There’s a strong case to be made that Fred Billy is already the greatest player in Saint Stephen’s spotty program history. The junior now has another accolade to add to his resume. The staff at FloridaHSFootball.com named the quarterback as its Independents Most Valuable Player on Monday.
Billy came up short in a fan poll for Offensive Player of the Year, but his 1,228 rushing yards, 1,007 passing yards and 31 total touchdowns were enough to earn a place as an athlete on FloridaHSFootball’s Independents All-State first team, plus recognition as the best in the state playing for an independent team. Billy was also a first-team All-Area selection as an athlete by the Herald.
The Falcons were as well-represented on the first team as any other school after winning the Sunshine State Athletic Conference in 2016 for the first state championship in program history. Billy was joined by running back Chase Brown and tackle Josh Stevens on the first-team offense, and defensive back Lethario Jones Jr. earned a spot on the first-team defense. Head coach Tod Creneti, who was one of five nominees for Coach of the Year, was passed over for Gainesville Oak Hall’s Matt DiBernardo in the staff poll and West Palm Beach King’s Academy’s Keith Allen in the fan vote.
Bradenton Christian also had four players honored with linebacker Brett Gerber, who has since transferred to Manatee, earning first-team recognition on defense. Wide receiver Kevin Etienne was a second-team selection at wide receiver, and offensive lineman Joshua Ingram and punter Bathie Thiam were named honorable mentions.
Billy has helped guide Saint Stephen’s to the Florida Bowl, the SSAC’s championship game, in back-to-back seasons and the surprising emergence of Brown helped the Falcons win in their second try during the fall. The junior, who moved to Bradenton from Canada during the summer, ran for 1,416 yards and 19 touchdowns on 129 carries, and was also a second-team All-Area selection. Stevens, who started at left tackle for Saint Stephen’s, was a first-team All-Area selection as a senior and Jones, who led the Falcons with 106 tackles, was a second-team All-Area choice following his senior season. Billy and Jones are both repeat selections on the USA Today affiliate’s All-State teams.
Gerber, the Panthers’ lone first-team selection, was once again among Florida’s most productive tacklers. The junior’s 163 tackles led Manatee County and earned him a spot on the Herald’s All-Area second team. Etienne, who also played defensive back, was BCS’ only first-team All-Area selection after finishing second in the county with 949 receiving yards.
Ingram, who also played defensive line, was a second-team All-Area selection, as was Thiam, who also played wide receiver, defensive back and kicker for Bradenton Christian. The four selections come following arguably the most successful season in the Panthers’ history. In its first year as an independent team playing in the SSAC, BCS reached the postseason for the first time in program history by finishing second to the Falcons in the conference’s Coral Bay division.