Graphic by Ryan EscobarIt's the end-of-year awards season for high school sports. MaxPreps will begin honoring some of the top athletes, coaches and teams from the 2013-14 year next week, but first we are highlighting some of the best efforts from the high school sports media world.
Taking some inspiration from Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, we present the 2013-14 MaxPreps High School Sports Digital Media Awards.
2013-14 MaxPreps High School Sports Digital Media Awards
Best Online High School Sports Coverage (Top 40 Media Markets)
These media outlets have combined award-winning coverage with cutting-edge digital presentation. Markets based on 2013-14 Nielsen DMA rankings.
Arizona Republic/AZCentral.com (@azcs): Thanks in large part to the incomparable Richard Obert (more on him later), readers of AZCentral.com are well-versed on the local high school sports scene.
Chicago Sun-Times (@hscubenews): Not afraid to tackle a big story (the Curie boys basketball eligibility squabble comes to mind), the Sun-Times covers Windy City high school sports exhaustively.
Dallas Morning News (@SportsDayHS): Recent coverage of the tragic murder of a Dallas basketball player — and the fallout that led to double-digit firings — has been gripping. It's a go-to media source in a hotbed for high school sports.
NJ.com (@njdotcom): NJ.com doesn't fit neatly into one media market, but through its network of affiliates (namely the Newark Star-Ledger), it provides in-depth coverage throughout much of the Garden State.
Washington Post (@washingtonpost): The Post has built a strong brand under the banner of All-Met Sports, and covers a diverse cross-section of schools across Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Others worthy of mention: Cleveland Plain Dealer, Deseret News, Indianapolis Star, Los Angeles Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, MLive.com (Michigan), Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com, Tampa Bay Times
Best Online High School Sports Coverage (Outside Top 40 Media Markets)
Big-time coverage outside of big-time markets.
Honolulu Advertiser/Hawaii Prep World (@HawaiiPrepWorld): The site features an attractive, simple layout loaded with multimedia features.
The Times-Picayune (@nolanews): Though outside the top 40 media markets, New Orleans is a major league city — as is Nola.com's high school sports coverage. It's a hub for recruiting info in an area rich with football talent.
Omaha World-Herald (@OWHnews): The OWH provides statewide coverage through the NEPrepZone.com portal.
Others worthy of mention: Florida Times-Union, Fort Myers News-Press, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Best Independent Coverage of High School Sports
Specialized, spectacular coverage from sites not attached to a newspaper or major media network.
Cal-Hi Sports (@CalHiSports): The trio of Mark Tennis, Ronnie Flores and Harold Abend is legendary out West.
Dave Campbell's Texas Football (@dctf): A pioneer in high school football and recruiting coverage, the site also features Lone Star State college and pro teams.
HoopSeen (@hoopseen): Thanks to Justin Young, there are very few secrets in Georgia high school basketball.
JJHuddle (@jjhuddlenews): Eric Frantz and his team have created an institution in Ohio. The site also produces a popular football preview magazine.
Source Hoops (@SourceHoops): Thanks to an influx of international transfers and powerhouse independent programs, the Florida high school basketball scene is booming. This site is all over it.
TexasHSFootball (@texashsfootball): TexasHSFootball is a comprehensive source for Texas high school football and recruiting coverage with over 57,000 followers on Twitter.
Wisconsin Sports Network (@wissportsnet): It's not an entirely independent entity, but there may not be a more complete state-level site in America. Travis Wilson and Mark Miller do things the right way.
Others worthy of mention: PrepNation, indiHoops, D1Circuit, Blue Star Media
WIAA Spring Baseball State Tournament Preview, TV/Streaming info, schedule & more — http://t.co/9q87FomYqE— WisSports.net (@wissportsnet) June 12, 2014
Prolific Prep Writers
A look at some of the best high school sports writers in America. These guys are informative — and popular on Twitter.
Joe Davidson, Sacramento Bee (@SacBee_JoeD): We might be a bit biased because he has been known to moonlight for MaxPreps in the past. But the Oregon native is a media machine. In addition to his writing duties, he co-hosts a show on Comcast SportsNet and has built up a following of over 13,000 on Twitter.
Kyle Neddenriep, Indianapolis Star (@KyleNeddenriep): Taking advantage of his location in a hoops hotbed, Neddenreip has become a must-follow for fans looking for info on local recruits. He has Nearly 14,000 followers on Twitter.
Richard Obert, Arizona Republic/AZCentral.com (@azc_obert): An industry legend, Obert is the source for high school sports in the Valley of the Sun.
Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times (@latsondheimer): Nobody is embedded deeper in Southern California high school sports than Sondheimer. If something big happens in this vast coverage area, it's a good bet he breaks the story.
Langston Wertz Jr., Charlotte Observer (@langstonwertzjr): Someone who provides a steady stream of information via Twitter (over 30,000 tweets and he's a joy to follow), every high school coach and athlete in the Charlotte area knows Mr. Wertz.
Others worthy of mention: Neil Devlin (Denver Post), Mike Dyer (Cincinnati Enquirer), Andre Fernandez (Miami Herald), Angel Verdejo (Houston Chronicle), Matt Wixon (Dallas Morning News), so many more we will save the pandering. Be on the lookout in 2014-15 as we hope to make the media awards an annual tradition.
