The question posed on Tuesday didn’t linger in the air long before Joe Vito pounced on. The Roosevelt football coach was asked what the Rough Riders’ season might have looked like if not for the performance of senior Kevon Hall.
“Maybe we win two games — maybe not any,” Vito said. “He was the heart, the soul, the guts of our team. He was on the field for every play except kickoffs and we needed him there for all of it.”
Hall, Roosevelt’s featured running back and linebacker, capped a brilliant season by being named the 77th recipient of the Thorp Award at the Nassau County High School Football Coaches Association banquet on Wednesday night at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury. Newsday presents the Thorp annually to Nassau’s most outstanding player. The other finalists were Freeport senior running back/defensive back Justin Lescouflair and Garden City senior running back/defensive back Trevor Yeboah-Kodie.
Hall is the third Roosevelt player to win the Thorp and first since 1999, when Jerone Pettus shared it with Port Washington’s Jason Ham. The Rough Riders’ Robert Lee won the award in 1985.
“There’s Jerone Pettus and there’s Kevon Hall,” Vito said. “That’s the top of the list at Roosevelt.”
Hall excelled in what might have been his most challenging season. The Rough Riders installed a new young offensive line in front of him, meaning he couldn’t rely on the strong blocking that helped him to surpass 1,700 yards during the 2017 regular season. It didn’t slow him.
Hall finished the season with 2,207 yards rushing on 206 carries and ran for 22 touchdowns and four two-point conversions. He also threw an option pass for a TD. As a linebacker, he had 63 tackles, three interceptions and a sack.
“It’s amazing that he was able to accomplish what he did,” Vito said. “It makes me wonder what his season might have been like if he’d been running behind a group of experienced linemen who were used to playing together. I almost feel badly for the kid that he didn’t get to.”
Roosevelt (5-4) finished the regular season 5-3 in Nassau III and earned the No. 3 seeding for the postseason but suffered an upset loss to South Side in the first round. The Cyclones focused on taking Hall out of the equation and managed to keep him off the scoreboard for only the second time this season.
The rest of the time, Hall was piling up the yards and points as one of Long Island’s best running backs, often putting up eye-popping numbers. He had five games in which he surpassed 200 rushing yards, including three with more than 300.
Hall had 376 yards and four touchdowns against Hewlett, 363 yards rushing and six touchdowns against Valley Stream North and 343 yards and four touchdowns against Bethpage. He ran for 286 yards and five touchdowns against Floral Park.
“We were in a situation where he had to take the ball,” Vito said. “He accounted for maybe 98 percent of our offense.”
Hall began the season positioned on defense as an outside linebacker, but moved to an inside spot midseason because of an injury.
“This was a player who would do whatever it took to help our team and in that way he was an example to our many younger players.” Vito said. “He doesn’t say a lot, but he gave them a standard to try to rise up and meet.”
A goal-oriented approach has been the cornerstone of Hall’s successes. Vito said that Hall comes up with a plan to reach the goals and then uses his “extraordinary” work ethic to reach them and overachieve.
“He applies himself to whatever he is learning and always strives to become better,” Vito said.
During the season, Hall attracted the interest of schools like Temple and Stony Brook, though he could choose to do a post-graduate year at a prep school before accepting a college scholarship.
“He wants to play college football and I see a player who will excel when he does,” Vito said. “If he could shine in this season — when he didn’t have the experience around him to help — he can do anything he puts his mind to.”
NEWSDAY THORP AWARD WINNERS
2018 - Kevon Hall, Roosevelt
2017 – Tommy Heuer, Oceanside
2016 – Jordan McLune, Farmingdale
2015 – Davien Kuinlan, Plainedge
2014 – Jordan Fredericks, Lawrence
2013 – Ray Catapano, Carey
2012 - Billy Andrle, East Meadow
2011 - Robbie Healy, East Meadow
2010 - Tom Joyce, MacArthur
2009 - Anthony Brunetti, Holy Trinity
2008 - Terrell Williams, Hempstead
2007 - Alex Rivas, East Meadow
2006 - Chris Edmond, Freeport
2005 - Ricky Manigat, Baldwin
2004 - Terence Hartigan, Garden City
2003 - Rich Ohrnberger, East Meadow
2002 - Gian Villante, MacArthur
2001 - D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Freeport
2000 - Chris Richez, Freeport
1999 - Jason Ham, Port Washington and Jerone Pettus, Roosevelt
1998 - Clifton Smith, Freeport
1997 - Kevin Pierce, Clarke
1996 - Eric Wedin, Division
1995 - Vaughn Sanders, Lawrence
1994 - Amos Zereoue, Mepham
1993 - Amos Zereoue, Mepham
1992 - Dan Penengo, Syosset
1991 - Eugene Culbreath, Baldwin
1990 - Louis D’Agostino, Lawrence
1989 - Stephen Boyd, V.S. Central
1988 - Lamont Hough, Hempstead
1987 - Elvin Brown, Sewanhaka
1986 - Denis Goodwin, Lynbrook
1985 - Robert Lee, Roosevelt
1984 - Ken Randolph, Sewanhaka
1983 - Anthony Cappellino, New Hyde Park
1982 - Don McPherson, West Hempstead
1981 - Larry Galizia, Lynbrook
1980 - John Rodney, Hicksville
1979 - Ron Heller, Farmingdale
1978 - Herbert Butzke, New Hyde Park
1977 - John Rogan, Chaminade
1976 - Henry Feil, Berner
1975 - Tony Capozzoli, St. Dominic
1974 - Matt Kupec, Syosset
1973 - Joe Diange, Farmingdale
1972 - Larry Esposito, Clarke
1971 - Mike Duffy, Massapequa
1970 - Mark Coady, Carle Place
1969 - Phil LaPorta, V.S. Central
1968 - Dennis Macholz, Bethpage
1967 - Phil Barbaccia, East Meadow
1966 - Warren Koegel, Seaford
1965 - Charles Drimal, V.S. South
1964 - Ed Kane, Levittown
1963 - Guy Riccardi, Freeport
1962 - Jim Litterelle, Mineola
1961 - Sal Ciampi, Lawrence
1960 - Rollie Stichweh, Mineola
1959 - Matt Snell, Carle Place
1958 - John Mackey, Hempstead
1957 - Dave Hayes, Mepham
1956 - Don Kornrumpf, Hempstead
1955 - Paul Rochester, Sewanhaka
1954 - Bob Reifsnyder, Baldwin
1953 - Bill Sandie, Mepham
1952 - Jim Brown, Manhasset
1951 - Dick Martin, Hempstead
1950 - Ed Nickla, Mepham
1949 - Lou Britt, Glen Cove
1948 - Al Kohanowich, Hempstead
1947 - Mike Kinney, V.S. Central
1946 - John Fasano, Port Washington
1945 - Ray Mrozack, Mineola
1944 - Bob Casey, Baldwin
1943 - Billy Wilson, Lawrence
1942 - Fred Miller, Chaminade