How they were chosen
Athletic directors from the 14 schools — Barron Collier, Community School, Estero, First Baptist, Golden Gate, Gulf Coast, Immokalee, Lely, Marco Island Academy, Naples, Palmetto Ridge, Seacrest, St. John Neumann and South Fort Myers — in the Daily News' coverage area were contacted and asked to have their coaches nominate players. That information, along with all-conference and all-district honors and postseason performances, were used to make up the teams and choose Players of the Year.
First Baptist Academy football coaches preached to their players every day that success is where preparation meets opportunity.
Jonah Bueltel was listening.
After spending his first three seasons as a receiver in the Lions' run-first offense, the senior got his shot at quarterback three games into the season. With the preparation in place, Bueltel made the most of his opportunity.
Bueltel ran for 205 yards in Week 3, his first start at quarterback, and all but solidified himself as the Lions' go-to weapon on offense. It was the start of something huge – Bueltel ran for 1,794 yards and 26 touchdowns while earning the Daily News Offensive Player of the Year award.
"We knew he had great God-given talent and abilities, so it doesn't come as a surprise the season he had," Lions coach Billy Sparacio said. "However, he was a special treat. Every single week there was something special he did that would make you shake your head."
When three-year starter Corey Todd was unavailable for two games, Bueltel stepped under center and ran for 402 yards and five touchdowns while throwing for two more scores. The senior quarterbacks rotated at the position the rest of the year.
Bueltel, who didn't play organized football until eighth grade, was the area's second-leading rusher. He led the area with 2,372 total yards and 38 touchdowns.
Behind Bueltel's offensive fireworks, First Baptist went undefeated before losing in the Class 2A semifinals. Bueltel was named the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Class 2A district player of the year.
His electric season came as a surprise not only because Bueltel had 805 yards combined his first three varsity seasons, but because the 5-foot-9, 160-pounder doesn't look much like an offensive player of the year.
Sparacio said Bueltel's size belies the senior's speed, strength and, most importantly, heart and work ethic.
"I was just trying to lead the team and get wins," Bueltel said of his season. "I liked getting to touch the ball every play and playing a bigger role for the team. I couldn't have done it without my teammates."