Best Use of Twitter by Team/School
Keeping fans informed one tweet at a time.
Katy (Texas) – @Katyfootball: One of the Lone Star State's most tradition-rich programs has embraced this social media era. The Tigers get it. "Breaking News: We've ALL committed to.......Katy HS and winning state in 2014 :)," read a May 30 post. The program's Twitter account has over 5,000 followers.
DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) – @DeMathaCatholic: The Twitter feed provides updates on current and former Stags. And with former student-athletes representing the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference school in nearly every major professional sport, there are plenty of updates to provide — nearly 11,000 since hitting the Twittersphere in May of 2011.
Hoover (Ala.) – @HooverAthletics: The Bucs are a juggernaut in Alabama high school sports, winning over 100 team state championships since 1994. Hoover also gets it done in the social media world, cranking out an average of 300 tweets per month. It's also your home for updates on 1995 graduate and American Idol winner Taylor Hicks.
Glendora (Calif.) baseball – @GlendoraBasebal
Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) football – @gcfootball
Kentlake (Kent, Wash.) football – @KentlakeFalcons
Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.) basketball – @MillerGroveHoop
Orange Lutheran (Calif.) – @WeAreOLu
Paul VI (Fairfax, Va.) basketball – @PVIHoops
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) football – @STA_Football
Football Recruiting Insiders
Follow these five for everything you want to know about football recruiting.
Michael Carvell, Atlanta Journal Constitution (@recruitingajc): A news-breaking machine deep in SEC territory.
Mike Farrell, Rivals (@rivalsmike): His Twitter bio says it all, "National Recruiting Director for Rivals.com and simply the Godfather of recruiting." He has over 43,000 followers.
Brandon Huffman, Scout (@BrandonHuffman): Scout's National Analyst comes strong with the West Coast scoops.
J.C. Shurburtt, 247Sports (@jcshurburtt): His 27,000 Twitter followers speak to his grasp of the football recruiting landscape.
Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports (@SWiltfong247): A scoop machine in the Upper Midwest, Wiltfong is another big reason why 247Sports has closed the gap on more established brands in a hurry.
Basketball Recruiting Insiders
Follow these five for everything you want to know about basketball recruiting.
Jeff Borzello, CBSSports.com (@jeffborzello): As an added bonus to his coverage of college basketball and recruiting, the University of Delaware product is currently banging out World Cup stories. Versatile. Talented. Well-dressed.
Eric Bossi, Rivals (@ebosshoops): Bossi is a veteran on the circuit who always delivers quality content. His entertaining Twitter feed has over 20,000 followers.
Evan Daniels, Scout (@EvanDaniels): Nobody is breaking more big basketball recruiting stories than Daniels right now. He's also a go-to guy for restaurant recommendations.
Alex Kline, Rivals/The Recruit Scoop (@TheRecruitScoop): The 20-year-old Syracuse student is a never-ending stream of recruiting information. He also runs the Mary Kline Classic, a May all-star game that has raised $86,000 for cancer research since 2011.
Jerry Meyer, 247Sports (@jerrymeyer247): A highly respected talent evaluator, Meyer's move to 247Sports in 2012 helped legitimize the site's basketball efforts.
Hottest Viral Stories/Videos
Content that moved the needle in 2013-14.
Allen High School's $60 million stadium closing: There has been a fascination with this extravagant Texas facility since it opened in the fall of 2012. Julieta Chiquillo of the Dallas Morning News detailed the design flaws that will shut it down for now.
Thon Maker mixtape: Maker, a native of Australia by way of South Sudan, is one of the most intriguing basketball prospects to come along in years. CityLeagueHoopsTV released a Maker mixtape back in February and it spread like wildfire (over 1.1 million hits on YouTube).
194 pitches in 14 innings: Our own Stephen Spiewak helped make this a national story. Much debate followed and Rochester coach Jerry Striegel later expressed regret over allowing the marathon effort.
'Wrecking Ball' trick play: Undoubtedly the trick play of the year in high school football, Spiewak was also responsible for bringing this to the masses. It's been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube.
Curie forfeits victories: O'Brien of the Sun-Times was all over this saga, an eligibility controversy swirling around arguably the best team in the state of Illinois featuring National Player of the Year candidate Cliff Alexander. When it was all said and done, Curie was forced to forfeit all of its victories from the 2013-14 season — including a victory over then-national No. 1 Montverde Academy at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.
400-pound running back: Plus-sized running back Tony Picard of White Swan (Wash.) became a national sensation after being featured by Indian Country Today Media Network and Bleacher Report.
Peter Swindell's trick kick: Another find by Spiewak, this was made to go viral. No set-up needed, short and simply incredible.
Nine-year-old girl playing varsity basketball in Florida: Jaden Newman's older brother, Julian, was one of the hottest stories on MaxPreps.com in 2012-13. Jaden stole his thunder this winter. Michael Kruse of the Tampa Bay Times wrote this piece on the Newman family back in February.
Best Innovation in High School Sports/Recruiting Coverage
We are standing tall and naming a winner in this category because it wasn't close. The introduction 247Sports.com's Crystal Ball has been a massive success. The prediction scorecard brought a breath of fresh air to the recruiting niche. Opening the door to athletes and fans to weigh in should only make things more interesting.