By Grant Traylor
HUNTINGTON — When Jeremy Dillon transferred to Mingo Central before the 2016-17 school year, he came with lofty expectations.
Dillon made no secret about the fact that he wanted a Class AA Championship and he wanted to be the guy to lead the Miners to that title.
So, when he took a snap and found his way into the end zone with 1:43 left in the Miners’ 32-7 win over Fairmont Senior in the Class AA Championship, there was only one thing going through his mind.
“I just know I sealed the deal,” Dillon said with a big smile.
That wasn’t all he sealed the deal on.
Dillon’s impressive junior season also earned him the 2016 Kennedy Award, given to West Virginia’s top high school football player by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“It’s pretty much a dream season — just a dream,” Dillon said. “I want to give credit to God. I can’t do anything without him.”
Dillon’s final touchdown put the bow on a season in which he put up astronomical numbers.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound dual-threat quarterback finished with 4,057 yards of total offense and a staggering 61 touchdowns during the 2016 season.
In his first year playing quarterback at the high school level, Dillon finished with a 63.2 completion percentage (189-of-299) while throwing for 2,858 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Dillon was just as dangerous on the ground, rushing for 1,199 yards and another 24 touchdowns for the Miners.
While Dillon was a threat any time that he had the ball, perhaps his biggest asset to Mingo Central was his ability to avoid mistakes.
In 443 touches on the season, Dillon turned the ball over just five times — three interceptions and two fumbles.
That type of reliability at the quarterback position is what led the Miners to the Class AA Championship.
“Man, I’m going to tell you something,” said Mingo Central head coach Yogi Kinder, who rode the championship into retirement. “He’s a good football player, boys.”
Dillon had been a two-time All-State selection as a defensive back while at Tug Valley during his freshman and sophomore years, but the move to quarterback prompted Kinder to use him a bit less on the defensive side throughout the year to preserve him for the playoffs.
In the playoffs, Dillon was unleashed on both sides of the football and Kinder said the results were evident for the Miners, who yielded more than one score only once in four playoff wins while enjoying a postseason winning margin of 29.25 points per game.
“He’s just an athlete, and a tough one,” Kinder said. “It’s hard to get those quarterbacks like that. A lot of guys can throw the ball, but he can run it and play defense, he can punt and he can kick.
“If there’s a better football player in West Virginia, I ain’t seen them.”
Dillon said that the biggest improvements he made throughout the year were in making the transition on offense from being a wide receiver/running back at Tug Valley to a quarterback for the Miners.
The multi-sport standout and Marshall basketball commit for the Class of 2018 made the switch in the summer.
“I’ve only been playing quarterback for three months, but I think it’s my natural position,” Dillon said.
While his numbers back up that claim, Dillon added that his gaining respect of his team in a leadership capacity was as big as any growth in his physical abilities in 2016.
Dillon said the leadership aspect was something that he and offensive coordinator Joey Fields went over as much as fundamentals throughout the year.
“I couldn’t give enough credit to my offensive coordinator, Joey,” Dillon said. “He’s really taught me how to play quarterback for these short three months that flew by, so I want to thank him.”
The top three vote-getters for the Kennedy Award were quarterbacks.
East Hardy quarterback Corey McDonald finished second in the Kennedy Award voting while Martinsburg quarterback Tyson Bagent was third. Spring Valley standout lineman Riley Locklear and Fairmont Senior quarterback/linebacker Jake Abbott were tied for fourth.
By winning as a junior, Dillon returns for 2017 with the opportunity to become just the seventh person in the history of the Kennedy Award to win the honor multiple times.
Those doing so previously include George Washington’s Ryan Switzer (2011, 2012), Martinsburg’s Brandon Barrett (2002, 2003), Nitro’s J.R. House (1996, 1998), Magnolia’s Mark Cisar (1992, 1993), South Charleston’s Robert Alexander (1975, 1976) and Dupont’s Danny Williams (1972, 1973).
Dillon will receive the 2016 Kennedy Award at the 71st annual Victory Awards Dinner, which will be hosted by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association at 4 p.m. on May 21 at Village Square Conference Center in Clarksburg, W.Va.