POY Watch: North Gwinnett’s Imatorbhebhe leaps into contention

Josh Imatorbhebhe was a basketball player through middle school, but North Gwinnett’s coaches were able to persuade him to play football as a ninth-grader. After a couple of seasons on the JV team, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has become one of the state’s top wide receivers.

Imatorbhebhe had five TD receptions in his last game, a 71-24 victory over Duluth.

“His speed is really good, and his vertical jump is off the charts,” North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire said. “His ball skills have improved steadily over time through hard work, and his route running and understanding of the little nuances of the position are starting to fall into place. He still has a lot of upside and room for improvement, but once he gets the ball out in space he has been able to convert some simple plays into explosive plays.”

Imatorbhebhe is one of five new or returning players in this week’s Player of the Year Watch. The others are David Curry of Buford, Quarte Sapp of Milton, Trenton Thompson of Westover and Russell Halimon of Allatoona.

1. QB/DB A.J. Gray, Washington County:Gray rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries and was 4-of-8 passing for 61 yards and two touchdowns in a 73-6 victory over Josey. For the season, Gray has rushed for 937 yards and 17 touchdowns on 97 carries (9.6 ypc) and is 55-of-90 passing for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions. He has returned three interceptions for touchdowns. Gray has not played in the second half of three of the past four games. Washington County (8-0) is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA. Gray is committed to Georgia Tech.

2. RB Shannon Brooks, Pickens:Brooks rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in a 23-0 victory over Heritage of Ringgold. For the season, Brooks leads the state with 1,850 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 157 carries (11.8 ypc) in Pickens’ 7-1 start. Brooks also has eight receptions for 164 yards and a touchdown, and he’s 2-for-2 passing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Brooks is committed to Minnesota.

3. RB Sihiem King, Colquitt County:King’s team did not play last week. For the season, King has rushed for 1,030 yards and 16 touchdowns on 134 carries (7.7 ypc). He has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season. Colquitt County (8-0) is ranked No. 1 in AAAAAA and is in the top five of three national polls. King has more than 10 scholarship offers, including those from Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia Southern.

4. RB/DB Ruben Garnett, Aquinas:Garnett rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in a 43-14 victory over Warren County. He also had two receptions for 57 yards and forced a fumble on defense. For the season, Garnett has rushed for 1,353 yards and 20 touchdowns on 163 carries (8.3 ypc) and has three TD receptions. He has made 25 tackles, intercepted a pass and forced two fumbles. Garnett has rushed for at least 125 yards and a touchdown in every game. Aquinas (8-0) is ranked No. 1 in Class A. Duke reportedly leads to sign Garnett among 15 Division I offers.

5. WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, North Gwinnett: Imatorbhebhe caught five TD passes on six receptions for 206 yards in a 71-24 victory over Duluth. For the season, he has 53 catches for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns. Imatorbhebhe is rated the No. 25 junior prospect in Georgia by 247Sports. He has 14 reported scholarship offers. North Gwinnett is 6-2 and ranked No. 7. A 4.0 student, Imatorbhebhe is believed to favor Michigan and Vanderbilt.

6. DL/OL Trenton Thompson, Westover: Thompson had nine tackles, five for losses, a sack and a forced fumble in a 27-8 victory over Dougherty. Thompson graded out at 90 percent playing offensive guard. For the season, Thompson has 62 tackles, 24 for losses, four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. He has started on offense and defense the past three games. Thompson, an AJC Super 11 pick, is the consensus No. 2 recruit in the nation. He is committed to Georgia.

7. LB Quarte Sapp, Milton:Sapp had nine tackles, one for a loss, and a QB hurry and broke up two passes in a 30-13 victory over Woodstock. For the season, Sapp has 83 tackles, 50 solo, 10 tackles for losses, two sacks, five interceptions, a fumble recovery, a safety and a defensive touchdown. Sapp is rated the consensus No. 23 outside-linebacker prospect nationally. His reported leader is Tennessee.

8. DB/PR David Curry, Buford: Curry had three tackles, broke up a pass and returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown in a 58-3 victory over North Oconee. For the season, Curry has 36 tackles, two for losses, three passes broken up, an interception and two defensive touchdowns. Regarded by some as Buford’s best all-around player, Curry is the highest-rated defender on a team that is allowing 6.5 points per game (only 1.1 in the first half). Buford is 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA. Curry is committed to Virginia.

9. QB Anforne Stroud, Griffin:Stroud was 13-of-24 passing for 188 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-7 victory over Pike County. For the season, Stroud is 101-of-173 passing for 1,826 yards and 19 touchdowns with two interceptions. He has rushed for over 400 yards and four touchdowns. Griffin is 8-0 and ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA. Stroud, who started in Griffin’s secondary last season, has no reported scholarship offers.

10. RB Russell Halimon, Allatoona: Halimon rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries in a 48-20 victory over Paulding County. For the season, Halimon has rushed for 1,593 yards and 18 touchdowns on 237 carries (6.7 ypc). Allatoona (9-0) is ranked No. 4 in Class AAAAA. Halimon is the classification’s leading rusher. A 5-foot-9 junior, Halimon has no reported scholarship offers.

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