Grubbs and McClendon

Desert Vista High freshman running back Devon Grubbs (left) and Mesa High senior two-way player Eddie McClendon were among 51 nominees for the 2018 Ed Doherty Award.

They may not have won the 2018 Ed Doherty Award, but Desert Vista High freshman running back Devon Grubbs and Mesa two-way player Eddie McClendon were honored to be recognized among the most talented prep football players in Arizona.

“It’s a great experience for me,” Grubbs said. “I have three more chances to come back, and Tyson, too. I’m just excited. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the lineman and all of the support I’ve gotten.”

Grubbs was referring to his older brother, Tyson Grubbs, who was injured this past season but is expected to return next fall.

Devon Grubbs was the only freshman among the 51 nominees. The award is regarded as the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy of Arizona high school football.

The freshman running back was impressive in his debut season on the Thunder varsity. He was thrown into the mix shortly after Tyson, a junior running back, was sidelined with a season-ending foot injury.

The younger Grubbs rushed for a team-leading 768 yards and 13 touchdowns, five of which came against Boulder Creek on Oct. 12.

Both Grubbs brothers sat and watched as Salpointe Catholic running back Bijan Robinson was named winner of the award. Robinson beat two other Valley running backs, Chandler’s DeCarlos Brooks and Notre Dame Prep’s Jake Smith, who also played receiver for the Saints.

“There were a lot of running backs up there,” Devon said. “It’s cool to see how many were up there. I think both Tyson and I have a good chance to get up there next year.”

Like Grubbs, McClendon sat with his family as the finalists and winner of the award were announced.

Despite not hearing his name called, a smile never left the face of the senior, who quickly became a game-changer for Mesa High’s football program. McClendon set records for receiving touchdowns in a game (7) and touchdowns in a game (8) – both against Dobson.

McClendon received first-team all-region honor for the second straight year, last year as a defensive back. He compiled 1,131 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches this season.

“It’s a good feeling to represent Mesa High, even though the season didn’t go well,” McClendon said. “It just feels good.”

McClendon was the second Mesa High representative in the last two years, following running back Kris Jackson.

From working through a 3-7 season to seeing coach Kap Sikahema relieved of duties, McClendon overcame adversity in the Jackrabbits’ program.

And it’s something he will never regret.

“It took a lot of hard work and dedication,” McClendon said. “It was just a lot of adversity. I was always there, just trying to change the culture of the program.

“I think I left a legacy of hard work.”

Contact Zach Alvira at zalvira@timespublications.com and follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.

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