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[South Park]All-WNY Football: Determined South Park star Keith Jackson earns Dick Gallagher Player of the Year

2021-07-01 16:38 Tag:

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  South Park linebacker/running back Keith Jackson is the Dick Gallagher Buffalo News Football Player of the Year.

  Harry Scull Jrhttps://buffalonews.com/sports/high-school/all-wny-football-determined-south-park-star-keith-jackson-earns-dick-gallagher-player-of-the/Buffalo News

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  Miguel Rodriguez

  Electric. Explosive. Powerful. Difference-maker.

  Those were words used by longtime Grand Island football coach Dean Santorio to describe South Park High School star Keith Jackson.

  Hungry and determined are other words that can be used to sum up the play of the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder whose appetite for success willed the Sparks to a second straight Section VI Class A championship.

  Those qualities also are the reason why Jackson, a hard-hitting linebacker and explosive running back with take-it-to-the-house speed, has been selected as the Dick Gallagher Buffalo News Player of the Year for the 2020 Fall II football season played during the early spring.

  Jackson headlines the 63rd edition of the Buffalo News’ All-Western New York Team, as chosen by the Buffalo News in conjunction with area football coaches and scouts.

  Jackson is the second Spark to be selected as Player of the Year, joining 2015 winner Tyree Brown. Much like Brown, Jackson put South Park on his back when the team needed it most and delivered clutch play after clutch play during a 6-0 unbeaten season.

  “Knowing that I am the second player from South Park in five years to be named Player of the Year is an honor,” Jackson said. “We had so many good players from Marqwan (Fluitt) to our O-line to Parrell (Fulgham) which made us successful this season and to be recognized as Player of the Year is an honor.”

  Jackson did most of his damage at linebacker and running back, but also filled in at wildcat quarterback when classmate traditional down-field thrower Mykell Hepburn was unable to lineup under center.

  Jackson finished second in the section with 889 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He also made 59 tackles, including five for losses, recorded three sacks and made two interceptions including a pick-six.

  Jackson, a two-time first team All-Western New York selection and a 2019 Connolly Cup finalist, was at his best during South Park’s final three games which were all win or go home. He averaged 10 tackles per game and just over 2 touchdowns per during those contests. They were also games in which the Sparks weren’t completely 100% healthy as Fluitt sat out all but one play of the sectional semifinals. Hepburn, the starting quarterback who missed a lot of time with an injured throwing hand, played just two of those final 12 quarters under center.

  In the regular-season finale against Sweet Home – a game in which the winner made the playoffs while the loser didn’t, Jackson rushed 16 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns and recorded nine tackles and a sack during the Sparks’ without-a-doubt 54-0 victory. He also handed the ball off at times to Fulgham, who also rushed for three scores.

  The following week, South Park faced old friend Grand Island in the semifinals. The teams played another postseason classic, with the Sparks hanging on for a 20-19 triumph. Jackson pretty much did it all, which included preserving the win when he batted away a 2-point conversion pass with 41 seconds left.

  Before that, Jackson ran for 207 yards, two touchdowns and a crucial 2-point conversion. He also made eight tackles and helped end GI fourth-quarter drives with a sack and by recording a stop on a fourth-down screen pass. Jackson also made a red zone interception just before halftime.

  In the sectional final at Jamestown, Hepburn surprisingly started but got ejected in the second quarter of a 7-6 game. No biggie as Jackson added quarterback to his list of duties.

  Jackson ran mostly, rushing 26 times for 169 yards, one touchdown and the championship-clinching 2-point conversion in the 30-29 triumph. He also made 11 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown.

  His pick-six was an 86 yarder in the third quarter that gave the Sparks a 22-14 lead. The touchdown was a 15-yard run in overtime that made it 29-28.

  A gassed Jackson initially wasn’t going to be part of the 2-point conversion attempt. But after South Park took a timeout, Jamestown did the same after seeing the Sparks’ formation. The extra break gave Jackson enough time to catch his breath and return to the game.

  “It was supposed to be an iso-left but it got blitzed up, so I took a cutback, and it was wide open,” Jackson said of the play. “It was crazy, because I wasn’t even supposed to be on that extra-point play.”

  But the ball tends to find a way into the hands of the best player on the field.

  Jackson most definitely was that for the Section VI Class A champions.

  “Keith Jackson was as dominant a player as we have had at South Park in my 13 years,” coach Tim Delaney said. “Without him, we wouldn’t have been in the finals. … He made every memorable play in the Grand Island game when we played without our starting QB, and our Division-I defensive end.

  “Then in the finals against Jamestown, which I’m sure everyone had us as a three-touchdown underdog, … between his play at quarterback, learning to run zone read in a week, and being the second leading tackler in the game, he is the reason we are back-to-back Section VI champions in Class A.”

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  Miguel Rodriguez

  News Sports Reporter

  A University of Rochester graduate and former ice hockey goaltender, I cover high school sports. During my News tenure, I have also covered boxing, UFC, the Bills, college sports and all levels of hockey.

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