle most of the season and began playing along the offensive line when Tayten McCoy was injured late in the season.
Beekman is a 6-0, 270-pound senior for the Falcons. He played right guard for Clinton-Massie.
”Both players showed great leadership on a team that was the youngest that I can ever recall,” McSurley said. “Eli was huge in the overtime win over McNick, had a monster defensive effort to put us in overtime with a couple sacks in the final minutes of that game.”
Malone is a 6-0, 195-pound junior for the Wildcats. He played along the defensive line as well as offensive guard. He was first team All-SBAAC and second in the league in sacks, coach Justin Schmitz said.
“He also holds the total career record for sacks (20),” Schmitz said.
Huston is a 5-10, 170-pound senior for the Wildcats. He played defensive end and offensive guard. He was first team All-SBAAC and led the National Division in sacks, Schmitz said.
Stewart is a 6-5, 295-pound offensive guard for the Hurricane. He led the WHS offense in blocking grades, effort, assignment and technique,” line coach Joe Gigandet said.
”Works hard on and off the field on his O-line craft,” Gigandet said. “This young man has put the work in lifting, has a technique coach, and has a training set-up at his parents’ house. You can tell he wants to be a great offensive linemen.
“Can’t say I have ever coached a kid like him. Most of the time you have to talk a kid into playing a guard position where for the most part you don’t get recognized for the success, but get blamed for any failures. Not Chris. He loves being an offensive lineman.”
The Lombardi Award, also presented at the collegiate level, is named after the legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi, who died from cancer in 1970. Clinton County started its version of the event in 1973 spearheaded by the late Clarence Graham (former News Journal sports editor at the time) and the late Harold Losey (local businessman who started Losey’s Pharmacy).
The block of granite trophy is emblematic of Lombardi’s college days when he played offensive line at Fordham University in New York. Such was the prowess of the team’s line play that the unit was called “seven blocks of granite.”